Taking a meta approach to the horror genre, Blood Fest is a self-aware romp through a horror-themed festival turned deadly. A group of teens fight their way through the themed areas of the festival, relying on their genre savviness to survive.
Lifelong horror fanatic Owen Egerton‘s film is fast-paced, funny and filled with gore.
We caught up with Owen to talk about the project.
Naomi: Blood Fest is filled with references and jokes about the horror genre, particularly in film. What made you want to take this meta approach to the genre?
Owen: We wanted to play! Play within a genre we love and play with a genre we love. Meta horror is its own subgenre now with classics like Cabin in the Woods, Scream, and Tucker and Dale vs Evil. It was fun to add our own mayhem.
Naomi: In the film, the attendees have a chance of surviving the festival if they understand the “rules” of horror. What kind of research went into devising these rules?
Owen: Just watching lots of horror movies! Which I suppose I could call research, but I’d be doing it anyway. We have these funny little agreed upon myths – how we kill a zombie, where a vampire bites us, etc. My nine-year-old knows how Freddy infests your dreams. He hasn’t seen the films yet but still, he knows! It’s part of the cultural knowledge. That’s fun stuff to play with.
I did make sure that some of the key team members dug into early George Romero films. Watching the original Dawn of the Dead (one of my all time favourite films) for the fun and thrills and scares, and also watching the 2004 Zack Snyder remake for action and faster pacing. We also paid tribute to plenty in the horror cannon – a shot of Bela Lugosi from White Zombie, the garbled projected images from Thomas Edison‘s silent version of Frankenstein, and plenty of other references, some subtle, but many straight in your face.
Naomi: This is the second feature film you’ve directed after 2015’s Follow. What were some important things you learned making Follow that helped with creating this film?
Owen: Follow was quite a bit smaller. Smaller cast, smaller budget, less days to shoot. I went from directing scenes with two or three people to scenes with hundreds. But the drive is the same! Making as much out of the time, resources, and talent as we can. Respecting those you’re working with from bigger names to interns. Understanding that everyone is working their asses off to squeeze some magic out of the day. We had a number of the same people involved in both films and I feel so lucky to be making movies with such talented people.
I also made this one with Rooster Teeth in Austin, Texas. They are a virtual tornado of talent! So many great creative minds. Making films is hard, hard work. Long days. Little sleep. Hot August weather. Delays and unexpected obstacles. Sucking down coffee on your fourth all-night shoot in a row. But filmmaking is also ridiculously fun. The excitement, the rush, the mental and physical challenges of making a story come alive! It’s a wild privilege to be able to do it. I try and keep that in mind. The thrill of making a small slice of cinematic joy will keep you going long after the caffeine has worn off.
Naomi: You’re also a published author. When coming up with an idea for a story, what influences whether it becomes a novel or a film?
Owen: Great question! It used to be a little more clear! Some ideas are more internal, more questioning, and I’ve always felt the strengths of a novel serve the internal ponderings. In a novel we can dive deep into a character’s thinking, while in a film we are more often invested in a character’s actions. But lately I’m finding more of my screenwriting pop sensibilities influencing my novel writing and my more novelistic character-building is influencing my screenplays. I’m hoping – really hoping – this leads to better films and better novels.
Naomi: Blood Fest has a much more comedic tone than your previous films. Was striking a balance between horror and comedy difficult or did it come naturally?
Owen: I’ve spent a lot of years performing comedy at the Alamo Drafthouse in Austin, Texas with The Sinus Show and Master Pancake Theater. Comedy paid the bills way before writing did. I broke into screenwriting through comedy, so I have a deep love for what makes people laugh. Mixing comedy and horror can be tricky for sure! It’s hard not to sacrifice one for the other. Funny thing is, comedy and horror have a lot in common. Both are based setting up expectations and subverting. Both inspire involuntary noises from viewers (laughs and screams). And both are best experienced in a dark room filled with fellow film fans!
Naomi: You also have a role in the film, and a rather villainous one at that. How did you prepare for the role?
Owen: Ha! I just thought evil thoughts the whole time. Actually, that’s not true. Villains always think of themselves as the hero. My character thinks he’s doing a great service by slaughtering thousands. He even thinks he’s helping his victims! I my mind, he’s a gleeful Willy Wonka figure. Just happens to be that horror is his candy.
Naomi: The film shows off some impressive looking practical effects and set pieces. Were there any scenes that were particularly challenging to film?
Owen: A lot was challenging! Hundreds of extras, different moving parts, zombies, clowns, and over forty gallons of fake blood! Each scene presented its own challenges. Funny enough, one of the most difficult was one the quietest. Just two actors in a large warehouse. But Hurricane Harvey was blowing and rattling these huge metal doors. I looked up as we were filming the quiet exchange and saw that any free body – from intern to producer – was pressed against the wall, holding it against the wind. Seychelle Gabriel (who plays Sam in the film) lists it as her favourite moment from our filming. Everyone working together to help catch the scene.
Naomi: Blood Fest makes a statement about the pervasive notion that violent media provokes violent behaviour in people. What made you want to address this argument in your film?
Owen: Humans like to play in worlds that scare them. We’re drawn to play with thoughts of mortality in a safe place – that’s horror. Horror is pretty honest about one thing: we’re all going to die. That’s a scary notion. But in a horror film I can play with the fear, even laugh at it, get familiar with this truth. I love how horror helps me appreciate life a little more!
Naomi: Lastly, do you have any upcoming projects you’d like to tell us about?
Owen: I do have some fun things coming down the tube, but for now my lips are sealed. I’m just thrilled to be seeing Blood Fest get out into the world. We had such a great time making it!
We’d like to say a massive thank you to Owen for taking the time to speak to us! You can keep up to date with him on Twitter. Check out the trailer for Blood Fest below.