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Wednesday, January 3, 2024

‘Onyx the Fortuitous and the Talisman of Souls’ – 10 Things We Learned from the Blu-ray Commentaries

If you enjoyed Onyx the Fortuitous and the Talisman of Souls on SCREAMBOX, the Blu-ray is a treasure trove. The horror-comedy is accompanied by three different commentary tracks featuring writer-director-editor-star Andrew Bowser and various crew members, among other special features.

Bowser is naturally funny, seamlessly slipping in Onyx-isms, but he’s also not afraid to get real. There’s a solo director’s track, a commentary focused on the production alongside actress/producer Olivia Taylor Dudley and producer Clark Baker, and a sound commentary joined by sound designer/supervising sound editor Mike James Gallagher.

Here are 10 things I learned from the Onyx the Fortuitous commentaries…

1. The film was intended to start with Bartok removing his eye.

Bowser intended to give viewers a taste of the horrors to come with a cold open that would introduce Jeffrey Combs as Bartok the Great in a scene in which he removes his own eye.

“Originally the movie was like Pumpkinhead, where it opened with something incredibly violent and quick and engaging,” Bowser reveals. “It was Bartok out in a field digging out his own eye and bringing Farrah to life, and then we smash cut to the Mini DV footage of Onyx sitting in his little boy bedroom, and that would whet your appetite for what was to come.”

The sequence had to be cut due to time and budgetary restraints, but its essence remains in illustrations seen later in the film.

2. The film’s lo-fi opening harkens back to Onyx’s viral beginnings.

Bowser always knew that he wanted to start the movie with grainy Mini DV footage to evoke the character’s viral video background. “I wanted to start with something that was purposefully lo-fi to kind of harken back to the viral videos and be a bridge for people that know this character from those videos.

“The idea was always that it would start with this Mini DV audition tape and then bridge into something more cinematic, but then the joke became that the first cinematic shot is also very, very small, in the sense that it’s just Onyx sitting at his computer.”

3. Onyx’s ‘Welcome to the Shadow Zone’ web series helped define the movie.

Onyx the Fortuitous

A longtime fan of Ryan Stanger’s work, Bowser cast him as Onyx’s step-father Todd in Welcome to the Shadow Zone, a web series that ran for eight episodes in 2016-2017. Not only does Bowser consider the series to be a turning point for Onyx, but he also credits Stanger with helping to shape the movie.

“This is one of the only holdovers from Welcome to the Shadow Zone, the web series that we did at Nerdist that really kind of broke open Onyx narratively for me and showed me that I could write a longer narrative story for this character. I remember writing episode 3 of Shadow Zone and being scared shitless because I realized I was out of bits.”

Bowser continues, “In kind of transferring over what I discovered from Shadow Zone to this feature, Todd had to come with. Stanger was actually the guy that said, while we were filming Shadow Zone, ‘You know, you’ve gotta make sure your character actually wins once in a while.’ And I was like, ‘I’m sorry, what?”

“I’d never thought of having Onyx win. I’d only ever thought of pummeling him! He’s a character that is kind of a manifestation of so many parts of myself that I am willing to punish, and I don’t know why. I’m in therapy,” he quips.

Onyx does indeed come out on top at the end of Welcome to the Shadow Zone, paving the way for his feature film. “Stanger really implanted within me the idea that Onyx needs to have some victories, and this whole movie is Onyx journeying toward a victory.”

4. Composer Matt Mahaffey’s band impacted Bowser in high school.

In addition to his work in the film industry, composer Matt Mahaffey is known for his alternative pop-rock band Self. The band made a big impact on Bowser during his formative years. He explains:

“Connecting with him artistically through the albums that he put out in the band Self when I was in high school, they literally captured my frustration, my ambition, just a mix of electric energy form that I didn’t know where to put it. I would listen to Self, and I would have a place to put that energy.”

Mahaffey also plays Onyx’s co-worker at Marty’s Meat Hut, Derrell. “Matt and his music, it helped my artistic mind find a lily pad during a time in my life where I maybe thought I was drowning. So the fact that he is not only the composer of this film but he cameos in the film and he’s a collaborator on a very deep level, goddamn, that means the world to me.

“That’s the kind of full circle shit that you just can’t fucking imagine when you’re 13, 14. And the value of it, the weight of it, the worth of it, it’s immeasurable.”

5. Bartok originally took his life in front of his worshipers.

When Onyx and his fellow satanists first meet Bartok, he’s dead on the floor of his mansion, but the initial script had their idol taking his own life in front of them as they enter.

