Directed by Harvey Lowry and written by Chris Gilmore and Anthony J. Sands, a million-dollar reality show competition between seven beautiful women turns into a battle for life itself when one contestant uses black magic to gain an edge over the competition. Starring: Juliana Destefano, JoAnna de Castro, Stephen Baldwin, David Chokachi, Ellia English, Snoop Dogg, Matthew Marsden and Danielle C. Ryan.
While it makes sense that this film would market itself as a horror, for the most part describing it that way is a bit of a misnomer. Surprisingly, it doesn’t spend much focus on the witchcraft or supernatural elements until later in the story, with at least the first hour playing out much more as a comedy and that’s what makes this film work. Setting it within a reality TV contest makes for the perfect atmosphere, it can be parody-esque, silly, over the top and melodramatic because it all fits that environment. It would have been great for them to take it a step further and embrace the comedic side of things but in fairness that also could have thrown off its balance. It does mean that when it dives in head-first to the supernatural towards its end, it’s not the smoothest of moves, it’s a steep change from how its used in the first half of the film and undercuts its effect slightly. One of the other interesting things about the script is that the story works better when it’s being vague, keeping the air of demons in the background is more effective than when they try to explain the origin and expand the story, it feels fairly unnecessary. Keeping it simple and fun is where the story succeeds.
Lowry’s direction embraces the reality TV setting even more, flitting between different shots and using a lot of perception through what’s being recorded for the show, not just as an observer. The editing work could be smoother, it moves around too much at points without any real need for it, as it doesn’t speed things up or change the mood. It can’t be denied that the tone of this film is very cheesy but to an extent it feels self-aware of that, which allows it to move fairly naturally. There’s a great deal of arrogance and self-obsession with these characters and yet it never falls into feeling sleazy or irritating, which sounds simple but is actually an achievement with this type of story. They could have trimmed the fat a little, it didn’t need to be 115 minutes long both in a sense of extraneous scenes but also just that to begin with it’s too long for this style of film, and it can start to lose your attention right when it wants it most. It also ends on a note that almost feels as if it’s pushing a religious agenda, which is unfortunate.
The performances are probably dead on what you’re going to expect, everyone is fairly natural but you can’t avoid the slightly fake or superficial quality that comes along with characters such as these. Considering that for the most part any knowledge of who these people are is minimal, it still works, they fit certain moulds and you don’t really need much more from them. It’s not a case of having relatable characters, one of the fun elements is it feels anyone is fair game to be killed off which actually works better. It’s a little shaky when they try to bring through some emotion or sincerity but those moments are thankfully few and far between enough to forgive.
Blood Pageant is cheesy, easy going entertainment. If you go into this film without expectations or a prejudice based on its b-movie nature, then you can have some fun with it. Placing itself in the world of reality TV was a great choice, it feeds into every quality and style that the film has, letting it be playful without being overbearing. It comes across as more of a 70s style horror, with a touch of parody, silliness and drawing out the story over time, then throwing it at you in its final moments. It would have been good to see it balance out that progression more, it feels like too steep of a change and it is 15-20 minutes too long. Although, if you were looking for a film that you can throw on the TV, not have to think about and just let it roll, it’s a solid choice.