Blood Fest Movie Review
Written by Stuart D. Monroe
Released by Rooster Teeth
Written and directed by Owen Egerton
2018, 90 minutes, Not Rated
Released on August 31st, 2018
Robbie Kay as Dax Conway
Jacob Batalon as Krill
Seychelle Gabriel as Sam
Barbara Dunkelman as Ashley
Rebecca Lynn Wagner as Jayme Conway
Tate Donovan as Dr. Conway
Chris Doubek as Hinckley
Nicholas Rutherford as Lenjamin Caine
Owen Egerton as Anthony Walsh
Zachary Levi as Himself
Urban Dictionary defines meta as “…about the thing itself. It’s seeing the thing from a higher perspective instead of from within the thing, life being self-aware.” I like that definition a lot better than the mumbo-jumbo in Webster’s. Likewise, I believe writer/director Owen Egerton (Follow) is on-board with it, too. He clearly understands meta to the letter and has made one hell of an example with his sophomore effort.
Blood Fest tells the story of Dax (Robbie Kay, ABC’s Once Upon A Time), a horror aficionado who witnessed his mother’s brutal murder at a tender age by one of his father’s escaped mental patients. He’s excited as all hell to attend the massive horror festival known as Blood Fest, much to the chagrin of his father, Dr. Conway (Tate Donovan, veteran TV actor, The Man in the High Castle), who’s on a crusade to stamp out horror at all costs. His sister, Jayme (newcomer Rebecca Lynn Wagner), thinks he’s an insufferable dork and that Dad is right. However, accompanied by his two best friends, Krill (Jacob Batalon, Spiderman: Homecoming) and Sam (Seychelle Gabriel, The Last Airbender), and a hookup from aspiring actress, Ashley (Barbara Dunkelman, RWBY), Dax heads to Blood Fest ready to nerd it up. Unfortunately for Dax and company (along with literally everyone else in attendance), it’s about to become a literal bloodfest as famous horror director Anthony Walsh (director Owen Egerton showing that meta-dedication) is filming his magnum opus with the attendees as victims, trapped inside 700 acres of famous horror movie nightmares! Talk about a body count to put Jason Vorhees to shame…
I’ve always argued that there is no slope more slippery for filmmakers than horror. Inside of the genre, trying to follow in the self-referential footsteps of Wes Craven’s classic slasher, Scream (a.k.a. the Godfather of the subgenre), will forever be a daunting task. Nailing down the scare value of the situation without being too campy and over the top means that you must have writing that’s clever at the very least and brilliant at best. There needs to be a message stuck in there like buried treasure, just waiting for the attentive ear to pick it up amongst all the screams. By grounding Blood Fest in real family tension and executing with excellence on the naturally effective elements that good, old-fashioned, bloody horror bring to the table, Egerton has done just that.
The references to all the giants of the genre come at you fast and furious. They are instantly recognizable, even though copyright prevented them from directly naming them as such. I mean, The Arborist?! A series about a dude who kills with pruners to avenge the death of his father (the school groundskeeper) at the hands of unruly students? Bloody brilliant. Just campy enough, I say. Along with famous slashers you get zombies, clowns, psychos in pig masks wielding chainsaws…there’s something for everyone to enjoy. Adding the layer of a control room for all the action with tech-savvy tricks gives the proceedings a nice Cabin in the Woods vibe. There’s a nefarious plot at play here.
The SFX are much more on the practical side, and the CGI that was used is pretty solid. They threw the gore around with effects that are themselves homages (“You’ve got black vomit on you.”) Set design and production value are deceptively high for a reported 1.2 million budget. The color palette (especially in the venue) has a look and feel that is very Rob Zombie. No complaints here.
The cast’s natural chemistry comes through, even in characters that are borderline archetypes. Jacob Batalon steals all his scenes as Krill, though he is no stranger to mainstream audiences after his adventures in the M.C.U. He’s a phenomenal sidekick and lovable as an uncoordinated puppy. Owen Egerton plays the villain with zeal and sleaze. Zachary Levi’s cameo is far too brief, and his death should’ve been much more horrific, though. That was a wasted opportunity.
My black little heart is thrilled at how Blood Fest works, though. It’s a movie that’s thoroughly versed in the genre and all of its subgenres, smartly written and deftly performed. Sure, it’s still pretty campy, but affectionately so. I declare it to be a gory, smart-ass treat for hardcore horror fans.