Friday 13 March 2020

Ravers (UK 2018: Dir Bernhard Pucher)

Aciiiiiiid! Gaspar Noé must have been taking notes on this one, as Pucher's 2018 movie touches on a lot of the same plot points as the French enfant terrible's film Climax from the same year.

An accident in a factory that makes energy drinks causes the chemical makeup of a batch of 'Renergize' - the brand name for the product - to be messed up, but the company's about to be closed down, so the contaminated bottles go unchecked.

The empty factory becomes the scene for an illegal rave (remember them?) attended by at least twenty clubbers - ok it's a low budget film - keen on getting their rocks off. Among the clubbers is the reluctant Becky (Georgia Hirst), a cleanliness freak who would have given Howard Hughes a run for his money. Becky's a journalist trying to get a break, recovering after her last partner Charlotte (Eve Connolly) left her over said cleanliness obsession; she's persuaded to attend the rave by her friend Ozzy (Danny Kirrane), so named because of his parents' love of the band 'Black Sabbath.' Things pick up a little when Becky meets Hannah (Manpreet Bambra) on the dancefloor, who is a) sympathetic to the germophobe's little quirks and b) a possible replacement for Charlotte.

But when one of the people behind the scenes at the gathering discovers the abandoned cases of 'Renergize' and doles it out to an already drugged up crowd, chaos reigns - the poisoned batch turns the clubbers into, well, what exactly? "They're not zombies...they're more like mutant ravers" explains Ozzy, as he, Charlotte, undercover cop Jen (Maria Volk), a few other clubbers who haven't imbibed plus a newly mutant Hannah, must evade the raving hordes and make it to safety.

The main issue I had with Pucher's exuberant and often witty horror comedy is the insistence on making it look and sound inauthentically American - my understanding is that rave culture was a largely UK phenomenon anyway. With Wales standing in for the US, nearly all the cast, apart from Kamal Angelo Bolden (an American actor of colour playing Vince, the drug dealer - nice) and a blink and you'll miss it performance from Natasha Henstridge, affect (generally poor) Yank accents - I was particularly amused that Ms Hirst seemed to model hers on Mischa Barton.

But that aside Ravers is a fun, resourceful flick which keeps the attention despite the limitations of its story. The mutants, who all develop an odd googly eye look once they neck some 'Renergize', are a bit more interesting than your average zombie, and they're less intent on chowing down than waving glowsticks and succumbing to repetitive beats, only turning nasty when the music stops. Pucher handles his action sequences really well, making a small cast seem a lot more populous, and the whole thing has the feel of a slightly more polite version of a Troma movie. Fun while it lasts, but I'd have been happier if it had dropped the pretence and located itself this side of the 'pond.'

Ravers is available on digital download from 16 March

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