When horror fan Dax and his best friends attend a festival recreating horror movies, they get more than they bargained for when they find out the terror and death is real and must fight for their lives against an army of monsters and masked maniacs.
Blood Fest feels like it should have been made 20 years ago in the wake of Scream, when it was still a relatively fresh idea to have horror movies blurring the lines between configured fiction and jaded reality, and populated by a group of genre-savvy young things.
Dex is a quintessential horror protagonist in having a tragic backstory (his mother was murdered by a mentally disturbed slasher fan, seen in the prologue that plays exactly like a slasher prologue) and his friends, deadpan hot chick Sam and tech nerd Krill, each tick the boxes of archetypal characters. In search of a way out the small group of survivors stumble through various horror scenarios featuring shambling zombies, rampaging killer clowns, seductive vampire babes, and a somewhat dismissive parody of Saw, all the while flip-flopping between attempting to defy genre tradition and obliviously playing up to it.
And herein is the main problem. If you’re going to make a film that runs on self-awareness of horror’s trappings, it’s important to avoid moments that conform to them with zero sense of irony, else, like here, you completely undermine the entire setup. Also, going too far the other way by having characters point out that their actions and dialogue mimic the clichés of horror movies doesn’t actually excuse it.
To be fair, the film makes some valid points during the villain’s rant about how commercialised and toothless the genre has largely become, but this is not expanded upon beyond motivation for his implausibly over-elaborate planning. Likewise, despite it being explicitly stated that survivors need to follow the rules of horror movies to escape, the film quickly forgets about this.
The film does have intermittent aspects to recommend it. There are some amusing moments punctuating the gore, such as a zombie reaching to vape after punching through someone’s chest, or Zachary Levi cameoing as himself and having his tale of harrowing survival continually interrupted by a squeeing girl obsessed with Tangled. The young cast are fully committed to the lunacy; the practical effects are a welcome change to the CGI overkill increasingly infesting these films; and the atmosphere is maintained by stylish set pieces in traditional locales like empty high school corridors, a creepy graveyard, claustrophobic basement tunnels and the perennial favourite of a cabin in the woods. Given the structured journey through individual settings, the story might have worked better had it been a short TV series rather than a single film, each episode seeing the band of survivors navigate a different flavour of horror movie, similar to the way in which the gloriously demented Blood Drive was a succession of mini grindhouse movies.
The frustrating thing about Blood Fest is that it can’t seem to decide what kind of film it is. It clearly wants to be a metafictional piece of postmodern horror comedy, and while it’s certainly too dumb to not be at least partially entertaining, it all feels far too familiar for a film bemoaning such formulaic predictability and calling for rectification of it.
BLOOD FEST / CERT: TBC / DIRECTOR: OWEN EGERTON / SCREENPLAY: OWEN EGERTON / STARRING: ROBBIE KAY, SEYCHELLE GABRIEL, JACOB BATALON, BARBARA DUNKELMAN, CHRIS DOUBEK, OWEN EGERTON / RELEASE DATE: TBC
Expected Rating: 7 out of 10