Blood Fest aims to be a self-aware meta-horror comedy in the vein of Scream or The Cabin in the Woods, but where those films succeeded in their attempts to lampoon the genre, Blood Fest fails, making for a rather negative viewing experience that just doesn’t know when to quit.
A product of YouTube juggernaut Rooster Teeth, Blood Fest sees Dax (Robbie Kay, Once Upon a Time) a horror-obsessed teenager whose only wish is to attend Blood Fest. Blood Fest is a horror lover’s wet dream of an event in which several acres of land are divided into sub-genres (think the clock arena in The Hunger Games: Catching Fire) for guests to traverse like a haunted house. Dax’s father (Tate Donovan, slumming it) forbids Dax from going to the festival because he blames the genre for his wife’s murder several year’s prior. Being a rebellious teenager, Dax disobeys his father’s wishes and goes to Blood Fest with his friends: tough girl Sam (Seychelle Gabriel, The Legend of Korra), lovable nerd Krill (Jacob Batalon, Spider-Man: Homecoming), popular girl/actress Ashley (Barbara Dunkelman, a Rooster Teeth veteran) and her director Lenjamin (Nick Rutherford, People You May Know). Once the festival starts, however, the gates are locked and electrified as the emcee (the film’s writer/director, Owen Egerton) announces that the guests will all be murdered by Blood Fest’s costumed employees by sunrise. Before you know it our protagonists are being stalked by vampires, clowns, and zombies in a fight for survival.
On paper, this is a fantastic concept. Dump a bunch of teens in a horror carnival filled with different sub-genres of horror. Kill off a kid each time they travel through one of said sub-genres. Be witty. Make jokes. Blam. Fun midnight movie to see with a crowd. Unfortunately, nothing about Blood Fest is witty. You can practically feel the film winking at you every time a character utters a one-liner or makes a comment about the rules of horror. Watching it, you imagine Egerton and Co. patting themselves on the backs after every take.
There is a smugness that fills nearly every frame of Blood Fest. The film grinds to a halt every time a joke is uttered, almost as if the film is holding for applause. This wouldn’t be as bothersome if the film was actually clever, but it’s not. There is a way to do meta commentary in horror movies but Blood Fest is so full of itself that 95% of the jokes don’t land. The few times a joke does work Egerton hammers it into the ground (a joke about Zachary Levi‘s voice work on Disney’s Tangled inspires a chuckle at first but stops being funny after the fourth or fifth time it is brought up in the span of 2 minutes). The film just tries so hard to be clever that you almost feel bad for it because it isn’t. At all. Humor is subjective though, so there may be some viewers that find Blood Fest a laugh riot. Who am I to say?
Egerton is an Austinite who has gathered a sizable following in the local film community. Blood Fest is his second directorial effort following 2016’s Follow (read my review). That film wasn’t perfect, but Egerton showed some promise with his directing style. Style is thrown out the window in Blood Fest, which is meant to be his love letter to the genre, opting for a fun, schlocky slasher vibe. It is clear that Egerton loves the horror genre, but it just doesn’t translate well to the screen.
Blood Fest isn’t entirely without its merits. As its title suggests, the film is loaded with gore. Heads are split open, bodies are cut in half, throats are chewed out. It’s all fun stuff, even if the CGI effects leave much to be desired. The cast does what they can with the cringe-worthy dialogue they are given. In fact, everyone on screen seems to be having a blast. If only that sense of fun had bled out into the audience. Kay does the brunt of the work as Dax, doing a commendable job as the leading man. Gabriel is mighty fun to watch as Sam and Batalon inspires a few chuckles, even if he is basically playing the same character he did in Spider-Man: Homecoming. It is Rutherford who proves to be the scene-stealer as the conceited Lenjamin. Essentially an exaggerated stereotype of a hipster filmmaker, Lenjamin is one of the sole bright spots of the film.
There is a passion behind Blood Fest that is somewhat endearing, and you can’t help but admire Egerton for his efforts. If only the movie wasn’t a complete failure at what it tries to do: be fun. Sure, the script is littered with plot holes and the production values are on the lower end, but that’s all forgivable if the film is somewhat entertaining. I feel like a complete and total Scrooge writing this review. I love horror. I love horror comedies. I love meta humor. That is why I volunteered to cover Blood Fest. I thought it would be right up my alley. Boy oh boy, how wrong I was.