Sundance London 2021 “The Blazing World” Review: Visually Striking, but Fundamentally Lacking Horror-Fantasy

Sharing a name (and not too much else) with Margaret Cavendish’s bold and imaginative 17th century work, The Blazing World sees Director, co-writer and star Carlson Young as Margaret Winter. After losing her sister at a young age, she is tormented by a ghostly figure (Udo Kier) tempting her to enter a mysterious world where she may be able to recover her lost sister.

This is a movie that yells at you; in it’s ever-present soundtrack, in it’s sting-driven jump scares, and even in it’s aesthetic. It’s a very dramatic film, including over-the-top performances (though Kier is certainly committed), eccentric visuals and a bombastic approach to horror and fantasy. The effect can put you at a distance emotionally, but is undeniably arresting. You may struggle to relate to the characters, but Winter’s journey is certainly ambitious and well-accomplished.

It is a film that wears it’s influences on its sleeve. Visually and thematically we see hints of Don’t Look Now, Antichrist, the works of David Lynch, Labyrinth (both Pan’s and Bowie’s), the suspiria remake and just a little bit of Neon Demon. These fantastical elements coalesce fairly well, but there’s a lack of individual identity. Perhaps if the film had benefited from a stronger raison d’etre these nods would be easier to stomach, but one can’t help but think of the superior works from which it draws.

With this film Carlson Young proves herself to be a very dramatic new voice, but one in need of some meatier subject matter. The emphasis definately appears to be on style, but is Young is to remain mainly an aesthetically driven film-maker she must move further away from her influences and find her own voice. There are hints of it here but it all gets a little drowned out.

Three Stars

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