When Wes Craven made Scream he kickstarted a more self-aware approach to horror. It was a self-reflective work Craven had tried previously with New Nightmare. Initially, Scream begot a wave of slasher-lite knockoffs that kind of missed Craven’s point. But the meta-slasher would eventually gain traction. Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon, Tucker and Dale vs Evil, You Might Be The Killer, Final Girls, Cabin in the Woods – horror movies that self-reference horrors movies is no longer a novelty. So when Blood Fest made its way onto digital platforms in 2018, it felt a little stale. Even its horror theme park angle wasn’t particularly original.
As a child, Dax watched while one of his father’s deranged patients murdered his mother. Years later, Dax is now a diehard horror fan while his father, Dr Conway, actively campaigns for the genre’s censorship. Despite his father’s protests, Dax joins his friends for the ultimate horror fan festival – Blood Fest. Held on a large ranch with several zones dedicated to different subgenres, Blood Fest promises the ultimate horror experience. Everything form zombie to vampires awaits the attendees. But Dax and his friends quickly learn that their passes may get them into Blood Fest, but they won’t get them out. Not alive anyways.
Blood Fest Stitches Together Old Ideas Like Its Titular Theme Park’s Zones
Though it’s hardly an original (or even good) movie, Blood Fest does some things well. Writer and director Owen Egerton clearly loves the genre. And that affection is evident in the movie’s numerous homages as well as its commitment to B-movie bloodletting. Things also kick off well enough with a prologue fitting of a slasher movie. Early on in Blood Fest Egerton even briskly paces the actions and manages one good surprise involving chainsaws. From start to finish, Blood Fest maintains an affable tone, never taking itself too seriously.
Just like every other self-aware horror movie, Blood Fest’s characters namedrop their horror references while citing genre ‘rules’.
That’s the good news. Where Blood Fest primarily goes wrong is its inability to distinguish homage and outright imitation. Almost nothing in this movie is original. Just like every other self-aware horror movie, Blood Fest’s characters namedrop their horror references while citing genre ‘rules’. Over 20 years after Jamie Kennedy did it in Scream, it’s hardly fresh stuff anymore. In addition to meta-slashers, Egerton borrows liberally from Saw and Trick r’ Treat, just to name a few examples. Arguably, Blood Fest’s worst mistake is slackening the pace in the middle act. Any time Egerton pauses the action, it leaves audiences with a movie and story that doesn’t hold up to any sort of scrutiny. It just gives you time to fondly remember those better movies. It didn’t help that another horror-theme park movie – Hell Fest – in 2018 was much better.
Blood Fest’s Performances, Like The Movie Itself, Are A Roller Coaster
Much the like the movie itself the cast and performances are all over the map. On the plus side, the principal young characters are all extremely likable, buoyed by fun performances. Both Robbie Kay and Seychelle Gabriel are engaging and have lots of chemistry, even if their character arcs are familiar. But MCU supporting character Jacob Batalon is Blood Fest’s MVP. Regardless of what he’s doing, Batalon steals every scene he’s in.
But MCU supporting character Jacob Batalon is Blood Fest’s MVP.
In contrast, the movie’s adult characters range from poorly written to wildly over-the-top. First, Blood Fest shoehorns Tate Donovan’s ‘Dr Conway’ into an unnecessary late-act twist that just overstuffs the movie. Donovan is fine in the role, but he’s not working with gold either. Yet it’s Egerton himself who earns the distinction of worst performance. As Blood Fest’s host, Egerton chews the, stealing scenes for all the wrong reasons. Yes, Blood Fest is a horror-comedy, but Egerton’s delivery still feels off-kilter. Rather than eliciting laughs, he’s likely to having you counting down until his scenes end.
Blood Fest Suffers from ‘Been Here, Done that’ Feeling
Though it’s good-natured and intermittently fun, Blood Fest can’t help but feel late to the party. At this point, meta-slashers have been done to death. And yes, the pun was intended. There’s some fun gore and the characters are surprisingly likable. But the humor is very forced, only occasionally hitting the mark. Amicable only gets you so far. When a movie has you checking your watch and there’s still 30 minutes left, that’s a bad sign. Ultimately, Blood Fest is a harmless, if not forgettable, viewing experience.