No genre is able to celebrate itself like horror. Plenty of comedies and dramas and sci-fi movies are good—even great—but rarely are they ever about their own genres in the way that horror movies can be. Case in point: Blood Fest, the latest effort from writer/director Owen Egerton (2015’s Follow), a movie that’s as much a horror movie as it is about celebrating why we love horror movies. This is a movie focused on a bunch of horror fans, made by a bunch of horror fans not content to make just one type of horror movie, so instead they make every type of horror movie.
Dax (Robbie Kay) is a horror-obsessed teenager whose mother was murdered by a deranged slasher movie fan when he was a kid. As a result, his dad (Tate Donovan) has forbid him from having anything to do with the genre, including attending the massive outdoor haunt Blood Fest with his friends Sam (Seychelle Gabriel) and Krill (Jacob Batalon, who played Peter Parker’s best friend in Spider-Man: Homecoming). Luckily, Dax has a Plan B to go behind his dad’s back and get into Blood Fest, where he finds hundreds of horror fans and all kinds of haunted attractions with vampires, evil clowns, zombies, torture porn, and his favorite slasher, The Arborist. Unfortunately, the folks behind Blood Fest have other plans for everyone in attendance.
The word “fun” can sometimes be a loaded one when talking about movies. It’s often a good fall back for me when asked about a movie I may not have liked, but about which I want to be positive or polite. I’ll say, “It was fun,” and that will be the end of it. That doesn’t mean I’m being disingenuous when I say it, only that it’s a word I can sometimes use when I don’t have much else to say. But then I get to a movie like Blood Fest and I have no better way to describe it than “fun,” though not in that polite way I can sometimes fall back on. In this case, the movie is genuinely fun: full of energy and comedy and countless homages to the entirety of the horror genre. It’s probably not fair to invoke The Cabin in the Woods, but that’s probably the closest point of comparison for the way in which both movies celebrate horror by throwing everything they love about the genre into a blender, resulting in a big, bloody party of a movie. Egerton’s film is broader and sillier than Cabin by design. It has no pretense of trying to be scary. Blood Fest simply wants to be crazy and entertaining and fun. It succeeds on all counts.
There are, of course, the limitations of budget that have a greater impact on a movie as big and ambitious as this. Such is the nature of the business now, and I’m at the point where I have just had to retrain my brain to accept dodgy CG or deliberately avoided gore gags if I want to enjoy a movie. I don’t mean to make it sound like the effects are shoddy throughout the movie; there’s plenty of cool stuff on display in Blood Fest, and Egerton is clearly having a ball spilling blood and black bile and whatever else can be spewed around the set. (For one more meta layer, he casts himself as Blood Fest’s Master of Ceremonies, a guy who is filming his own movie of everything that transpires, which means Blood Fest is a movie about the making of Blood Fest.) It’s just that the moments that don’t work call greater attention to themselves when surrounded by so many that do. They’re forgotten in seconds, though, when we get another good character beat or a really funny cameo by a future superhero, or the movie pivots to another subgenre of horror and reminds us why we love this stuff.
The kind of self-referential horror comedy in which Blood Fest traffics isn’t especially original, but originality isn’t really this movie’s goal. This movie wants to be a gory, silly love letter to horror and horror fandom. It wants to be fun, and fun it is. I mean that in the best possible way.
Movie Score: 3/5