05th Jul2018

EIFF 2018: ‘Blood Fest’ Review

by Matthew Turner

Stars: Robbie Kay, Jacob Batalon, Seychelle Gabriel, Jacob Batalon, Barbara Dunkelman, Tate Donovan, Zachary Levi | Written and Directed by Owen Egerton

blood-fest-poster

Produced by popular YouTube outfit Rooster Teeth, Blood Fest aims to follow in the footsteps of self-aware meta horrors like Scream and Cabin in the Woods. Unfortunately, while there’s no doubting the filmmakers’ evident love for the genre, the end result isn’t nearly as funny or as clever as it thinks it is.

After a generic slasher movie prologue in which a young boy sees his mother get killed by a masked maniac, we’re introduced to horror-loving Dax (Robbie Kay) and his best buddies Sam (Seychelle Gabriel) and Krill (Jacob Batalon), who are desperate to attend horror festival Blood Fest, against the wishes of Dax’s strict father (Tate Donovan), who blames the genre for his wife’s (i.e. Dax’s mother’s) murder in the prologue.

Disobeying Dax’s father, the trio attend anyway, only to discover that the festival’s diabolical emcee, Walsh (the film’s writer-director, Owen Egerton) has organised a giant bloodbath and intends to murder all the attendees, while secretly filming everything for his own “realistic” horror movie. Teaming up with wannabe actress Ashley (Barbara Dunkelman) and her obnoxious hipster director Lenjamin (Nicholas Rutherford), Dax and his friends attempt to escape through a back entrance to the park, avoiding various vampires, zombies and homicidal clowns along the way.

Blood Fest is so desperate to emulate the likes of Scream that it actively undermines its own premise to do so. For example, Dax repeatedly insists that the group will have to follow the rules of horror movies to survive, yet nothing in the festival-full-of-murderers set-up suggests that’s actually the case, and the script struggles to support that concept with any concrete examples. Similarly, the film has a frustrating tendency to over-explain itself, which leads to some convoluted, tedious exposition (e.g. the zombies being actual corpses animated with electronics and operated by a team of gamers who think they’re testing a video game), while also inferring that the filmmakers actually care about plot holes, which they clearly don’t.

On top of that, the jokes simply aren’t good enough to allow you to ignore the film’s other flaws, with the majority of them either falling flat or drawing too much attention to themselves, so they end up being hammered into the ground. That said, there are a couple of exceptions, such as a brief, but amusing cameo from Zachary Levi (as himself), whose tragic backstory keeps getting interrupted because Ashley is obsessed with the part he played in Tangled.

As for the performances, they’re something of a mixed bag. Batalon is a reliable comic presence (as he proved in Spider-Man: Homecoming) and Kay and Gabriel make likeable leads, but Egerton is shrill and irritating as the film’s villain and Donovan puts in minimum effort, while wearing an expression that basically says, “I’m going to fire my agent”. On the plus side, the film doesn’t skimp on the special effects front (using practical, rather than digital FX) and there are plenty of grisly bits for gore fans, as well as some decidedly creepy clowns, if you like that sort of thing.

Ultimately, Blood Fest remains watchable thanks to its likeable cast and some pacey direction, but it’s not nearly as much fun as it should have been.

** 2/5

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