We meet germaphobe Becky (Viking’s Georgia Hirst), a wannabe reporter who is told by her editor (a no-nonsense Natasha Henstridge) that to be a real writer, she needs to start living a bit. After her cousin Ozzy (Wasted’s Danny Kirrane) gains her access to a top secret laboratory, she soon discovers something slightly untoward is happening there. This sketchy laboratory is filmed like an episode of Doctor Who, all long corridors and eerie shadows.
She soon finds herself out of place at a warehouse rave. Becky refuses to relax, intensely out of her comfort zone, she won’t even take her Puffa jacket off. She soon finds herself fighting for her life when the party-goers start to act wilder than usual. It turns out that a dangerous and now-defunct energy drink, which was given out for free to revellers, when mixed with drugs causes incredible rage. Of course, everyone at the rave just happens to have taken a cocktail of these two lethal ingredients and begin to show zombie-like symptoms.
The party’s organiser (Tom Spink) flees, leaving the venue sealed. Beck and her cousin Ozzy, undercover cop Jen (Maria Volk) and the drug dealer (Kamal Angelo Bolden) are the only ones not under the influence. Becky must overcome fears worse than zombified parties; heights, germs and drugs.
Ravers is set in Chicago, but was very obviously filmed in the UK (Cardiff, to be exact). Setting it in the US, may bring mass appeal, but it also brings very poor American accents and distracting external shots. Director Bernhard Pucher’s feature debut Betsey and Leonard was about a DJ under house arrest for drug dealing, and his second feature (once again co-written by Luke Foster) keeps the same themes. Much like Betsy and Leonard, the hybrid state of the geography only adds to the anxiety, but it also makes this feel like a student film.
Pucher is careful to never refer to the ravers as zombies. There is one clever meta discussion that humorously covers the merits of zombies and their terminology. What the script lacks in scares, the makeup and SFX provides in horror. Some of the close-ups are especially stomach churning but the real horror comes in the very realistic stampede scenes.
There are certain hints of Gaspar Noé’s Climax, where a chemical also strips dancers of their inhibitions and reduces them to their basic desires. Ravers never lives up to this dizzying heights, any atmosphere ruined by a crude joke or terrible American accent. The script is nowhere near last year’s comedy-horror Little Monsters, lacking the heart, three-dimensional characters and comedy of the Abe Forsythe penned movie.
What ultimately elevates Ravers from other low budget zombie horrors, is Georgia Hirst’s performance. She brings empathy to the exaggeratedly neurotic Becky. She just manages to dodge all the two-dimensional character clichés. Her little romantic subplot with a female party-goer works well enough as a reason to keep Becky at the party. Although her phobia of germs is played for laughs and doesn’t become insensitive in its portrayal. The little touches in her performance add depth to a thinly written character.
Ravers perfectly portrayals the dizzy claustrophobia warehouse raves have, even more enhanced by the new type of zombie. The only thing that appears to calm them is loud rave music. For people who aren’t fans of this heavy trance music, it will become distracting and ultimately irritating.
The balance between humour and horror works well, but this will be a hard sell if you’re here for the humour and scares, not the campy horror. Ravers never really gets frightening, but it’s doesn’t get too daft. Considering this set up, the film could have done in a much sillier direction, but it also could have been much funnier. Except one hilarious Toto related joke, there are plenty of missed opportunities for both humour and gore.
Ravers is fun but loses its way with thinly written characters, bad American accents and questionable jokes. Fans of the genre and regular ravers may appreciate this more than others. Ultimately, it feels like a great short film idea what doesn’t quite have enough layers to work as a full length 90 minute movie.
Ravers is available on Digital on March 16th
by Amelia Harvey
Amelia Harvey is a freelance writer, frustrated novelist and occasional wrangling of international students. She is especially interested in LBGTQ culture and 1960s and 70s music. She also writes for Frame Rated, The People’s Movies and Unkempt Magazine, amongst others. Her favourite films include Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind, Moulin Rouge and Closer. You can find her on Twitter @MissAmeliaNancy and letterboxd @amelianancy