Movie Review (Panic Fest 2021): The Blazing World

April 16, 2021

Written by Joseph Perry

Joseph Perry is the Film Festival Editor for Horror Fuel; all film festival related queries and announcements should be sent to him at [email protected] He is a contributing writer for the "Phantom of the Movies VideoScope" and “Drive-In Asylum” print magazines and the websites Gruesome Magazine, Diabolique Magazine, The Scariest Things, B&S About Movies, and When It Was Cool. He is a co-host of the "Uphill Both Ways" pop culture nostalgia podcast and also writes for its website. Joseph occasionally proudly co-writes articles with his son Cohen Perry, who is a film critic in his own right. A former northern Californian and Oregonian, Joseph has been teaching, writing, and living in South Korea since 2008.

Carlson Young makes a flashy-looking splash with her debut feature film The Blazing World, which she directs, cowrites (with Pierce Brown), and stars in. The film is rich in gorgeous imagery and dreamlike set pieces, but could use a bit more in characterization and story.
Young twin sisters Margaret (Josie Fink) and Elizabeth (Lillie Fink) are playing in a field with fireflies around them. Inside their stately home, their parents — Tom (Dermot Mulroney) and Alice (Vinessa Shaw) Winter — are fighting, verbally and physically. Elizabeth falls into the family’s pool and drowns, with the parents running outside when they hear Margaret’s screams. As the parents pull Elizabeth out of the pool, Margaret turns to look away from the horror and notices an odd man — Udo Kier as Lained — beckoning her to join him as he stands near a wormhole-like portal.
Flash forward about 20 years to Margaret (Carlson Young of Scream: The TV Series), who is now a university student haunted by visions of both her sister and Lained. She goes home to help clear out the family home that is being sold, and it is obvious that her parents are as psychologically scarred as she is. After crawling through her old bedroom closet, she begins a surreal journey that is equal parts Alice Through the Looking Glass, Pan’s Labyrinth, and Mulholland Drive. I’ll leave the plot synopsis at that so potential viewers can traverse freshly through the wild world in which Margaret finds herself.
There’s no denying how gorgeous The Blazing World looks, with wondrous set design and images filling the screen, all captured magnificently by cinematographer Shane F. Kelly. For fans of fantastic cinema, those are reasons enough to indulge in this film. The performances are solid, too, with Young giving an engaging performance surrounded by talented actors such as Kier, Shaw, and Mulroney, among others. The film struggles here and there with some characters falling into the trap of being tropes, and with occasional wandering into scenes that don’t seem to have much impact on later proceedings — a visit to a music venue with old friends and an encounter with Margaret’s favorite television psychic, for example — and occasional dialogue that comes across as pretentious or nonsensical. 
Overall, though, The Blazing World is a remarkable achievement for Young’s first time at the helm of a feature-length film. She blends fantasy, horror, and science fiction elements together into a work that may drift here and there, but is always entertaining and artistic.   
The Blazing World screens as part of Panic Fest, which takes place from April 8–18, 2021. For tickets or more information about this hybrid edition of the festival, visit #panicfest2021
Vertical Entertainment releases The Blazing World in select theaters and On Demand on October 15, 2021.

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