Although the return of Hammer Films was heralded recently with the theatrical release of Let Me In, the latest incarnation of England’s infamous production company actually reappeared on the scene a couple years ago with a 20-part online horror serial called Beyond the Rave. Produced for Myspace, Beyond the Rave is now available in its entirety on DVD, as long as you have a region-free DVD player.
In many ways, Beyond the Rave has the look and feel of a classic Hammer vampire film, yet it also acts as a bridge to the current horror aesthetic and offers a hopeful glimpse of more to come in the future. It is the night before Ed (Jamie Dornan) is shipping out for a tour of duty in Iraq and he wants to spend it with his girlfriend, Jen (Nora-Jane Noone). The problem is, she has hooked up with Melech (Sebastian Knapp), the mysterious leader of a band of “hardcore nocturnal ravers”, otherwise known as vampires.
The mystery and buildup is effective, particularly the effort of Ed and his friend Necro (Matthew Forrest) to find where the next rave will be. But when the inevitable confrontation begins, Beyond the Rave becomes strained. And the climax suffers from what I assume are budgetary constraints. This probably worked better in small doses as a web-series. Viewed as back-to-back on a big screen, it doesn’t quite hold up.
Nevertheless, there are some pleasures to experience: it’s plenty bloody, has a great soundtrack (overseen by Pete Tong) and features a final cameo by Ingrid Pitt, the Hammer heroine who recently died at the age of 73.
I’m more inclined to recommend another British mini-series, Dead Set, that recently aired on the Independent Film Channel (IFC). The summer reality series, Big Brother, is a guilty pleasure of mine, so to imagine its set infiltrated by zombies is a very entertaining idea for me. And even if you hate the show, you can vicariously live the fantasy of zombies eating those annoying “houseguests”.
It all happens on eviction night at the Big Brother house. Shortly before airtime, producers receive word of nationwide riots that may cause the show to be pre-empted by news reports. It isn’t long before we realize there has been a zombie outbreak. When the undead creatures invade the studio, the remaining contestants are isolated inside the house unaware of the situation and unable to contact anyone.
Everything I’ve described in this setup and that involves the people inside the house is terrific; it’s the people outside that bog things down. The events are seen primarily through the eyes of one of the show runners, Kelly (Jaime Winstone) and include a subplot about her stranded boyfriend, Riq (Riz Ahmed)trying to reach her. This feels like padding, especially with its nearly 3 ½ hour running time.
I believe that Big Brother is a bigger phenomenon in England than it is in the United States. So I am sure Dead Set is full of in-jokes and cameos that mean nothing to me. That probably adds a satirical element to it that I just didn’t get, which leaves only the blood, gore and suspense. Luckily, it’s plentiful. With or without any subtext, it’s a lot of fun.