• Sebastian Mann

Blazing World (2021) Review

With all the verve of an amateur music video, The Blazing World is an interminable bore.

Carlson Young, who got her start on Disney’s As the Bell Rings, makes her directorial debut with a loose adaptation of Margaret Cavendish’s 1666 prose fiction, The Blazing World, though “other dreams” are also credited for inspiration.

With a project like this, you can’t not admire the scope and ambition. It’s certainly a far more interesting attempt at a directorial debut than many others, adapting obscure 17th Century prose fiction and at least with an eye for what a horror scene should look like.

Chalk it up to wasted potential: The Blazing World is a misfire in every conceivable way. As a horror, it isn’t scary. As a profound meditation on loss and grief or whatever, it’s just boring.

Young stars as Margaret, a college student returning home as her parents prepare to move out of their stately mansion. There’s been an unfixable distance between them since the tragic drowning of Margaret’s sister, which, in almost Von Trier-like fashion, is shown at the start of the film.

The Blazing World relies almost entirely on meaningless abstract imagery to tell its otherwise generic story

But Margaret has become obsessed with this other world, where she believes her sister has been taken. It’s seemingly fuelled by nightmares of the imagined Lained (Udo Kier), who she first saw stood next to a large portal poolside as her sister drowned.

After subjecting the audience to some truly ear-scraping dialogue where a bunch of bourgeois hipsters (with a supporting role by musician Soko) discuss metaphysics as if for the first time ever, Margaret sees another portal appear in her driveway and this time assuredly jumps into it - sort of like Bruce Campbell in Evil Dead II, only it looked more convincing back in 1987. Now in a fantastical realm, she begins looking for her sister, encountering a whole load of jump-scares and silly, fairy-tale nonsense.

It’s pretentious, but with some horror films, you can just overlook that and try to go with the flow. Unfortunately, The Blazing World relies almost entirely on meaningless abstract imagery to tell its otherwise generic story. The easiest comparison (and certainly an insulting one) would be to Pan’s Labyrinth, though it has the look and feel of one of those tacky Alice in Wonderland-themed roller-coaster rides. It’s about as intellectually stimulating as one, too.


The Blazing World is playing at Sundance Film Festival: London on July 31.