Screening as part of the Edinburgh International Film Festival‘s Night Moves thread, writer/director Owen Egerton was present for the late night international premiere of his second feature Blood Fest along with, he warned, producers, editors and clowns in the audience. “If you feel groped, just go with it, it’s what we do in America.”
It begins with the tragic traumatic childhood of Dax Conway, watching movies on Hallowe’en night with his mother, Bela Lugosi staring out of the television at them as he asks her why people love horror movies and she tells they serve to remind that you are stronger than anything you are afraid of – moments before they are attacked in the house, and she is killed in front of him.
Years later, Dax and his father (Once Upon a Time‘s Robbie Kay and The Man in the High Castle‘s Tate Donovan) have a very different relationship with horror, Doctor Conway having penned the book How Violence is Destroying America which he is currently promoting on the chat-show circuit while his son is excited about Blood Fest, billed as “the greatest horror event of all time.”
Dax managing to gain entrance alongside best friends Sam and Krill (Falling Skies‘ Seychelle Gabriel and Spider-Man: Homecoming‘s Jacob Batalon) despite his father’s attempts to the contrary, raucous host Anthony Walsh (Egerton himself) promises “a horror movies to end all horror movies,” but the thousands of guests do not realise that they blood is real and that it is they who will be the victims in his masterpiece.
Opening with a classic Carpenter setup before moving into the requisite heavy rock animated titles, Egerton knows his horror and loves and celebrates it in every outrageous frame of Blood Fest even as he dissects the still-kicking genre in much the same way as Scream, The Cabin in the Woods and The Final Girls.
A vast enclosed theme park featuring such themed areas and attractions as Living Dead Land, Vamp Camp, Tortureville, Clowntown and Hodderton High School where the Arborist killed twelve people, tribute to Blood Fest’s reluctant headline guest (Boyhood‘s Chris Doubek), star of those many films which he has never seen, as well as Karaoke with Zachari Levi, it merrily ploughs through genres and tropes without every bothering to wipe its feet.
While it is not be as sophisticated as its meta-horror predecessors and nor are the supposed twists much of a surprise, what Blood Fest lacks in narrative sharpness it makes up for in exuberance, the tight ninety-three minutes meaning there is insufficient time for it to become stale or for the copious blood to grow cold.
The film perhaps best encapsulated by the shot of a zombie cheerleader being decapitated by a chainsaw, Blood Fest will not be receiving any Academy Award nominations for artistic endeavour but it will delight the target audience whom Egerton understands well: “This movie is so much better if you’re drunk.”