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The most extreme immersive horror experience in America is called Blackout. Not for the faint of heart, it is a terrifying, psycho-sexual thrill-ride designed to play on our deepest psychological fears. Rich Fox's innovative horror documentary follows a group of friends whose experience with Blackout becomes deeply personal, developing into an obsession that hijacks their lives and blurs the line between reality and paranoid fantasy. Revealing an underbelly of private rituals and personal nightmares with footage that is 100% real, "The Blackout Experiments" is the story of our obsession with the darkness inside us. "The Blackout Experiments" premiered at Sundance 2016.
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Guide: F-word, nudity.
Not that that is an indication about how the movie is, because it isn’t at all. In fact, the film is fantastic.
However, it’s more about how it made me feel than the content of the movie itself. As of this writing, I have seen The Blackout Experiments three times: twice in its Sundance screening form and once more in its theatrical release format. Both are very similar, with a few cuts and extra scenes added to the final version, all for the better.
For me, reviewing the film is hard, because most of the subjects that the film focuses on are all good friends of mine. On top of that, I’ve had such a personal relationship with Blackout in general over the last few years. Perhaps all that makes me the perfect person to review it then. Perhaps not.
For those of you who don’t know, The Blackout Experiments is a documentary about the extreme, immersive experience Blackout. The documentary follows several subjects and their journey over the course of a year or so with the show. Many are experiencing it for the first time, so you get to see the beginning’s guide to anxiety in full force.
While Blackout is notoriously secretive, the film does a wonderful job of capturing what bits and pieces of the experience are actually like. It really drives home the point that Blackout doesn’t just occur when you step through their door: instead, it starts just as you begin to think about buying a ticket, all the way until months later, when the things you experienced are still re-playing in your mind.
The portions of various Blackout shows that we see the subjects go through in the film are both harrowing and disorienting. What was most interesting to me was to see how these people reacted to these extreme situations…and then comparing them to my own. One scene showcased in the film was one that I had a difficult time with when I did it, so seeing it on the screen, and how these people reacted to it, triggered a “Blackout flashback” of my own leading back to idea of Blackout always being a part of its participants.
I know I have a lot more emotional investment into this film that common joe movie goer, but to see how some of my friends reacted to some situations was enlightening for me. Seeing them go through the same emotional punches, the same feelings, the same anxieties and fears, it was like opening up a new door into my brain.
Rich Fox does a masterful job of getting to the emotional core of Blackout, to show it’s not all about putting people in these extremely tense situations. It gets inside their head, it makes them question everything, and it breaks them down. I think a big reason for that success in the film is Fox’s choice of subjects.
Each person highlighted reacts to Blackout in a different way, and each one takes something else away from it. The film is less about what goes in within Blackout’s walls, but more about how these people humanize those actions and interprets it.
I know The Blackout Experiments isn’t for everyone, but for those of you with an interest in just what it contains, but have yet to experience it, it is a great film. It’s a great peak behind the curtain, with brief glimpses at the people who create it.
Again, Rich Fox did a great job of capturing the feel, the look, and the emotions of Blackout. It’s a personal journey, and one that is interesting to watch unfold on the screen. I highly recommend seeing it for yourself.
This review originally appeared on HorrorBuzz.com
The adventure begins at a rather benign looking urban street where a person knocks on a door where a camera is positioned on them. There is little intent on hiding their surveillance and while the ‘victim’ mulls over the possibilities on the other side, the door abruptly opens, they are adducted and the blackout commences. Now, the situation for all comers is that an e-mail is generated at midnight on the day before explaining where to report to and any other instructions. The e-mail is purported to be “creepy” where chiaroscuro affection with disturbing imagery is utilized.
One person suggests that “life has been pretty boring and you only live once.” Quite obviously a perfect reason to allow yourself to be attacked, handcuffed, “marked and branded.” but I digress. Each sense reveals a rather silly, cult-like apprehension where plastic sheeting and duct-tape are utilized to their full extent. Each person is’ traumatized’ in a different, albeit cookie-cutter fashion. The scares are self-limiting as they pertain to the individual involved and we participate as voyeurs, able to chuckle at each person’s limits and breaking point which really extend to a little more than a visceral romp through a Halloween haunted house culminating in abandonment on the streets wearing less clothing and a new ‘tattoo’ from when they began. When it is all over, we then find them meeting in some quirky reality television reunion episode, complete with brie.
The film is interesting in some ways, but the more disturbing facet is the anomalies that we find in our society that seek out invigoration through pain and the fragile sensibilities of the human psyche. What we are left with in nonsensical and cliché assessments like “Blackout has the ability to change you if you are willing to let it,” “I highly believe that Blackout had transformed me…” “To be able to experience Blackout you have to have a deeper knowledge of yourself, or, if you don’t have that deeper knowledge of yourself to go through Blackout will allow you to gain that deeper knowledge.”
Frankly, none of us would truly require the special assistance of these folks to become contemplative. The filmmakers here have simply chosen wisely to showcase those among us who simply want to garner notoriety over honest introspection. Regardless of the creators’ and director’s insistence, this is an uneventful, unartistic and unoriginal experience whether in theory or practice.