What was meant to be a night of fun, debauchery and recreational drug use quickly turns into a gore-filled nightmare. Ravers tells the story of a group of friends led by Georgia Hirst’s Becky (Vikings) and Danny Kirrane’s Ozzy (Poldark, Wasted), who descend upon an abandoned energy drink factory for an illegal underground rave. Little do they know that the drink produced here caused a steroid addled factory worker to massacre his co-workers, shutting the factory down. That same energy drink, which has such a violent reaction with narcotics, has been uncovered and handed out to the partygoers free of charge. It’s up to the germophobic journalist Becky to try and get them out alive.
Ravers is ultimately a zombie film with a difference. We’re still treated to shambling husks that audiences will recognise as zombies, but with flashes of intense, fast-moving violence. This makes the antagonistic hoard something Ozzy argues aren’t zombies as we know them, but ‘mutant ravers’. Instead of craving brains, they go after a sole desire, like sex, drugs or an opportunity to jump on the decks. Provided they get what they want, they remain placated – remove that, and rage ensues, as well as some highly entertaining kills. Combine this with the deliberate comedy beats and it proves to be a welcome twist on a well-travelled trope.
The mutants also give the film an excuse to showcase its understated but effective use of combining CGI and practical effects. In Ravers, digital effects are often used to enhance the prosthetic work, paying off in all but a few minor instances. The mutants begin with inflamed eyes and skin deformities, but as their rage intensifies, their eyes are soon bulging out of their skulls. It’s a great touch to build tension and keep the threat fresh, but it also showcases the excellent effects work. One stand-out example is a mutant whose entirely burnt off skin screams skinless Frank in Hellraiser.
As well as balancing digital and practical effects superbly, Ravers also shows a lot of skill in balancing its comedy and horror. It can be easy for films billed as comedy horrors to fall into the habit of sacrificing one genre for the other, but Ravers pulls off this tricky balancing act. Considering that the film focuses on a woman with severe germophobia and social anxiety, cheap gags at her expense would have been a very easy path for the writing to take. Luckily, this doesn’t happen. This balance means that while it’s not a particularly terrifying endeavour, it’s also not too silly, it’s just fun.
The core cast is largely composed of recognisable archetypes – the comic relief, the cop, the shady drug dealer– and these characters don’t really grow or learn anything as they go along. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. As a fast-paced genre romp, archetypes allow the characters to quickly gel and get on with the story. Georgia Hirst’s Becky, however, is a great character study. As mentioned before, it would be easy to make her a one-note character. Instead, writer/director Berhard Pucher has written her germophobia as something that truly affects her life and the plot, and the idea of a journalist who is struggling to write effectively because they’re unable to go into the field due to their phobias is a great angle. This fear is showcased early on through some excellent sound design as others bite into food or show general uncleanliness and Becky endures it in disgust. The scene is extremely reminiscent of the use of sound in 2006’s Taxidermia.
Ravers is ultimately a love letter to both horror and Pucher’s passion for underground rave culture. The film boasts an impressive EDM soundtrack, which in other hands could be quite jarring, but here it effectively sets the scene and complements the action. By using a squat party as a setting, we get an effective mix of claustrophobic and wide open scenes. Becky’s initial anxieties whilst entering this setting, showcased through a partially muffled EDM track, evoke a real-life terror that will resonate for anyone with anxiety.
Undoubtedly made for fans of genre films and the rave scene, Ravers is a hit for both audiences. It’s got the effects and sensibilities of a good zombie film or body horror, but with a light-hearted touch and a few fresh twists on several well-known tropes. With its video-on-demand release coming on March 16th (which you can pick up here) you can watch it at home and let its soundtrack get you in the mood for a night of partying – albeit it a more wary night just in case there are rage-filled mutants afoot.