Blood Pageant begins with a text crawl warning about the rise of atheism and the connection between “New Age” beliefs and demons. Yes, it’s a faith-based horror movie. Horror and religion have an obvious connection, without religion films like The Omen and The Exorcist wouldn’t exist. But I usually avoid faith-based films due to their preachy nature. However, when I saw the cast of this one included Snoop Dogg I figured if the filmmakers were casting a known drug connoisseur and master of explicit lyrics it might be a little different. No such luck, it appears The Doggfather has repented his evil ways and been born again.
The American Dream Pageant is a reality show pitting seven women against each other for a million-dollar prize and Hollywood fame and fortune. Amy (Juliana Destefano, Asteroid-a-Geddon, Shark Season) is determined to win, having gone as far as hiring New Age life coach Liz (Natasha Blasick, The Sex Trip, Dead Ant) to keep her focused.
Crystal (JoAnna de Castro) on the other hand is the last person you would expect to find in a show like this. She teaches in a religious school, is devout in her beliefs and is so pure she can’t even lie. But when the contestants start turning up dead these two will have to work together to fight a curse dating back to the Salem Witch Trials.
Blood Pageant’s biggest problem is the fact the film runs a badly bloated hour and fifty-five minutes. It could easily have been cut to ninety minutes and still worked as a movie. But instead, it’s packed with extraneous scenes to remind us that Hollywood is full of scumbags and chances for the film’s villains to constantly say anti-Christian things. And for Crystal to drone on about her faith or stop and let someone on a religious radio show do it for her.
I suppose if you’re marketing this to an audience of the devout it doesn’t matter if the moral messaging takes precedence over the story. But neither the film’s final poster nor publicity mentions its faith-based nature. The tagline on an earlier poster, “When you call on forces in the universe and not on God… who do you think will answer?” made it clear but that’s nowhere to be found now. So Blood Peagent needs to be judged as the mainstream film it’s being sold as.
Director Harvey Lowry (The Christmas Trap) and writers Chris Gilmore ( Fresh Takes on Family Time) and Anthony J. Sands (Finding Mary) seem to have no understanding of how to structure a horror film. Blood Pageant is barely five minutes old when Liz makes her first anti-religion rant. Which pretty much kills any suspense about who’s responsible when the bodies start dropping. And if you think it’s easy to guess who the final girl will be in a traditional genre film imagine how easy it is when there’s only one character God would approve of.
It wouldn’t have been too hard to use a bit of subtlety while writing the script and create some suspense while making a point about faith and morality. Plenty of films have done it, some so skillfully it isn’t apparent until the end. This is what you need to do if you want your film to go over with a mainstream audience. But with one obvious suspect, one obvious heroine, and a whole lot of preaching all you’re going to get are unhappy viewers who will rightly feel cheated.
Speaking of cheated, Snoop Dogg (Bones, Hood of Horror) has less than five minutes of screen time as himself. Blood Pageant’s other name cameos include Stephen Baldwin (8 Seconds, Bio-Done) as a priest and Ted Lange (The Love Boat, WRZ: White Racist Zombies). Matthew Marsden (Transformers, Resident Evil: Extinction) and Danielle C. Ryan (Little House on the Prairie, Fire City: End of Days) play themselves as Snoop’s other two celebrity judges.
Obviously, for someone who wants to see a faith-based film, Blood Pageant is probably an excellent choice. But for anybody else, it’s going to be tough going with its lack of scares or suspense and constant preaching of the bible and demonizing of unbelievers.
Having already had a limited theatrical run, Vision Films will release Blood Pageant on all major streaming platforms on June 29th. The DVD will be available at major online retailers on July 20th. You can check the film’s website and Facebook page for more details.