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Blood Fest (Movie Review)

Blood Fest (Movie Review)
7 10

PLOT: Fans attending a massive horror movie celebration find themselves living through true horror when slashers and creatures attack.

REVIEW: If you're looking for a serious, scary horror movie to watch, you'll want to keep on going right past writer/director Owen Egerton's BLOOD FEST. But if you're in the mood for a horror comedy that keeps the laughs and bloodshed coming at a steady pace, that's exactly what BLOOD FEST does during its 92 minute running time.

Packed with references to other horror films and featuring characters who know a whole lot about the genre, Egerton's film has the same sort of meta sensibilities as movies like SCREAM and THE MONSTER SQUAD. It's also a monster mash like the latter film, but an updated one for a new generation. THE MONSTER SQUAD was reaching way back to the Universal classics, while BLOOD FEST is more focused on horror as it has been from the '80s to the present. Due to the setting and the way its monsters and madmen are presented, this movie also had me thinking of $LA$HER$ and - the most recent of the bunch - THE FUNHOUSE MASSACRE.

The setting is the titular event, a massive horror celebration that's promoted as being the "greatest horror event of all time" and is held on the perfect date: Halloween. Headed up by horror movie producer Anthony Walsh (Egerton himself), Blood Fest is a horror theme park that has been set up on a 700 acre ranch and is divided up into areas like Living Dead Land, Tortureville, Vamp Camp, and Clowntown. As those names give away, these areas allow genre fans to mingle with zombies, vampires, and killer clowns, and play with SAW-like traps. The problem is, all of these things are actually deadly. Feeling that the genre has gotten too watered down, Walsh is out to make it scary again by producing a film where hundreds of fans are actually massacred by living horror characters - and he has figured out ways to not only gather together homicidal maniacs, but also to create real zombies and vampires so he can achieve this deadly goal.

Trapped in the middle of the Blood Fest massacre is Robbie Kay as Dax, a young man who was introduced to horror at a young age by his mom, then raised by an intensely anti-horror father (Tate Donovan) after his mom was murdered. Dax is attending Blood Fest against his father's wishes, accompanied by his friends Sam (Seychelle Gabriel), a potential love interest who works in a video store with him, and gamer / hacker Krill (Jacob Batalon). Also part of the group when the guts hit the fan are a pretentious filmmaker named Lenjamin (Nicholas Rutherford); actress Ashley (Barbara Dunkelman), whose biggest role to date is playing Topless Girl #4 in a new horror film; and genre icon Roger Hinckley (Chris Doubek), who hates the sight of blood, even fake blood, but still managed to star in a series of films as a slasher known as the Arborist, who hails from a town called Hodderton. Actor Zachary Levi (playing himself) is also at Blood Fest, but you shouldn't expect any Chuck Bartowski heroics from him.

All of the actors handle their roles quite well, but the standouts for me were Batalon, who steals scenes with his comedy skills much like he did in last year's SPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMING, and Doubek, whose character is introduced as a douche but turns out to be a very likeable, good guy.

As blade-wielding slashers, flesh-eating ghouls (who are being controlled like they're in a video game, an idea I found to be pretty cool), and blood-sucking vampires close in on them, the characters realize that the way to survive this scenario is to play by the rules of horror, which allows for references to things like James Wan jump scares and George A. Romero's zombie rules, and even a dive into a slasher's mythology, which includes discussions of unnecessary elements being added to the character several sequels in, and sequels that ignore previous ones. Horror fans are likely to get a good deal of entertainment from the conversations in here, as I did.

Also highly entertaining was the number of bloody deaths, with the film's special effects team giving us some nice moments of gore. Walsh sets his killers loose less than 20 minutes into the movie, allowing for more than an hour of pure action, murder, and mayhem.

There's not a whole lot to BLOOD FEST beyond the action and references, and if you try to dig deeper you might find that the movie seems oddly ambivalent about horror; you have Dax defending the genre throughout, but at the same time you have a filmmaker trying to elevate the genre by actually killing people, and programming mental patients to do his bidding by showing them horror movies. So is the genre a fun diversion from the tragedy of real life, or can it create murderers? BLOOD FEST kind of has it both ways... But I could brush aside that confusion and just enjoy the insanity.

Extra Tidbit: Cinedigm will be giving BLOOD FEST a theatrical and VOD release on August 31st, with a DVD/Blu-ray release to follow on October 2nd.

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