Ravers took four years to complete, which means that even when its seams start to show, the film is charming in a sweetly D.I.Y kind of way. It mattered so much to everyone involved that they schlepped to freezing-cold Wales to shoot the thing. British director Bernhard Pucher’s sophomore feature, following 2012’s Betsy and Leonard, isn’t perfect by any means, but it’s pretty hard to resist.
Our heroine is germaphobe Becky (Vikings‘ Georgia Hirst), a wannabe reporter a bit like Drew Barrymore’s character in Never Been Kissed, who’s told by her editor that, if she wants to be a real writer, she’s going to have to get her hands dirty. It’s one of those clunky lines that makes you think “yeah, NO” until, over the course of the movie, she ends up doing exactly that.
After helpful cousin Ozzy (yes, it is a reference to Mr. Osbourne) gains her access to a top-secret laboratory for a story she’s writing, Becky finds herself at a warehouse rave, where she’s so uncomfortable she initially refuses to take her Puffa jacket off. It’s here that a contaminated energy drink is unleashed upon the drugged-up, gyrating masses, to frighteningly bloody effect.
Ravers introduces the demon drink in a nicely gory opening parable, which confusingly stars celebrated British comedian Dave Johns (last seen in Ken Loach’s soul-destroying working class call to arms I, Daniel Blake). Suffice to say, when you can’t see the colour of the liquid it’s usually a bad sign, but this stuff is enough to take down an actual giant, so it’s definitely not looking good for everybody else.
The opening titles for the film look a bit like Doctor Who only even cheaper, one hint of many that this is a British project purporting to be American. The thing is set in Chicago, but was very obviously filmed in the U.K. (Cardiff, to be exact). Setting it in the States is clever, because of mass appeal, and considering most of the action takes place in a warehouse it’s fine, but the geography is distracting.
All of this is to say that Ravers is a British movie trying very hard not to be. Regardless, its premise is strong, with the initial effects of the drink seen as a bad drug reaction. One dude gets trampled by revellers in a very deliberate callback to rave culture. There are some terrible fake tattoos on show, and the dance music is the worst maybe in existence (rightly so, of course).
The constant refrain of “more” is a lot like “braaaaains” but Pucher is careful to ensure his ghastly creations are never referred to as outright zombies (there’s a clever discussion between characters about exactly that). The makeup and SFX are both decent throughout, particularly in one horrifying close-up, and both Hirst and Danny Kirrane, as Ozzy, give strong turns as the cousins in peril.
The cast is refreshingly diverse, while Hirst’s Becky is revealed early on to be a lesbian (something of a theme at this year’s Frightfest, for whatever reason). She gets properly filthy by the end, too, and while her story turns into an editorial rather than a news piece as a result of her experience (are reporters ever accurately portrayed in movies outside of, like, The Post?) Becky proves herself to be a formidable, likeable heroine.
Ravers is slight but consistently entertaining and well executed, by cast, crew, and everybody else. The idea that music soothes the savage beast – even if it is terrible dance music – is cleverly employed, and it’s an interesting twist on the zombie genre. Sort of, because they’re not really zombies. Plainly speaking, if/when it turns up on streaming services, you could do a lot worse.
WICKED RATING: 6/10
Director(s): Bernhard Pucher
Writer(s): Bernhard Pucher, Luke Foster
Stars: Georgia Hirst, Manpreet Bambra, Dave Johns, Danny Kirrane
Release date: TBC
Studio/ Production Co: Iron Box Films
Length: 90 minutes (approx.)