Starring: Zachary Levi, Jacob Batalon, Seychelle Gabriel, Robbie Kay, Tate Donovan
Directed by: Owen Egerton
Written by: Zachary Levi, Barbara Dunkelman
Running Time: 90 Minutes
Reviewed by: Dan Oles
When does a comedy become a tragedy? When nobody laughs.
Rooster Teeth is an enterprising success story when it comes to the scale of their productions (especially considering their older work was basically just puppet shows with video game characters) but having seen their films like Blood Fest and Lazer Team two things seem to be consistent. One thing is impressive and theatrical quality production work with high end computer animation, sets, costumes, and even practical special effects.
The other is embarrassingly poor writing and acting, usually because the cast is composed of Rooster Teeth regulars who can talk a good game on a podcast but lack a lot of the range actors need to communicate the weirdly dramatic storylines that keep creeping into their majority comedies.
Blood Fest is a horror comedy which isn’t particularly good at either genre, but the creators have certainly seen a lot of both movies judging by all their homages. This is the kind of film which thinks directly mentioning a classic film or a horror cliche IS a joke because of how nerdy and pathetic the protagonist is to bring it up…which always strikes me as self defeating seeing as a large amount of people watching this film probably fall into the category of horror fans. Like me: I can claim to have seen a large majority of horror films classic and modern. But the stumbling attempts to paint all fans of the concept of horror as inept, insular, and at worst insane didn’t effect me because of how incompetent the rest of the production was in communicating anything.
This is a story in the same way a commercial has a plot: it’s a token effort to simply establish characters who will then wander the cliche routes like wind up toys. We have the relatively handsome central hero who has a horror obsession ever since a tragic event in his past. We have the heavy set comic relief (in theory) ethnic friend who knows all the rules about horror and believes they’ll work in real life. We have the attractive blonde actress and the more grounded brunette who will inevitably become the love interest. We have the caustic grouch director who struggles to act considerably older than his tender years would suggest. We have the washed up horror actor who hates his own movies and considers himself a serious actor, the attempt at creating an iconic masked villain (which just looks like a cheap motorcycle mask)…it goes on and on.
None of it is new and what is here for the most part is boilerplate. Not one single beat feels either genuine or original. I personally hated the pretentiousness of Cabin in the Woods, but this is next level auto pilot. The serious writing leads to cringing. The jokes are tired, obvious, and don’t provide any insight into the genre this film probably felt it was parodying.
The majority of the money, time, and talent probably went into the gory effects but these are so ubiquitous nowadays the only thing that’s truly of note is that on such an obviously small budget the creators managed to make splatter and creature effects that’s roughly on par with anything in cinemas. The locations are wide, well-furnished, and atmospheric enough. If you like decent window-dressing and the red stuff its here.
The main thing that ruined what good was going for Blood Fest was everything else. Direction was without flourish. None of the characters, heroes or villains, were interesting or all that likable. None of the monsters were innovative or even done that well (the Kane Hodder stand-in has a horrible fake beard) and the writing is risible. Most infuriating, the most stale moments in this movie are treated with complete solemnity. At this point you cannot take seriously a character literally stepping to one side of a group shot to expound about their past as if speaking to an actual camera.
The drama is groan-worthy, the horror is laughable, and the the comedy is deader than the bodycount.
If no other horror film (or any film as Blood Fest borrows from everything) had ever been made maybe any of this would be respectable.
I suppose if you’re stoned the complete disconnect between pedestrian meta-commentary and budget horror might make for a crowd pleasing flick but without that advantage it’s just a bad comedy stapled to a bad horror film.
No one can claim this isn’t a nice looking film with a lot of effort, but if there’s no foundation it collapses. Some may argue I’m being too hard on a silly little spoof film but this movie takes itself seriously at odd intervals so I’ll do it the same service.
If this film is taken on its merits as a satire or as a thriller it’s just not very good.