Blood Fest at EIFF: obnoxious, wacky meta-horror

Hey kids, remember Scream? Hah yeah, thought not.

Oh wait, you do? Well that’s Blood Fest fucked….

Owen Egerton’s movie is the latest in a long line of festival horror movies made by directors who, apparently, have the memory retention of an undead goldfish when it comes to meta-mansplaining horror. Scream was clever. Cabin in the Woods was clever. But you can’t be self-aware in 2018 without sounding unbearably trite. When a main character says, about 10 minutes into Blood Fest, “Have you ever noticed that horror movies have rules?”, there was an audible groan in the audience. Not this again.

That’s the problem with Blood Fest: that it thinks its clever. Its script is unbearably obnoxious – repeatedly reminding us of ‘the rules’. This is bad enough but, ironically, despite its meta-posturing, the characters frequently do things that run against everything that they’ve been taught. Shortly after talking about ‘the rules’ for instance, they might walk down into a dark basement; or, after affirming that showers and sex are big no-no’s, they’ll do both. Owen Egerton doesn’t even deserve a cake, but he steals one and eats it nonetheless.

Miniature rant over, what’s this about anyway? It’s about Anton-Yelchin-esque-but-not-as-good-as-Anton-Yelchin Dax (Robbie Kay); and his female-friend-who’s-obviously-going-to-make-out-with-him-during-the-movie Sam (Seychelle Gabriel); and their akward-virgin-acquaintance-who’s-obviously-gonna-get-laid Krill (Jacob Batalon). They obsess over a horror-themed festival called Blood Fest (a-ha): an evening of chills and thrills, set over an elaborate theme park designed to replicate iconic horror locations. However, when they actually get there, it turns out that the creator of the festival, a cult-horror maestro, has other plans in store: locking the doors shut, he sets loose a small-army of killers and villains on the attendees. Our trio must, as we’ve covered, ‘follow the rules’ to survive.

Despite its film-bro posing, this is a genuinely fun premise which translates into a gleeful ghost-train-ride of a movie. It’s an hour and a half of 70s-esque lighting, fake fog, zombies, dolls, clowns, torture porn, and masked serial killers set in dilapidated schoolhouses, raunchy summer-camps, and eerie forests. In short, it’s a cornucopia of horror imagery that’s constantly evolving at a pace beyond that of its rather silly narrative. Egerton makes great use of practical effects, sending fake gore spilling, spraying, and pooling in every direction: people are cut in half, pulled apart, and blown up (that’s just a short list of the grisly ends).

Of course, this is a horror comedy, so the kills are complemented by countless broad jokes – some more successful than others (Jacob Batalon, from Spider-man: Homecoming, is unbearable). In my screening, there was enough laughter, but I wouldn’t say there were any more than 7 or 8 genuine laughs in the film. Similarly, the scares are hit-and-miss, and always of the jumpy kind – mostly in scenes which don’t even attempt to build a sense of tension. But, with horror-comedies, there’s seldom potential for true terror (it’s the wrong tone after all), so that’s forgivable.

Blood Fest earns its title: it’s a shit-ton of gory, sticky fun set in a wacky reference-filled theme park. As a midnight feature, it’s by no means perfect, but it will play well to an audience looking for a good time; if only it wasn’t so damn obnoxious. 


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