Ravers (2018)

Ravers first published by SciFiNow

Becky (Georgia Hirst) is a journalist dying to get a big scoop, but hampered by her crippling aversion to, quite literally, getting her hands dirty. A clean freak whose obsession with wet wipes and liquid cleansers has already driven her girlfriend Charlotte (Eve Connolly) away, Becky takes an uncharacteristic decision to join her chemist friend Ozzy (Danny Kirrane) at an illegal rave in a closed-down factory, where she hooks up with the more understanding Hannah (Manpreet Bambra). When a cache of ‘Renergize’ drinks is discovered in the factory’s storeroom and distributed among the thirsty dancers, the tainted contents enhance the effects of drugs, turning the revellers into appetitive, orgiastic, id-driven mutants. In order to survive the night, Becky must confront her deep fear of the mucky and the mucoid.

Director Berhnard Pucher’s feature debut Betsy and Leonard (2012) concerned a DJ under house arrest for drug dealing – and in his second feature Ravers, once again co-written by Luke Foster (and featuring one or two tracks on its score composed by Pucher himself), these same motifs are spun on the decks to very different effect. Perhaps in keeping with the mutant theme, the film is itself a strange hybrid, clearly intended to be set in America (right down to the banknotes that the characters use), but shot in Wales, and featuring a cast of actors from the UK, only some of whom attempt US accents. Even the repeated references to the rave as a ‘squat party’ sound improbable in a supposedly American setting. All this brings an odour of inauthenticity to the proceedings – the kind of contamination that layers itself over everything (and sends Becky into fits of anxiety) – but perhaps it all adds to the sense of disorientation that Pucher tries to conjure in capturing the experience of a trippy all-night binge. By the end, most of those attending the rave are completely off their faces (in a few cases not even metaphorically) anyway, and have no idea themselves either where they are anymore.

Ravers plays like the comedy B-side of Gaspar Noé’s Climax (2018). For both are films in which a chemical pollutant strips dancing characters of their inhibitions and reduces them to their basic drives and desires. Pucher’s film is funny, exaggerating, perhaps only slightly, the sorts of behaviours seen on any city street towards the end of a long night’s indulgence, while gradually building towards an outpouring of enough blood, filth and gore to provide Becky with all the exposure therapy that she could possibly need. It is as though the spirit of J. Michael Muro’s Street Trash (1987) and Philip Brophy’s Body Melt (1993) hit the dance floor with a neurotic neatnik – and the ensuing mix, though messy, guarantees a night of fun that will be mostly forgotten by the following morning.

Strap: Bernhard Pucher’s comedy horror Ravers pits a clean-freak journalist against contaminated, mutant dancers.

© Anton Bitel