“Initially, when they first meet Bartok, he’s not just dead in the foyer. He kills himself in front of them. It’s pretty dark,” Bowser chuckles. “It was because I saw that movie Hideaway when I was a kid, and it scared the shit out of me.”

He admits to calling his mother to come pick him up after Jeremy Sisto’s character commits suicide. “It was fucking freaky! I tried to put it in the Onyx movie, but it was gonna add so many hours, so I just had him dead there.”

6. Bartok’s mansion was actually haunted.

Onyx Fortuitous Blu-ray release

Bowser is from Maryland and has family in Massachusetts, so he wanted to film on the East Coast. His brother-in-law, Luke Adomanis (who appears in the film as a Marty’s Meat Hut customer), researched East Coast locations that could potentially be used for Bartok’s mansion.

On the list was Venfort Hall in Lenox, Massachusetts, and Bowser immediately knew that was the one. “It was Bartok’s mansion: the sires, the shape, the Gilded Age architecture. Writer’s don’t often get to say, ‘That’s the ‘blank’ that’s in my head,’ but literally when I saw it I said, ‘That’s the mansion that’s in my head.'”

Venfort Hall is said to be haunted, even garnering a visit from Syfy’s Ghost Hunters in 2011. Dudley and actress Rivkah Reyes were among the cast and crew members that felt strange presences during the production, while actor Terrence C. Carson was so put off by the study that he wouldn’t enter in it unless the production was ready to roll.

One of the mansion’s rooms used in the film was pre-dressed by Carl Sprague, whose credits in art direction, set design, and concept art include The Grand Budapest Hotel, The Social Network, 12 Years a Slave, and La La Land.

7. Indiana Jones exists in the Onyx the Fortuitous universe.

When it came time to dress the skeleton from which Bartok takes the Talisman of Souls, Bowser wanted him to look like Indiana Jones.

“Officially, Indiana Jones is in the same universe as Onyx the Fortuitous,” Bowser jokes. “Lucasfilm, come at me!”

8. The movie was originally envisioned as “Evil Dead 2 with Onyx.”

Onyx the Fortuitous and the Talisman of Souls Andrew Bowser

Onyx the Fortuitous’ transition from viral shorts to feature film evolved significantly from Bowser’s original concept:

“When I sat down to write the script for this movie, I thought it was gonna be a really gory, like Evil Dead 2 with Onyx. I thought there would be people getting punched in the head and blood flying everywhere. I had an image of Onyx with blood sprayed up on his face and being like, ‘Oh, goddamn!’

“I started to write the script, and I had these five people come to this mansion. I needed them to be kind of disposable, because I needed to get them to a place where I could sacrifice them for the sake of the gore. I’m telling you, 10 pages in I ran out of steam. I remember I wrote this two-dimensional jock type that was really just there to die, and I thought, ‘If I don’t give the ensemble the same amount of respect that I give Onyx as I write them, then what the fuck am I doing?’

“So I rewrote it from the top with an ensemble in mind where each character was based on somebody from my life, and each character was someone that I had respect for, that I saw in three dimensions. Once I rewrote with that principle in mind, the whole movie came to life. I realized this is not a gorefest; this is a movie about Onyx finding his crew.”

The new approach revealed the movie’s theme of finding one’s self. “It definitely changed the personality of the movie, but I think for the better.”

9. If the movie didn’t happen, Bowser was ready to retire Onyx.

During the Kickstarter stage, Bowser went on record saying that, if the film didn’t happen, he’d likely retire the character. The campaign ended up raising over $610,000 by nearly 7,500 backers, proving that demand exists for the movie.

“I am so pleased that the film happened,” Bowser says. “I would be happy if this was the end of the journey for [Onyx] as a character and for my investigation into what he reveals about myself and my personal journey. But I would also love to see what adventures he goes on next. I love him.”

He concludes, “He’s a way for me to find joy, weirdly, in areas where I usually find stress.”

10. Bowser already has plans for a sequel.

Speaking of Onyx’s continuing adventures, Bowser hints at his plans for a sequel several times throughout the commentaries.

He teases an Evil Dead 2-inspired sequence in which Farrah is “tortured in a cabin by all of these things coming to life,” more of Donna Pieroni as Marty’s Meat Hut manager Masha, a live action version of Marty’s giant mascot seen in the end-credit animations, and Sideshow Collectibles-style Battle Katts statues that “play a huge part in the narrative.”

Onyx the Fortuitous and the Talisman of Souls is available now on Blu-ray.

Onyx Fortuitous Blu-ray

The post ‘Onyx the Fortuitous and the Talisman of Souls’ – 10 Things We Learned from the Blu-ray Commentaries appeared first on Bloody Disgusting!.


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