Breakout star Jacob Batalon has been cast in Rooster Teeth’s horror film festival-set ‘Blood Fest.’
Thanks to its diverse and youthful casting, Spider-Man: Homecoming pulls off a tonal shift that adds a much-needed zing to the franchise, making it a “near-perfect mash-up of superhero movie and teen comedy.” Among its fresh young ensemble is relative newcomer Jacob Batalon. He’s a key element in the humanizing of Tom Holland’s Spider-Man as the super-supportive sidekick Ned and provides the movie with a lot of comic relief.
Ned is “the fan getting to live his dream,” an unassuming, unpopular kid who finds out his (also unpopular) best friend is a real-life superhero. Unashamedly enthusiastic at his surprising discovery, Ned is an endearing pillar of relatability for Homecoming’s audiences, and the unsuspecting object of their affections (just see how many Twitter users love him). Batalon perfectly embodies the role and has garnered high praise for his scene-stealing performance.
That’s why the news that he is to take on a starring role in Blood Fest, the latest feature from digital production pioneers Rooster Teeth, is so great.
Billed as a horror comedy with meta undertones, Blood Fest will be helmed and written by horror novelist/screenwriter Owen Egerton (Follow). Robbie Kay and Tate Donovan have also been cast alongside Batalon. The few details available indicate that the movie, due to begin filming later this year, will satirize horror tropes in a way that will particularly appeal to super-fans of the genre. The plot revolves around three teenagers (of which Batalon is presumably one) who visit the titular film festival, an homage to gory genre classics. The mastermind behind the event turns out to have devilish motives and homicidal tendencies, pitting the teens against his works of evil in the kind of life-or-death battle that fans of horror will be well-versed in.
Rooster Teeth has proven itself adept at courting online communities, having built up a diverse fanbase around their quirky slants on online culture in a variety of media forms, including podcasts, gaming videos, and live-action and animation shorts and features. Boasting upwards of 35 million combined subscribers on YouTube, and an impressive portfolio of more than 200,000 paid subscribers on their in-house VOD service (available in First and Double Gold tiers), the prolific digital studio has never been shy about experimenting and expanding. Despite mixed critical reviews, their first feature, Lazer Team, broke crowdfunding records, and enticed double the number of backers into cinemas.
With its self-referential satirization, Blood Fest looks to be another product of Rooster Teeth’s cutting edge grasp of what’s hot online. But where Lazer Team utilized internal assets – the film starred three of its own personalities, and was directed by site co-founder Matt Hullum – Blood Fest is, to my mind, a bolder move.
What we know about the film so far suggests growing intrepidity for the digital studio. It seems to be moving out of its comfort zone by casting externally established talents and employing non-Rooster Teeth natives behind the camera. Batalon, in particular, has proven his chops in terms of lovability with new audiences — he was virtually unheard of pre-Homecoming — so his involvement with the project is likely to draw in viewers who warmed to his big-screen debut.
Although Blood Fest has been confirmed for release on Rooster Teeth’s VOD service, some ambiguity remains over its wider distribution. Is the film likely to stay exclusive to the on-demand platform? Will it, like Lazer Team, adopt a non-traditional method of distribution — a kind of “cinema on demand”? Or will Batalon help entice bigger distributors, edging Blood Fest into the mainstream?
I think we can at least assume it will play on the big screen at horror film fests, right? That just seems too appropriate not to happen.