'Blood Fest': Film Review

We've been down this meta road before.

A horror film celebration becomes all too real in Owen Egerton's winking parody.

It's beginning to feel like there are more horror movies sending up the genre's cliches than actually indulging in them. One would have thought we'd reached the saturation point, more than two decades after Scream, but the meta efforts keep on coming. The latest example is the horror film parody Blood Fest, which attempts scares and yucks in equal measure and fails to deliver either.

The film, directed and scripted by Owen Egerton (Follow), begins promisingly enough with a prologue in which a young boy witnesses his mother's slaying by a masked home invader on Halloween night. Cut to years later, when the now-teenage Dax (Robbie Kay, Once Upon a Time) is obsessed with horror films while his shrink father (Tate Donovan) has embarked on a crusade to rid the world of such entertainment. He also forbids Dax from attending Blood Fest, a horror film festival that Dad describes as "a gathering of freaks and degenerates celebrating mindless violence and gore."

Naturally, Dax manages to sneak into the fest anyway, accompanied by his best friends Sam (Seychelle Gabriel, The Last Airbender) and Krill (Jacob Batalon, Spider-Man: Homecoming). At first, they have a great time, with Dax even getting to meet one of his heroes, the star of a horror franchise called The Arborist, and Krill, who hopes to rid himself of his virginal status, agog at the scantily clad young women in attendance.

The fun is rudely interrupted when it turns out that the festival's maniacal organizer (Egerton) has a sinister agenda in mind.  The event begins living up to its name with its atrocities becoming real rather than fake and the attendees all marked for death. Dax and his buddies desperately fight for their lives while battling such familiar horror film characters as killer clowns, sexy female vampires and zombies (kudos to the appropriately named costume designer, Erika Slay). There's also a series of typical genre settings, such as an isolated cabin in the woods, and random parodies of such films as the Saw franchise.

The typically self-aware dialogue includes one character observing during the carnage, "As a virgin, I probably have a fighting chance." But none of the meta-styled proceedings is particularly original, and too often it seems like the filmmaker is overly impressed by his cleverness. There are some fun moments, including an amusingly self-deprecating cameo by Zachary Levi, or Dax annoyedly pointing out that Blood Fest shouldn't be confused with Herschell Gordon Lewis' 1963 cult classic Blood Feast. But the humor more often comes across as forced, and the plot revelation shortly before the conclusion all too accurately mirrors the laboriousness of so many similar horror movie twists.

Genre aficionados might enjoy the film to a certain degree, especially since they're bound to get even the most obscure references. But that familiarity is a double-edged sword, since buffs are also more likely to get the feeling that they've seen this type of thing far too many times.

Production: Rooster Teeth Productions
Distributor: Cinedigm
Cast: Tate Donovan, Robbie Kay, Seychelle Gabriel, Jacob Batalon, Barbara Dunkelman, Nick Rutherford, Chris Doubek, Rebecca Wagner, Zachary Levi
Director-screenwriter: Owen Egerton
Producers: Seth Caplan, Will Hyde, Ezra Venetos
Executive producers: Matt Hullum, Burnie Burns, Ryan P. Hall
Director of photography: David Blue Garcia
Production designer: Marcus LaPorte
Editor: Dan Hirons
Costume designer: Erika Slay

92 min.