2018, NR, 90 min. Directed by Owen Egerton. Starring Robbie Kay, Seychelle Gabriel, Tate Donovan, Jacob Batalon, Barbara Dunkelman, Zachary Levi, Owen Egerton.
REVIEWED By Jenny Nulf, Fri., Aug. 31, 2018
Austin's Rooster Teeth is a powerhouse for web culture, a mass producer of online videos ranging from gameplay commentaries to animated web series. A handful of years ago, the studio branched out to feature-length films, and their latest is Blood Fest.
Blood Fest is the name of a Renaissance-faire-style horror festival – a secluded, outdoor gathering for the world’s largest gorehounds. Dax (Kay) has been obsessed with horror ever since his mom was murdered on Halloween night while they were watching White Zombie. His TV psychologist father (Donovan), on the other hand, despises horror and forbids him from going to a festival that mindlessly celebrates gratuitous violence. So, naturally, Dax finds a way to Blood Fest, without his dad’s permission. That's when the blood arrives, as a mass of movie monsters, from killer clowns to mask-wearing, chainsaw-wielding killers, starts mowing down the crowd.
Directed and written by Austin author and horror enthusiast Owen Egerton (who also stars as the mad filmmaker behind the fest and the blood), the film doesn’t come without its setbacks. It’s a formulaic meta-horror movie that for most of its run time tries too hard, but there’s a sincerity about the movie that keeps it zipping along.
When Blood Fest takes a step back, there are shining moments that are genuinely funny. The video store banter (located at Vulcan Video’s former North Austin location) between Dax, Sam (Gabriel), and Krill (Spider-Man: Homecoming's Batalon) is upbeat and cute, and the opening scene between young Dax and his mom is sickeningly sweet, but charmingly so. These brief moments sprinkled throughout make up slightly for the times when a gag runs longer than it’s welcomed, like when Chuck’s Zachary Levi makes a cameo appearance.
But Blood Fest will find a place to thrive, and that’s in the online space. It’s GIF-able, and it winks enough at its core audience to satisfy. However, for those who don’t know who Barbara Dunkelman is, or why it’s so funny that a group of gamers are stuck in a room playing a computer game that controls the park’s zombies, you might need a FAQ.
For an interview with Owen Egerton about the making of Blood Fest, see "Owen Egerton's Bloody Good Time," Aug. 3.
A version of this review ran during our SXSW coverage.