Blood Fest: What’s Your Favorite Scary Genre?, by Sarah Brinks
Blood Fest knows exactly what it is. It’s another solid entry in the meta-horror genre. Blood Fest’s closest comparison is probably Cabin in the Woods with a healthy dollop of 1996’s Scream thrown in for flavor. Much like Cabin, it manages to be both a commentary on and entrant into the horror genre.
The plot is simple. A group of friends go to the horror equivalent of a renaissance festival, where there are genre-themed sections of a huge walled park including a “Clownville” and a cemetery. Our main character, Dax (Robbie Kay), deceives his father (Tate Donovan) and asks his friend Ashley to get him into Blood Fest after his father cuts Dax’s wristband off. Dax, who witnessed his mother being brutally murdered by his father’s therapy patient when he was a child, has been obsessed with horror movies ever since and, you guessed it, he knows all the rules of the genre. He’s joined by his two best friends, horny archetype side-kick Krill (Jacob Batalon) and beautiful but friend-zoned Sam (Seychelle Gabriel). After arriving at Blood Fest, the three friends and the rest of the attendees realize they’re in a real life horror movie when the host, played by writer/director Owen Egerton, brings two girls on stage to be murdered by a masked figure called Red. Then an army of pig-masked men start attacking everyone with chainsaws. If the guests can follow the rules, they might survive.
There are some really fun performances here, including Egerton as the puppeteer of Blood Fest, Anthony. Egerton turns it up to eleven and delivers an over-the-top performance. It’s a lot of fun to watch and fits the film’s tone. Batalon seems doomed to a career of playing “the best friend” but he really delivers. He’s the virgin who wants to get laid but also has a well-stocked backpack and knows computers. I don’t think it’s a spoiler since he has top billing on IMDB but Zachary Levi has a small cameo as himself and has one of the funniest exchanges in the film. But the funniest character and maybe the best performance is by Nicholas Rutheford as Lenjamin, the hipster-horror film director and boyfriend to Ashley the girl who got Dax into Blood Fest. Lenjamin has spectacular lines like, “I don’t watch movies, I make them” and later tells the police he’s a filmmaker to hurry up his rescue. He’s dressed like a typical hipster and vapes his way through the horror. The character is so pitch-perfect, his short time on screen is memorable and delightful.
The adherence to “the rules” is a clear homage to the Scream franchise but so many other horror movies, directors, tropes, and sub-genres are also mentioned. There is even the star of a franchise made up for the movie (The Arborist) amongst the main group of survivors and he has to come to terms with his own role within the genre as things plays out. In one way, it almost immunizes the film to direct criticism because it’s commenting on those other films. It also makes the movie a lot of fun for fans of the horror genre. It plays into your expectations in fun ways but also has its own story to tell. Unfortunately, the actual story and “twist” is pretty predictable. Anyone who has watched enough movies to appreciate the homages and references will have no trouble seeing what’s coming. That doesn’t take away too much from how fun the movie is, though. It hits the expected points of a horror movie while also delivering on the tropes of many sub-genres.
Movies like this can’t help but make you question what your reaction would be to this situation. Would you be more prepared for Blood Fest because you’ve seen a lot of movies and know the rules? Chances are, no, I would probably die right away; I can’t claim “final girl” status. But it is a lot fun to watch a conveniently diverse group of dynamic characters test their metal and do their best to survive. And the group in Blood Fest have to survive zombies, vampires, clowns, torture puppets, and more.
If you’re fan of movies, horror movies in particular, then Blood Fest will be fun for you. It isn’t as clever as Cabin in the Woods or as sarcastically distant as Scream but it is a gore-fueled romp through the history of horror movies with some fun dialog and creative kills along the way.