Jazz, film, and improvised culture.
Sundance ’16: The Blackout Experiments
Only in our postmodern age could extreme
physical and psychological abuse be considered progressive, self-assertive
therapy. If you have tried everything else to overcome your anxieties and OCD,
perhaps you could try the Blackout Experience, assuming you have a strong
ticker and are not prone to seizures. A handful of repeat customers analyze
their horrifying experiences in Rich Fox’s “documentary,” The Blackout Experiments (clip
here), which screens during the 2016 Sundance Film Festival.
Supposedly, this is a 100% true documentary,
but viewers should have their doubts. The Blackout Experience it ostensibly
documents is apparently a true phenomenon, having generating web ink well
before the film’s Sundance premiere. Billed as an immersive horror experience,
it is the closest patrons can get to the receiving end of the horrors in a Rob
Zombie film and still live to tell about it. Waivers are definitely involved,
as are beatings, gropings, and involuntary tattoo markings. Sounds like fun,
For reasons that elude even them, some
patrons get hooked on Blackout. Somehow, the abuse and humiliation give them some
sort of cathartic something, presumably like S&M submissives. However, the
Blackout experience quickly comes to dominate their lives, often leading to
feelings of guilt and paranoia as the sessions dangerously intensify. Frankly,
you are probably better off re-checking whether the stove is still turned off ten
or twelve times rather than undergo this kind of cure.
is really real, than it is train-wreck fascinating. However, that would
also mean Blackout creator-proprietors Josh Randall and Kristjan Thor violated
several laws when they broke into their customers’ homes to secretly plant surveillance
cameras and unnerving little messages. Russell Eaton, the lead Blackout
survivor spokesman looks suspicious familiar, but fellow survivor Bob Glouberman is definitely an actor, which further stokes viewer incredulity.
So maybe the supposed doc is based on very
real experiences, but recreates them with the benefit of a little poetic
license. Regardless, it shines a light in a seriously dark corner of the human
psyche. Just knowing this sort of masochist codependency potentially exists is
pretty darn scary. In an error of over-compensation, Fox over-indulgences in
the climatic New Age self-assertion, because real or not, it just sounds bogus
after all that we have just witnessed.
Blackout Experiments is
nowhere near as frightening or satisfying as Rodney Ascher’s The Nightmare, but as documentaries go,
it is still pretty scary—if it truly is a documentary. In any event, Fox,
Randall, and Thor clearly know some sinister things about psychology. It is a
baffler, but it is effective on a visceral level. Recommended for inherently
skeptical horror fans, The Blackout
Experiments screens again this Saturday (1/30) in Salt Lake, as part of
this year’s Sundance Film Festival.
Labels: Documentary, Sundance '16