Blood Fest, 2018.
Directed by Owen Egerton.
Starring Robbie Kay, Seychelle Gabriel, Tate Donovan, Jacob Batalon, Barbara Dunkelman, Owen Egerton, Nicholas Rutherford, Chris Doubek, and Zachary Levi.
Fans flock to a festival celebrating the most iconic horror movies, only to discover that the charismatic showman behind the event has a diabolical agenda. As festival attendees start dying…
“Horror…is dead. Look around you! Our vampires glitter. Our zombies have become soap opera stars. Our slashers have grown dull and old. We put Freddy on a lunchbox. We put Lovecraft in a coloring book. We have overconsumed and overproduced and we have taken what was forbidden – what was dangerous – and we have made it common. Wanna make movies scary again? Wanna do it tonight? Wanna make a horror movie to end all horror movies?!”
A monologue promise *this* lofty? You damn well better deliver. Such is the misguided hubris and downfall of Blood Fest.
Owen Egerton’s festival of frights may have beaten Gregory Plotkin’s Hell Fest into theaters, but Plotkin shouldn’t fret. Rooster Teeth’s kitchen sink horror “homage” professes itself – in dialogue – the greatest meta mashup of guts, big top theatrics, and horror fandom this side of Haddonfield. Blood Fest, we’re talking about. The one about a remote horror festival run by some top-hatted showman who locks ticket holders inside his genre theme park where death is real, not CBS Films’ upcoming remote horror festival run by some top-hatted showman thriller where a slasher is on the loose and death is real. Hell Fest appears to favor straightforward horror, while Blood Fest accepts rank as a class clown *so desperately* vying for attention by incessantly trying to prove and establish its horror-legend cred.
Blood Fest begs the age-old question – do Fangoria subscriptions and Child’s Play marathons translate in real life horror situations? Over, and over, and over again until every *single* subgenre rule has been listed. We get it. You like horror movies. Maybe ease up on the uninterrupted “look how much I know” pandering?
Robbie Kay plays Dax, a Rolodex of horror film knowledge. He, totally-plutonic-for-now bestie Sam (Seychelle Gabriel), and horny virgin Krill (Jacob Batalon) have one thing on their mind for the weekend: Blood Fest. A 700-acre plot of land converted into the ultimate genre experience for all who enter. As moonlight dims visibility and doors shut behind patrons, showrunner Anthony Walsh (Owen Egerton) promises a killer night that’s to be turned into the greatest horror movie ever – and that’s when pig-masked chainsaw guards start hacking attendees apart. Dax quickly realizes the “actors” aren’t acting, scare zones are deathtraps, and Walsh successfully staged the wildest mass murder in history. Horror fans, the world’s easiest target.
Sounds like a dream concept, right? In theory and conceptualization, yes. Sectors like Clowntown unleash rainbow-colored jesters with dyed afro wigs, novelty-sized mallets caked in dried blood, and razor sharpened teeth. Scattered jokes *sporadically* work (“She won’t watch Seven because she hasn’t seen the first six!”). Egerton *attempts* to grasp meaning by challenging “horror” as a release and further articulate *why* genre fans douse themselves in the macabre cloaks of slasher comforts. Blood Fest Frankensteins the right parts together, but *boy* does direction lock vision or wherewithal.
If you follow Rooster Teeth’s YouTube programming, you understand their content style (#ALot). Blood Fest mimics RT’s Lazer Team (which I adored) by keeping audiences distracted with quantity over quality novelty references. The film, overall, functions like that one childhood friend who *swore* he touched boobs before anyone and would reference sex in every conversation just to prove he did. Swap sex for watching horror movies in this scenario and Egerton’s schtick runs stale. You have to assume such a project’s demographic already targets ravenous horror fans searching for poignant satire – who certainly are not the people who need excruciating introductory lessons about *every single* genre norm. Plotted storylines are given zero room to breathe or unfold, shackled to characters who’re only here for another “Wait, isn’t this the point in a horror movie where X happens? [X happens.]”
