Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Blood Fest (2018)

Nerdy Dax (Robbie Kay) is a giant horror fan. It’s something his mother shared with him when he was little, and after she was murdered by your common and garden masked maniac right in front of him, his fandom only got bigger.

Dax is planning to visit Blood Fest with his female best friend – and of course secret love because movies just can’t do without it – Sam (Seychelle Gabriel) and his other best friend Krill (Jacob Batalon). Blood Fest is a new outdoors festival celebrating all things horror in mostly copyright friendly ways. Unfortunately, Dax’s father (Tate Donovan), a TV psychologist, is set against all things horror after the murder of his wife, making the genre responsible for turning one of his own patients into a killer of psychologist wives. Didn’t see that movie, myself. But even when Dear Dad destroys Dax’s ticket to Blood Fest, our young hero manages to find a way in in form of his kinda-sorta friend Ashley (Barbara Dunkelman), who is trying to make it in the movies by having a relationship (cough) with some asshole horror director, so she can provide.

Perhaps Dax’s Dad wasn’t completely wrong with his hatred and fear of horror though, for it turns out, Blood Fest is all too real. The carnival huckster type guy (director Owen Egerton) running the show has decided that modern horror has become too watered down and needs an injection of reality. Which means public murders of a captive audience of horror fans by his various mad science experiments and a super slasher dressing rather a lot like the one who killed Dax’s father. Of course, Dax, being the horror fan, knows all of the genre rules and is therefore predestined to become the film’s hero. No idea why all the other experts on these rules you’d encounter on this sort of festival aren’t doing their part.

However, if you ignore this little problem with the film’s set-up, and the fact ninety percent of its characters and their relations are pure cliché, there’s still some – depending on one’s taste and patience even more - fun to be had with Owen Egerton’s horror comedy. We’ve all gone through a lot of horror comedies fixated on “THE RULES” in the decades after classic bad influence Scream, so don’t expect every joke to be new to many in the film’s expected audience of horror fans. There is still some good stuff in here among the obvious jokes about the things you’d expect a film like this to joke about, however.

Well, you also need to ignore how the way too self-indulgent villain performance by the director (who is no Clint Eastwood) sometimes threatens to take over the film for no good reason whenever we pop over to his lair again so he can make lame jokes and explain how exactly he created his zombies, etc, as if anyone in the audience cared.

But to the elements that actually make the whole thing worth watching without having you cry about the loss of valuable time you could have spent cleaning out your closet: the cast as a whole give fun performances, making the best out of the flat characters they are dealing with and generally providing them with more life than they strictly deserve, not exactly turning them into people but into the kind of joke and monster death dispensers I don’t mind sharing some of my lifetime with. The cast also makes quite a few of the script’s jokes and ideas work through powers of comical timing that can transcend some of the writing. And, to be fair, some of Egerton’s jokes are indeed funny, as are some of his high concept ideas – I’m certainly rather fond of his non-Jason character with the gardening gimmick, and the play with well-loved elements of Friday the 13th Part II.

On the plotting side, Blood Fest is a homage-laden series of action and horror set pieces, and while I’m not terribly impressed by Egerton as a writer or as an actor, I certainly can’t fault him as a director of this type of set piece. There’s beautiful artificial light in all the right colours, more than enough fun blood and gore (also in all the right colours), there’s a feel for the sets as physical locations. Even though I wasn’t exactly gasping in excitement, the loud stuff is certainly the film’s strong suite.

There is one bit of writing in the film I liked quite a bit, too. It’s that Egerton actually realizes making a horror film that poo-poos people who hate horror but then puts them in the right when horror fandom does indeed lead to mass murder and madness makes little sense at all, so he does something about it. What he does (I’m not going to spoil it here for those who haven’t already realized) isn’t overwhelmingly clever, nor was it terribly surprising to me, but it certainly suggests more thought than some of the by the numbers elements of the film otherwise suggest.

No comments: