Blood Fest

A bunch of friends take a moonlit stroll through the woods.

(2018) Horror Comedy (Cinedigm/Rooster Teeth) Robbie Kay, Seychelle Gabriel, Jacob Batalon, Barbara Dunkelman, Tate Donovan, Zachary Levi, Olivia-Grace Applegate, Owen Egerton, Isla Cervelli, Paul Ogola, Nicholas Rutherford, Samantha Ireland, Tristan Riggs, Rebecca Lynne Wagner, Chris Doubek, Carl Thomas, Lynn Andrews III, Jessica Polk. Directed by Owen Egerton


Horror has rules. That has been drilled into the heads of fans throughout the annals of horror films; at least since Wes Craven’s Scream outline most of them for us. Still few genres have as much structural similarities between films as horror does. That has made for some pretty nifty self-referential meta films that remind us that virgins have a better chance of survival and never ever go into the basement by yourself.

Dax (Kay) loves horror movies, a love instilled by his mother (Ireland) who promised him that horror movies give us the opportunity to realize that we are stronger than our own films. Of course, she tells him that moments before she is brutally murdered by one of her husband’s (Donovan) patients who has a similar love for scary movies.

Flash forward fifteen years and Dax is eager to go to a major horror event called Blood Fest promising haunted attractions, panel discussions with filmmakers and horror icons, and a rave-like atmosphere with a horror movie theme. However, his dad won’t allow it (and tears up his precious ticket before his very eyes after a similar warning from his sister (Wagner): “Blood Fest is going to suck.” Little does he know how right she is.

Dax manages to get his hand on a precious wristband and makes it in for the big event and at first it’s everything he hopes it would be as he and his best friends Sam (Gabriel) and hacker Krill (Batalon) at his side. The MC is a well-known horror producer (Egerton) but he has plans for the revelers. You see, the horrors at Blood Fest are real and it will take all of their knowledge of the rules of horror films along with all their resourcefulness and courage to survive the night.

I’m not a big fan of horror comedies. Few of them succeed in balancing the screams with the laughs and this one is no exception but it is more successful than most. The fact is that they don’t go for the over-the-top laughs that bring the comedy into spoof territory, and spoofs are as far as I’m concerned the lowest form of cinematic humor. The scares are never particularly over-the-top either but there’s enough energy in the pacing and from the performers that the movie keeps your attention other than a few points where some exposition is going on.

The performances by the fairly low-budget cast are solid and professional. Chuck star Zachary Levi (also from the upcoming Shazam) has a thoroughly enjoyable albeit brief cameo, while the female cast is mega-sexy without any nudity which is quite a feat when you consider there’s at least one obligatory shower scene and a lesbian vampire make-out scene. Still, that’s just further proof that a woman doesn’t have to show her boobs to be sexy.

The writing is a bit spotty; the reveal is early on in the movie and while the mysterious partner behind the murders is kept hidden until near the end (and veteran horror fans should be able to figure out well before then) and while some of the plot points stretch the boundaries of plausibility to the breaking point (and beyond), for he most part the writing is pretty decent for this kind of film. The dialogue sounds authentic and there is a good deal of affection for the genre and those who love I – and obsess over it. This is a pleasant gem that will probably find a long shelf life on VOD and home video.

REASONS TO GO: Entertaining and generally well-paced.
REASONS TO STAY: A few plot points lack cohesion.
FAMILY VALUES: There is plenty of violence and gore, a good deal of profanity and some sexual innuendo.
TRIVIAL PURSUIT: Rooster Teeth is a content supplier mainly for YouTube; this is their third feature after Lazer Team and Lazer Team 2. It is actually however the second film released as Lazer Team 2 hasn’t yet received a release date.
BEYOND THE THEATERS: Amazon, Fandango Now, iTunes, Vudu
CRITICAL MASS: As of 9/1/18: Rotten Tomatoes: 58% positive reviews: Metacritic: 54/100.
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This Means War

This Means War

Tom Hardy and Chris Pine mistakenly believe they're trying out for the next Men in Black movie.

(2012) Spy Comedy (20th Century Fox) Reese Witherspoon, Chris Pine, Tom Hardy, Chelsea Handler, Til Schweiger, Abigail Leigh Spencer, John Paul Ruttan, Angela Bassett, Rosemary Harris, George Touliatos, Clint Carleton, Warren Christie, Leela Savasta. Directed by McG


When guys bond, it’s a beautiful thing. Guys will take a bullet for each other; guys will give you the shirts off their back. When a woman comes between two best friends, all bets can rapidly become off.

That’s especially true for Franklyn “FDR” Foster (Pine) and John “Tuck” Harrison (Hardy). Both of them are elite field agents for the CIA and their partnership in the field has led to the kind of friendship that is as close as family (in fact FDR regularly brings Tuck to the home of his Nana (Harris) for family functions). They are working a case in which two German weapons dealers (and actual brothers) are in the midst of pulling off a scam in Hong Kong. The operation goes south and one of the brothers winds up taking a doozy of a last step. Naturally Heinrich (Schweiger), the terse surviving brother, vows revenge.

The debacle lands the two field agents in desk jockey-land. Bored out of their skulls, they begin to talk about their love lives (and if you know how bored guys have to be to discuss their love lives with one another…) leading Tuck, recently divorced and missing his son Joe (Ruttan) to sign up with one of those online dating services.

Lauren (Witherspoon) is a product tester and she loves her job. She had moved to Los Angeles to be with her boyfriend who wound up cheating on her, sending her into a romantic tailspin from which she’s not yet recovered. Her best friend Trish (Handler) signs her up for a dating site and she promptly lays her peepers on Tuck’s profile and is very interested.

So is Tuck but FDR knows that he’s rusty at the whole dating thing, so he arranges to hang out at a neighboring video store just in case he’s needed to rescue his friend. Tuck and Lauren hit it off right away so Tuck sends the “all clear” signal to FDR. FDR, a big-time movie buff, decides to find something to rent for the night. Of course he stays long enough to bump into Lauren after her date with Tuck. Not knowing who she is, he flirts with her and long story short, manages to connive her into a date.

The two men find out that they are both dating the same girl and as it turns out, both have strong feelings for them. At first they set up ground rules of a “may the best man win” sort but soon enough the “all’s fair in love and war” corollary sets in and they are both using all the high-tech means at their disposal to keep an eye on each other as they put the moves on poor Lauren. Will she choose either one of them, or will the evil Heinrich show up and spoil the party?

McG has made a reputation that isn’t necessarily the greatest among critics. In all fairness, he doesn’t seem to be aiming to create films that are as memorable so much as they are entertaining. There’s a lot of bright colors, lots of things that go boom and lots of eye candy for both sexes, all of which are elements regularly seen in McG movies.

That this movie has gotten critically spanked is no surprise – that this is much better than what the critics are letting on isn’t either. What is a surprise is that the audience, generally better arbiters of this kind of film than the critics, haven’t picked up on it yet.

There is good chemistry between Pine and Hardy, essential to make this movie work. These are two up-and-coming stars, both who show signs of being destined for bigger and better things. Their byplay is natural and realistic; they act like a couple of guys who have been friends for awhile. The chemistry with Witherspoon is a little bit more forced. Mind you, Reece Witherspoon is one of the most beautiful women in the world, but she seems uncomfortable with the slight sluttiness her character displays.

This isn’t smart entertainment by any means. It’s a big dumb dog lying in front of a fire on a rainy afternoon; familiar and easy to deal with, making you feel all warm and fuzzy inside. This breaks little or no new ground and doesn’t really want to. The whole aim here is to entertain and if that’s all the filmmakers are after, mission accomplished – and not in the George W. sense either. I can be picky and take issue with the somewhat choppy pacing which is less than seamless going from comedy to romance to action sequences but while it’s a little annoying it isn’t a dealbreaker.

There’s far worse out there at the moment and there will be far worse available when it comes out on home video/streaming. If you’re looking for something mindless and fun, this could be your huckleberry. If you’re looking for something that isn’t just empty calories, well, you might want to check your art house listings.

REASONS TO GO: Good ol’ empty-headed entertainment. Some nice action sequences and good chemistry between Pine and Hardy. Witherspoon is awesome to look at.

REASONS TO STAY: The pacing is a bit choppy; feels like you’re driving a car with a bad transmission.

FAMILY VALUES: You’ll find plenty of bad language, some action-style violence and a lot of sexual innuendo. .

TRIVIAL PURSUIT: At one point in the film, FDR is waiting for Tuck to show up at his home to join him in a “CHiPs” marathon. Actor Chris Pine’s father Robert Pine was a regular on that show.

CRITICAL MASS: As of 3/12/12: Rotten Tomatoes: 26% positive reviews. Metacritic: 31/100. The reviews are poor.