Cutting to the SFX aspects of Blood Fest, expect a slapdash mutation of practical effects and computer animations. Rooster Teeth’s team works on a smaller budget, and while set dressings are very “Satan’s Slasher Rave,” deaths run a gamut from splattery goodness to low-budget eye rolling. Take the chainsaw pigmen as they advance on an increasingly alarmed crowd, where numerous Rooster Teeth cameos end in elimination. Gavin Free spouts a quip, faces danger, and gets split in half head-to-toe which is rad as ‘effing hell. Yet in other parts, the constraints of decapitated dummies and kills aided by camera angles don’t exactly sell “WOW” factors. Fake, sticky organs are tossed around and mouths expel sludgy black grossness – clown craniums are bashed open – but grotesqueries are a mixed bag of muck.
By respecting genre conformity and trying to “comment” on the rules we’ve learned through 80s slashers, Scream knockoffs and every subgenre guideline in the book, Blood Fest renders itself an expected memory jog with little reinvention. Conventional waters are retreaded. Robbie Kay plays Lil’ Randy Meeks, an overweight virgin fantasizes about getting laid the whole time (Batalon), there’s the hot ditzy blonde horror actress who hates horror (Barbara Dunkelman), and also her vape-smoking director boyfriend (Nicholas Rutherford) who “doesn’t watch movies, he creates them.” Oh, don’t forget the slasher actor who curses his “Arborist” fame that’s since overshadowed a serious career (Chris Doubek). To be considered satire, one must poke fun and divulge attainable commentary. Blood Fest is just a collection of overused tropes, devices and recycled mantras crammed into the same uneven movie. Note the difference.
Egerton throws *everything* imaginable into Blood Fest. Monsters and psychopaths are mind controlled mental patients (the clowns are from CraigsList). Who commands them? Caged “nerds” under the guise they’re playing a new video game. Camera feeds all import to Walsh’s overlooking home base where his technicians can imitate God and alter any outcome they want. Bracelets turn normal humans into ravenous, possessed demons…because they can. Women tainted with Porphyria to become bloodsuckers. Prisoners believe they’re zombies devouring real corpses all while a megalomaniac “horror mastermind” rambles on about how he’s changed the face of our favorite genre. All very…forced. Jumbled in the grand scheme of explanations throughout Dax’s mad dash to freedom.
Performances are over-the-top because that’s what Egerton’s tone calls for. His purple-suited “director” sitting atop Blood Fest’s (digitally rendered) control room spire, watching (self-satisfying to) the chaos below. Rutherford’s hipster indie blowhard director is more grating than hilarious, Batalon’s “kid in a titty candy story” arc couldn’t be more reductive or less involved, but Kay’s “dorky” lead and Dunkelman’s Flynn Rider obsession save face. Oh, right. Zachary Levi cameos *just* for a Flynn Rider gag. Ha…ha…ha?
When Brad Pitt utters “I think this just might be my masterpiece” at the end of Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds (an *actual* masterpiece) after having just carved a swastika into a Nazi’s forehead, it’s one thing. When Robbie Kay utters “Classic…” in response to Blood Feast’s ending while staring at a greenscreen skyline, it’s a bad look at best (egg-in-face egotism at worst). Right after copping out one of the most anticlimactic horror endings of 2018, no less. It’s a shame Egerton decided he would blow your mind before any such blowing even remotely commences. But nothing tops Tate Donovan delivering the worst (best?), most spit-take worthy line of 2018: “HORROR KILLED MY WIFE.” Characters are set up to fail from the get-go and a billion Halloween, A Nightmare On Elm Street, Friday The 13th, or ANY OTHER HORROR MOVIE EVER references can’t save ‘em.
It brings me no pleasure to dislike a horror comedy where dopey bros get sucked bone-dry by Eastern European vamps right after Smash Mouth’s “All-Star” needle drops, but here we are. Blood Fest is nowhere near as clever, spectacular or genre-redefining as it thinks it is. You’ll get blood splattered popcorn and everything from “Living Dead Land” to “Tortureville,” but it’s not in the name of horror enlightenment. In fact, it’s all rather dull and stuffy. Yet another attempt to rewrite the proverbial rulebook that falls neatly into place by confirming the same survival instructions it’s meant to mock. A rave to the grave? More like a bore to the…floor? You get me.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ / Movie: ★★
Matt spends his after-work hours posting nonsense on the internet instead of sleeping like a normal human. He seems like a pretty cool guy, but don’t feed him after midnight just to be safe (beers are allowed/encouraged). Follow him on Twitter/Instagram (@DoNatoBomb).