'The Blackout Experiments': Sundance Review

The Blackout Experiments still 1 - H 2016
Courtesy of Sundance Institute
Mock shock doc with few scares or surprises.

In this ghoulish horror documentary, masochistic victims endure degradation.

Shock doc The Blackout Experiments augurs to be an experiment in audience walk-out. Playing here at Sundance in the Midnight component of the festival, it is neither scary nor shocking.

The filmmakers follow a handful of loners who respond to a Facebook posting and volunteer to participate in the proceedings. All are lured to a murky setting where they must sign a release that absolves their purveyors of any legal responsibility should they get hurt or, perhaps, die. In short, they've been enticed by a concept that make them feel special; in Marine-ese, they are a select-few. Their mission, should they choose to accept it, is to subject themselves to any degradation their perpetrators inflict on them.

We follow the dimwits to their chosen involvement. They're enticed by their fear of what's-on-the-other-side. The lunkheads are led to the scariest, most isolated areas of the urban horror-scape, where they're greeted with hostility and aggression. They're made to feel meek and worthless and then subjected to bizarre psychological/physical tortures. The ordeals — bags placed over their heads, slimy objects thrust in their cavities — are revolting but not likely to blow anyone's mind in either their cruelty or inventiveness. Although sickening, they pale in comparison to garden-variety fraternity hazing. Eventually, all the chosen simpletons get together and feel a sense of kinship, much like Todd Browning's Freaks, who revel in the fact that each member is “one of us.” 

Throughout, filmmaker Rich Fox flexes all the usual elements of the genre: subjective camera angles, grainy footage, jarring cuts, eerie sound effects. Fox and his sound team have also creamed over the visuals with ample drone-moans, aesthetically congruent with a story that's in itself a total drone-on.

Cast: Kristjan Thor, Bob Glouberman, Allison Fogarty, Hannah Kaplan, Omar Hanson, Jacob Odenberg, Stephen McCoy, Gladys Santiago, Natalia Zamparini, Mike Fontaine
Director-editor: Rich Fox
Producer: Kris Curry
Cinematographer: Michael J. Pepin
Music: James Clements

Not rated, 80 minutes