By Chris Campo
Where would we be as film fans without the horror genre? It's the home of some of the most iconic moments or characters in the history of the art form. There's nothing quite like getting a good scare. Sadly, a good scare may be hard to come by these days. Not because the films are any less scary then they were in the past, it's just that the genre is so overcrowded, audiences damn near forget to be scared. This concept is what Rooster Teeth's latest feature Blood Fest sets out to explore. Blood Fest is not just a parody of the genre; it's also a satire on the genre's reception and journey through mainstream pop culture.
Everyone remembers their first horror experience. For our hero, Dax (Robbie Kay) that experience is when he and his mother sat down to watch a horror film on Halloween night. The horror doesn't end after the film though, as Dax's life is forever changed when a masked man breaks in to their home and murders his mother. Flash-forward about a decade, and Dax, ironically, is the biggest fan of the horror genre. Such a big fan, in fact, that Dax and his two closest friends Krill (Jacob Batalon) and Sam (Seychelle Gabriel) have purchased tickets to the premier horror event, Blood Fest. However, Dax's father (Tate Donovan) has other plans for Dax, and forbids him from attending the event, ripping his ticket, claiming that the horror genre is nothing but bad news, especially for their family.
However, Dax's ex-girlfriend Ashley (Barbara Dunkleman) is attending the event to promote her role as Topless Girl #3 in an upcoming horror film, and Dax convinces her to get him access to the event. The first few steps into the event have our heroes star struck and amazed, excited for the night to come. However, during the opening celebration, the madman behind the event, Anthony Walsh (Owen Egerton) reveals he has alternative plans for the night.
He feels that horror fans forget what is it like to be scared of a horror film because of their over glorification and commercialization of the genre. Walsh announces that the guests are in actual danger, and the 12 horror movie set pieces they have re-created for blood fest are actually out to murder them, with cameras constantly recording the footage to be edited into the "horror movie to end all horror movies". He states you can only survive if you know the rules of the genre, and Dax, Krill and Sam, along with Ashley, just might have the knowledge to get out alive.
Blood Fest may not be the scariest horror film of the year, but if it isn't the most fun, I don't know what is. After the two Lazer Team films and now this, Rooster Teeth keeps improving with each feature film they tackle. Blood Fest is their most ambitious and crowd pleasing film yet. It is just so hard not to keep a smile on your face throughout. Like Lazer Team, the indie roots of Rooster Teeth are felt throughout, adding charm to make up for what they lack in budget. Sure, some of the effects and gore would have looked cleaner with a few extra dollars, but this adds to the film. It almost feels like a throwback to the gore effects used in classic 70's and 80's horror films (the decapitations look especially campy). It may not be as polished as The Cabin in the Woods, but it’s just as clever.
Owen Egerton, who stars in the film, also directs and pens the script. Egerton's script is surprisingly sharp. Not just with its deconstruction of the horror genre, but also in it's often emotional character work and its thoroughly satisfying twists and turns. It’s not just a goofy parody; it has real arcs and personal stakes. Even its side characters get nice arcs, even if some are predictable. The entire cast, most noticeably Jacob Batalon, never fail to be charming. My only real complaint with Egerton's work is his lack of genuinely frightening scenes. Other than a Saw parody halfway through that's more suspenseful than the entirety of 2017's Jigsaw, none of the horror scenes are all that scary. It's a perfect first horror film for those too scared of something like The Conjuring films.
You may not be screaming, but you will be oohing and ahhing at the fun Easter Eggs. There are a few fun cameos and references specifically for Rooster Teeth fans, but this film has the least amount of fan service out of the three Rooster Teeth produced films so far. It's mostly hilarious lines or visual gags poking fun at horror films and their clichés. My favorite of which is Dax's comments on the speed of the zombies chasing them. There’s a reveal involving Walsh that I won’t spoil, but it’s very, very funny. The first act is lighting fast, funny and a joy to watch, while the later half of the film has genuinely exciting moments, including a dialogue scene just as engaging as a slasher chasing our heroes. Other than a pretty dumb post-credit scene, the film goes out on a high note.
There's three ways a horror movie ends. One, one hero survives. Two, no one survives. Three? You'll have to find out by checking Blood Fest out for yourself. Rooster Teeth proves once again that they have the ability to nail any new idea they attempt. Blood Fest is a good, old fashion good time at the cinema. Hell, there's a clown on zombie battle, and the strangest, most glorious celebrity cameo that I have no idea why it's in the film, but I am glad it is. Rooster Teeth is unstoppable at the moment. Hell, their upcoming anime series stars Michael B. freakin' Jordan. With Blood Fest, they show no signs of slowing down the unique and special content they are currently producing.
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