Clearly inspired by ’80s horror films and horror-comedies like “Gremlins” or “Fright Night,” “Onyx the Fortuitous” starts in a “Breakfast Club” way, with five people, misfits all, showing up at the gloomy mansion of their shared idol, famous occultist Bartok the Great (Jeffrey Combs). They’ve all won an online contest where the prize is a weekend with Bartok. Bartok will lead the group through a ritual revealing the secrets of immortality. Bartok’s green-haired assistant, Farrah (Olivia Taylor Dudley), is in charge of the five participants, fielding questions with barely concealed eye-rolls. The five winners couldn’t be more different. Marcus J. Trillbury (Andrew Bowser) lives at home with his mom (horror legend Barbara Crampton) and stepfather, works in a burger joint where he is routinely bullied, escapes reality through his alter ego Onyx the Fortuitous and is, unsurprisingly, a virgin. Jessminder (Melanie Chandra) is an intense tattoo artist, convinced she and Bartok were married in another lifetime. Shelley (Arden Myrin) is a manic, chipper Christian housewife, traumatized by life events into embracing Satan. Mr. Duke (Terrence ‘T.C.’ Carson) is an intellectual, philosopher, and linguist drawn to the dark arts through his interest in ancient texts. And finally, there’s Mack (Rivkah Reyes), a kindly non-binary witch.
It’s almost immediately apparent that Bartok is not really who he says he is, and neither is Farrah. Perhaps the contest was a false front, and Onyx, Mr. Duke, Shelley, Jessminder, and Mack are “winners” in a much more sinister game. People start to disappear. Mr. Duke tries translating the scary-looking “grimoire” to see what might be next on the agenda. Onyx constantly gets into scrapes on his own, stumbling into a secret passageway behind the walls, seeing things he should not see, and having his own Scooby-Doo-style adventures.
If you aren’t familiar with Onyx (I wasn’t before viewing this film), “Onyx the Fortuitous” might be a tough watch. Onyx is annoying (and is supposed to be), and a little of him goes a long, long way. But Bowser knows what he’s doing. The tone is consistent, even with a couple of speed bumps for exposition. The film is a love letter to the midnight movies and haunted-house double-features of the ’80s, with their synthesized scores, purple lightning bolts, gleaming gemstones in the hilts of daggers, scary-looking religious texts, obviously fake cobwebs, etc. Nothing slides into self-seriousness, not even the small flashback where we learn where Onyx’s compulsive “I don’t know”s come from. Even with the scary stuff and silliness, the overall mood is sweet. I mean this as a compliment.