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EIFF: Blood Fest review - gleefully gory fun only falters when it tries too hard

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Verdict: This party horror is best enjoyed when you just don’t think too hard.

This is a film for the hardcore horror heads, those who know and can appreciate all the conventions of the genre, and can therefore appreciate the full extent of Blood Fest’s satirical premise.

Our everyday hero is Dax, played with underrated charm by Robbie Kay, who has been obsessed with horror films since he witnessed his mother’s brutal murder on a Halloween night by one of his father’s deranged patients. He is intent on going to the titular horror festival Blood Fest, something he is forbidden from doing by his father, who views the genre’s influence as the cause of his wife’s death.

And that’s everything serious well out of the way within the first ten minutes. Once Dax and his friends are at the camp, and the gates have been shut, the Blood Fest ‘Master of Ceremonies’ reveals all the attractions and villains have been made real; and just like that, pig-masked butchers with chainsaws start tearing through the crowds.

The Master warns that the only way to make it out alive is to use their knowledge of horror to avoid trope-traps, and thus the escape commences.

The film is jubilant and ridiculous in its celebration of all of horror’s subgenres, featuring sexy vampires, maniacal slashers, ghost nuns, possessed dolls, and a particularly weird fight between a hoard of zombies and a circus of killer clowns.

Because it’s low-budget, Blood Fest doesn’t have any of the licensed characters from other franchises, but they do play on hilarious spinoffs of famous horror figures, like The Arborist, a serial killer who rampages only on Arbor Day and with gardening tools. The splashy (pun intended) violence and general irreverence of the genre are sure to satisfy the nerdiest of fans.

The main cast’s chemistry is easy and hilarious, with a standout performance from Seychelle Gabriel as Sam, Dax’s no-nonsense, practically-minded friend and love interest. It’s thanks to this core cast that the film keeps its energy at the maximal level throughout, in such a way that narrative failings are easily forgiven.

It sometimes tries to get too smart, which is where the pacing faulters. When the script attempts to explain how these film creatures were brought to life, that’s when the fun is cheapened. The last act is its weakest, which coincidentally is when most of the film’s exposition occurs. Viewers aren’t here for realism or cleverness; they’re there for unadulterated, mindless fun.

Blood Fest is out now, distributed by Rooster Teeth Productions.

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