SXSW Review: Blood Fest

Going in to SouthBy I was definitely excited for Blood Fest as a Rooster Teeth fan, and as a lover of horror comedy. On the night as I got seated and saw all the Rooster Teeth guests, including the great pleasure of meeting Geoff Ramsey, I was super excited. So I am beyond excited to be able to tell you now what I thought about it, so follow after the jump.

In Blood Fest we start with a young boy Dax (Robbie Kay for the majority of the film) on Halloween watching horror movies with his mom. She is killed by a masked psychopath and Dax is forced to take to heart her motto of being stronger than what scares him, and as such he becomes a horror movie addict. We fast forward to the present where Dax is amped for the titular Blood Fest, but his psychologist dad Dr. Conway (Tate Donovan) destroys his wristband as he blames horror for his wife’s death. Thankfully through a connection with a Blood Fest celebrity guest, Ashley (Barbara Dunkelman), Dax still gets in. Unfortunately as the night starts they find that the festivals host (played by director Owen Edgerton) actually intends to make a horror movie by actually killing all guests. Dax must use his horror knowledge to help he and his friends survive the night!

Quite honestly the plot and direction really work great here and Edgerton deserves a lot of credit for that. The idea of a horror movie turning real, and being meta, is exactly ground breaking after Scream and Cabin in the Woods, but I found some fresh takes on it here. In particular a scene describing how to make Vampires a reality really sticks out to me as clever and hilarious to me. The actual story moving through the different zones of the festival keeps things dynamic enough, and the films sense of humor plays nicely. In contrast to Rooster Teeth’s first film Lazer Team this film uses its effects budget better while and balances the comedy better so its more a horror movie with some good comedy than a comedy with horror tropes. There is some faults I can give for stuff like the Rooster Teeth fan service bits which, while aimed at fans like me and fun for me, they still felt a little shoehorned in and obvious even if you don’t know them. They’re smaller than in Lazer Team though so I can give them a bit of a pass though. I also want to say there is a bit of an end twist, and I liked how it was handled, but I also saw it coming pretty easy. But again, its part of the film’s goal to play up horror tropes and cliches, so it kinda works.

Overall it had some really solid performances, and none that really brought it down. Unfortunately I feel very few really stood out. But part of that is kind of acceptable as the characters are kinda meant to play into horror archetypes, and those are frequently one note. I found Robbie Kay as Dax as our lead was actually quite good and showed some good range while being both secretly in love and a master of this horror world. I’m definitely excited to see more from him in his future work. His love interest, and equal badass is Sam by Seychell Gabriel. She’s another actress I was unfamiliar with, but she shows a good range here as she is equal parts badass and caring human being who wants to save people. She as well is a talent I look forward to seeing more of. Edgerton’s performances as a crazy murderous ring leader reveling in murder and mayhem as it’s maestro was a lot of fun. For Austin residents familiar with him from Master Pancake skits, it wasn’t anything unusual for him, but its clear he’s having a lot of fun with the space. Just to quickly run down some of the remaining ones briefly. Tate Donovan holds an important role and has some really interesting scenes, but felt really one note. Barbara Dunkelman does a good job with her ditzy scream queen character, and has grown well as an actress, especially as her first acting was in Rooster Teeth’s animated show RWBY. Jacob Batalon (Spider-Man Homecoming) is also a welcome addition to the cast and plays a good best friend to Dax as the kind of dopey, but kind hearted Krill. Chris Doubek makes a fun enough grumpy, curmudgeony former horror star. And lastly Zachary Levi is a fun cameo as himself.

I want to touch on that overall for Rooster Teeth this is a big and positive bit of growth for their film work for their live action team. Lazer Team and its sequel were a fine enough first outing and serve as good proofs of concept, but also held too close to their fans and their other work. But bringing in Edgerton to write and direct, and also seeming to let him basically get to be in charge of most of the production decisions was a great choice. Its good to see they don’t have qualms about letting a different creator in and trusting him, and I hope they take heed of what he did to continue to let their movies be more distant from their other work so they can stand on their own better to a broader audience.

Rating: 4/5

Reelization:

Blood Fest isn’t a perfect movie in any regard, but its still a hell of a lot of fun. If you liked Cabin in the Woods and want more meta fun, with gore and charisma, I think it should check that box for you. Just don’t go in expecting the best writing or acting you’ve seen in a horror movie, just go in looking for a fun time, you should enjoy it.

About Ben

Ben Glasthal is a film student who loves to write and edit videos as well as stories and blogs. Ben was born in Boston, MA and lived on the South Shore of Massachusetts for 10 years before moving to Dallas, TX. While living in Dallas, TX, Ben found a passion for video production from courses and high school and decided to study it in college as well. After 3 years, on and off, at the University of North Texas, Ben relocated to Austin, TX to finish his degree at ACC and to look for production work. Ben is kind of a massive nerd and when he’s not watching movies or TV he’s reading comics or playing video games on his PC or Xbox.