THE STORY - Decades after the accidental drowning of her twin sister, a self-destructive woman returns to her family home, finding herself drawn to an alternate dimension where her sibling may still be alive.
THE CAST - Carlson Young, Udo Kier, Dermot Mulroney, Vinessa Shaw, John Karna & Soko
THE TEAM - Carlson Young (Director/Writer) & Pierce Brown (Writer)
THE RUNNING TIME - 101 Minutes
THE GOOD - Spellbinding visuals and a colorfully haunted atmosphere make the movie aesthetically captivating.
THE BAD - The film begins to wander in search of a greater purpose once its main character sets off to do the same.
THE OSCAR PROSPECTS - None
THE FINAL SCORE - 5/10
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By Cody Dericks
For centuries, writers have been mining the "young girl who accidentally stumbles into a fantasy world" sub-genre. From "Alice in Wonderland" and "The Wizard of Oz" all the way up to "Labyrinth," it's been a strangely popular and oft-told general tale. "The Blazing World," the new fantastical thriller from triple threat Carlson Young, is a dark, adult-minded film that plays in the same sandbox as Alice and Dorothy. It's heavy on the wondrous, symbolic imagery and breathtakingly creative design elements, but it's missing some of the heart and soul of other stories of its ilk.
Carlson Young, who also serves as the film's director and co-writer, plays Margaret. She's a young woman whose family has struggled to maintain normalcy after her twin sister's accidental drowning at an early age. Margaret witnessed her death and watched as a mysterious older man (Udo Kier) seemingly led her sister into some sort of portal at the moment of her earthly departure. Margaret has subsequently grown into a person obsessed with learning all she can about metaphysical planes of existence and how someone might pass into one. When her parents decide to move, Margaret returns home and finds herself drawn into an alternate dimension where she just might be able to save her sister after all.
Young clearly has a great appreciation for the horror classics. It's not hard to spot references to "Suspiria" and "The Shining," whether in the film's visual elements or just from its general atmosphere and configuration. Plus, the film's stunning opening is practically a reimagining of the prologue from "Don't Look Now." Said introduction is perhaps the most impressive part of the film. It's perfectly paced, with editing that aligns with "The Nutcracker" music underscoring the scene. It's simply mesmerizing.
Speaking of "The Nutcracker," Young's film uses another track from the classic ballet score at a later part in the story. It's worth noting that "The Nutcracker" is yet another tale of a young girl being transported to a magical otherworld. The half of "The Blazing World" that finds Margaret in a similarly-warped alternate universe is unendingly creative and visually beautiful. What the film lacks in this portion is a level of narrative clarity. That's not to say that it needs to be entirely unambiguous and obvious with its intentions. Still, its abstract nature doesn't do much to reveal anything about its characters or why exactly we're seeing what we're seeing. Most confounding of all is just how talkative this part of the film is. It doesn't let its heavily symbolic images speak for themselves but instead has its characters deliver lengthy stretches of dialogue that merely perplex. It only brings confusion where it should inspire curiosity.
As the man who seems to be in control of the alternate dimension, Kier is a blast. He's mysterious and playful, which brings a level of whimsy to the otherwise serious-minded film. Vinessa Shaw is also a stand-out as Margaret's mother, Alice. She adds layers to a character that could otherwise be rendered fairly one-dimensional.
"The Blazing World" has a screenplay whose interests lie in conceptual ideas and philosophical implications. The visuals may be hypnotic, but they're in service of a valiant effort of a movie rather than a totally mind-bending adventure.