STAR TREK LOVERS: Both Pine and Hardy have appeared in Star Trek films – Hardy as Shinzon, the clone of Capt. Picard in Star Trek: Nemesis and Pine as Capt. Kirk in Star Trek. In fact the reference to Pine being a cruise ship captain throughout the film is in reference to this.


TOMORROW: Kung Fu Panda

Film Geek

Film Geek

When you're Scottie Pelk, the whole world is awesome. Not.

(First Run) Melik Malkasian, Tyler Gannon, John Breen, Tara Walker, Taylor Nida, Michelle Garner, Matt Morris. Directed by James Westby

We all have our obsessions. They are the things that interest most, that we devote the most time to. For the most part, these things are harmless diversions but for some those obsessions take over their lives. They become geeks.

Scottie Pelk (Malkasian) is a film geek. He knows the minutiae about nearly every major film ever made. He can discourse on the facts and figures about nearly every director of note. He has a fierce love for foreign and independent filmmakers, and won’t hesitate to recommend films that, for the average person, are obscure or unwelcome but are the meat and potatoes for the cinema intelligentsia.

As bright and informed as he is about all things cinematic, he is as awkward socially. His voice is an effeminate nasal whine that is guaranteed to grate on anyone’s nerves. His conversations are concerned with only one subject and one alone. There are few people in his hometown of Portland who can keep up on the subject with him – hell, there are few people anywhere.

He is so annoying that he gets fired from his beloved job at the video store. The two other clerks Taylor (Nida) and Kaitlin (Walker) can’t stand him, and his boss Mr. Johnson (Breen) despises him. And now, he has nowhere to go. He lives at his apartment, masturbating at the thought of his pretty but shallow neighbor Cindi (Garner). With no jobs open at any neighborhood video store, he reluctantly accepts a job as a shipping clerk at an auto parts facility.

While taking a bus he meets Nico (Gannon), a hip artist who is reading a book about David Cronenberg, one of Scottie’s heroes. He is moved to actually speak to her and ask her out. At first, she sees him as something of a curiosity, essentially harmless but not really much more than that, but as she gets to know him she realizes that despite his one-track mind he is an essentially sweet boy with no social graces. Still, why would anyone want to wind up with a film geek?

Director Westby shot this in and around downtown Portland with essentially a local cast. The budget is probably roughly the same that most studio films spend on office supplies but Westby gets some surprising performances out of his cast.

Malkasian creates a character that is repulsive to a lot of people. They see him as terminally annoying, impossible to love and for sure, it takes a great leap of faith to see something in Scottie the way Nico does. Still, one has to admire Scottie. He has a fierce loyalty to his muse that withstands every challenge. He never wavers, never doubts. He is like the perfect lover, one who will never stray from the woman he loves. There’s something beautiful in that.

Some critics have complained the Scottie is too annoying, too nerdy but I’ve known some Scottie Pelks in my time and you simply have to learn to deal with them on their own level. Not all of them have been film geeks – some have been music geeks, sports geeks and videogame geeks. Relating to them is a matter of relating to their obsession and once you can do that, you have a friend for life.

The problem with Scottie is that while he can recite filmographies like a walking, talking IMDB, he takes nothing from the films he sees other than that they are awesome. It is his one-word review for movies that he uses regularly. He can’t or doesn’t articulate much more than that. Movies to him are a matter of spreadsheets and statistics.

Movies are of course much more than that. They can move you, transport you and inspire you; they can give you insight into your world and into your self. I think that Westby understands that much more than Scottie does, because he gives us a movie that has a great deal of insight. Scottie Pelk isn’t the easiest to like character ever written; he isn’t easy to understand either. However, those who take time to look beyond the annoying mannerisms, the nasal voice and the robotic, monotonic delivery of statistics will find someone there who can give one insight into the life of a geek, and in some small way, into our own obsessions.

WHY RENT THIS: A quirky but endearing film about the sort of person we all know.

WHY RENT SOMETHING ELSE: A very lo-fi production with an unbelievable romance at its center.

FAMILY VALUES: Plenty of male rearview nudity and sexuality as well as some foul language make this unsuitable for younger audiences, who this was never intended for anyway.

TRIVIAL PURSUIT: The movie is loosely based on Westby’s experiences working in a video store.

NOTABLE DVD EXTRAS: There’s a short film shot by Westby starring Malkasian called The Auteur regarding the attempt of a director to record a DVD commentary track. It’s reasonably funny.


TOMORROW: The Bounty Hunter