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Panic Fest 2021 Review: ‘The Blazing World’ is a Strange, Surreal, and Beautiful Trip

The year is 2021.  The future for moviegoers is in question.  With more major studios experimenting with direct-to-stream…man, shit sucks!  Movies deserve to be seen in the theater, damn it. ‘The Blazing World’ deserves to be seen in the theater. Begs to be seen in a theater. Go see The Blazing World in a theater.

‘The Blazing World’ is lead actress Carlson Young’s feature-length directorial debut, building on the 2018 short of the same name (which was inspired by a piece of prose written in 1666 by Margaret Cavendish). The film centers around Margaret, a young woman traumatized by the accidental death of her twin sister.  Margaret returns to her broken childhood home and is drawn into an inter-dimensional doorway where she learns her sister might still be alive, but only if she’s able to navigate this hostile landscape and retrieve the keys to her escape from literal demons. Yes, you read that correctly.  Talk about an ambitious story on an indie budget, sheesh. Overall it’s a bit messy, but it’s a big, bold, exciting, audacious, beautiful mess. I loved it.

Visually the movie is stunning, and doubly so considering its budget constraints and quarantine-era filming schedule. The other dimension is equal parts fairytale dream and del Toro nightmare, conjuring images of claustrophobic labyrinthine dungeons and never-ending desert vistas.  There’s truly gorgeous stuff on display. There are a few instances where the visual effects show signs of the low budget, but overall this movie is a feast for the eyes.

Similarly impressive was the acting on display. Carlson Young absolutely steals the show as Margaret.  Her range was staggering.  Other standouts performances come from Udo Kier as the morally ambiguous Lained and abusive drunk dad played by Dermot Mulroney

There’s a few problems with storytelling and the pacing particularly.  The movie is also about ten minutes too long.  It’s one thing to tell a story wrapped in ambiguity, but pushed too far and any emotional connection becomes trivialized.  That’s not to say that ‘The Blazing World’ isn’t a beautiful, meaningful film.  It is. But it demands your full attention (and deserves it) to put the pieces together.

Which brings me back to the beginning. Please, do yourself a favor and see this movie in theaters. I can imagine myself in my living room. Maybe my dog starts barking, maybe my phone goes off and I check Twitter just once, and in that precious moment the movie loses me and can’t pull me back in. Don’t let this happen to you! Let yourself be drawn in.  Lose yourself in the Blazing World. It’s my pick for best film of Panic Fest 2021.

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