★★★1/2 out of ★★★★★
Directed by Owen Egerton
FUN! This movie is pure dumb fun. And, I mean dumb in a loving way. This is Egerton’s tribute to the zanies that are horror movie fans. We’re a little obsessive.
This was the Friday midnight showing of the Overlook Film Festival in New Orleans, so, the crowd was somewhat light for this showing, as many conventioneers hit the French Quarter to party… leaving the hardcore horror fans in the audience. And the director, Owen Egerton picked up on that and turned the energy meter to 11. He was a true showman on the stage, and I immediately fell for the guy. I had the privilege to meet Egerton after the show, while we were waiting for Uber rides, and he is SO CHARMING. He is keenly aware of the kind of movie he made, and it really is a love letter to horror fans… and specifically horror movie conventioneers, which was us in the audience. We lapped it up. If a gory body count movie can be endearing, this one is that. Here is Egerton doing his best carnival barker introduction of his movie… enjoy!
Blood Fest is the story of Dax (Robbie Kay, most recognizable for his role as Peter Pan in Once Upon a Time), who learned a love of horror movies, handed down by his mother. And, as things would have it, his mother is killed by a copycat movie-serial killer on Halloween, while they were settling in for a night of classic black and white horror films. Dax is consumed by a love of horror despite the manner of his mother’s passing. He is completely amped up for a horror movie festival that is essentially an impromptu amusement park of fun-house type horrors. (It resembles nothing like the Overlook Festival… which was essentially a lot of movie watching) His psychologist father forbids him from going, cutting up his festival pass, but he manages to get access through his hot ex-girlfriend Ashley (Barbara Dunkelman), and is joined by his best pal Krill (Jacob Batalon, hot off his role in Spider-man Homecoming) and his girl-crush Sam (Seychelle Gabriel… what a name!)
At the opening ceremonies, the master of ceremonies Anthony Walsh (Played by the director Egerton, in a fabulous suit) kicks off the proceedings by unleashing real killers with chainsaws and daggers. The panicking hordes of fans flee in all directions, getting mowed down by all sorts of horror incarnations. Zombies, vampires, serial killers, Marionettes with traps, they all get in on the action, creating a gauntlet that our protagonists have to run through. A particularly entertaining running gag is the appearance of Chris Doubek, who plays an AC-tor, who has been typecast as “The Arborist” who uses hedge clippers and scythes in his films but is really disenchanted with his typecasting lot in life.
The whole massacre is a ruse by Walsh, who is intending on making a true snuff horror film and is banking on huge success. Apparently, nobody told him that would be illegal… but he isn’t exactly seeing things in the right perspective. He fully believes in his mission and is apparently very well funded to pull this elaborate stunt off. As our troupe of survivors looks for a way out, there are dozens of Easter eggs tossed in, as favorite tropes and references get liberally sprinkled into the story.
It gives you the continually dwindling band of survivors. Check! The two leads falling in love under the duress of survival? Check! The cynical actor turning a horrifying event into the role of a lifetime? Check! The dorky guy getting the sexy dingbat? Check! A Zachary Levi quick cameo? Check! Needless to say, this film checks a lot of favorite boxes. It is, in a way, a grindhouse grade Ready Player One. Missing one of your favorite horror tropes? Wait for it, it’s probably coming.
The film has a surprising level of craft to it. The sets alone were massive, and they had hordes of extras. For a little budget movie, they got a lot of bang for their buck. As far as a Scariest Things Meter… I plug this solidly as a 15. It’s got its gory bits, but nothing that most horror fans couldn’t handle, and the lightness of the movie tamps down the severity of the violence. This is hardly an original film, as by nature, it has clearly dedicated itself not to be. It’s a greatest hits cover album, done in a loving way. The comedy doesn’t always hit, but it does so often enough to keep you smiling through the whole picture. There are a couple of preposterous twists, but given the overall concept of this movie, you just let that slide. If you buy into the winking concept, you’ll enjoy this movie. If you like serious dramatic horror… ah… yeah not this one for you.
Blood Fest is Rated R and was in limited release on March 10, 2018. Check your streaming services soon!