Blood Fest is the latest production in the horror-comedy genre from YouTube giants Rooster Teeth. It’s a film clearly made with passion and love for the genre, yet it can be a bit hit or miss throughout. There are fun moments of gore and some droll allusions to horror classics, but the constant referencing gets a bit tiring when it’s so blatantly obvious.
The humour too ranges from clever meta comments too much cheaper, cringe-inducing jokes. Comparisons will be drawn with The Cabin in the Woods and Scream, though Blood Fest is not on their level. Despite this, there is some fun to be had if you go along with it.
When a massive horror carnival is opened with many different zones dedicated to your favourite slashers and villains, a group of horror-obsessed teens quickly find out that this horror Disneyland is all too real. This carnival, the eponymous ‘Blood Fest’ features areas such as ‘Clown Town’, ‘Vamp Camp’ and ‘Tortureville’ and others, all nods towards classic horror films, albeit without the naming rights although each allusion is pretty obvious. Writer and director Owen Egerton stars too, as Anthony Walsh, the ringmaster (he even wears a top hat) of this horror geek’s dream. He gleefully announces to his audience that their terror and agony will be authentic as he unleashes masked, chainsaw-wielding maniacs on his guests. Soon, it becomes clear that there are diverse, very real monsters across the entire park.
Within this mayhem, we have four teenage friends, all stereotypes themselves. Dax (Robbie Kay) is a self-professed horror geek with a deep knowledge of all things gory and all the rules and tropes of the genre. Sam (Seychelle Gabriel) appears as the tough, machete-wielding girl, determined to slash her way past any grisly foes and endless blood that is spurted at her. Jacob Batalon, best known for his recent turn in Spiderman: Homecoming as Peter Parker’s nerdy pal Ned, offers the best moments of comedy as Krill, desperate to lose his virginity despite the risks this poses in any horror setting. Ashley (Barbara Dunkelman) is your typical airheaded, genre blonde with a twist and a gritty determination to survive.
Blood Fest is a lot of fun for its first half, Egerton knows what the audience wants and quickly gets to the point with heaps of blood and guts. The effects are dodgy, in part, but the body parts go flying so it’s easy to look past. The humour starts off strong too but soon falters as the characters explain everything into tedious oblivion. Jokes aren’t funny when they’re explained, and such is the case in the film. The characters constantly discuss horror tropes which would be obvious even to cinemagoers that hate the genre.
Where a Cabin in the Woods succeeds is in its ability to subvert the genre into something you don’t expect. Blood Fest, for all of its self-proclaimed self-awareness, ends up following the typical horror formula without the nuance to truly satirise it. The ridiculous and convoluted third act features a twist that didn’t land with me at all and threatens to derail the entertaining work in the film’s opening half. The whole plot, actually, is patchy and this only really comes into play when the film tries to explain itself in its strange finale. It is much better served by stupidity.
Blood Fest is a solid, if unspectacular, midnight horror offering. There are great moments of gore and comedy, particularly as the terror begins. However, as the film strings you along, it tries too hard to be clever and ultimately loses a lot of the fun that it set out with. Ultimately, it gives you a fest of blood, which is exactly what it promises to do, even if it reaches a disappointing conclusion.
Ewan Wood | [rating=3]
Horror, Comedy | USA, 2018 | 18 | Edinburgh Film Festival | Dir.Owen Egerton | Zachary Levi, Tate Donovan, Jacob Batalon, Barbara Dunkelman, Robbie Kay, Seychelle Gabriel