Sunday, January 01, 2006

Raving Maniacs - 2005

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There’s a rave going on. It’s gonna be great. Tuesday and her boyfriend J.T., and their friend Katie, and Katie’s brother, are going out partying to the biggest rave in Providence, Rhode Island. Of course, the reckless kids become part of an alien plot to distribute some strange drugs (they’re so strange, that they glow in the dark) among the ravers at the party. The socially smart storyline tells a tale of reckless youth with no control over the substances they ingest in heir endless quest for stimulation, feeling, and euphoria. The risks of doing some drugs may never be discovered until it’s too late, when the party's over.

This collaboration between Trent Haaga, Richard Griffin, and Christine Peltier all takes place at night in the darkness, at a rave. It’s got great atmosphere, and unwavering action when it comes to the set, costumes, and good cinematography. Unlike in their earlier endeavor, Feeding the Masses, Griffin employs some creative shots, beautiful and otherworldly lighting, and some seriously disturbing sequences guaranteed to make you queasy. Talent allows Griffin and his cinematographer to create atmosphere unlike anything most indie films are capable of generating; it’s stunningly fun and terrifying. Patrick Cohen stars as the club manager, who has a past with the dark and sexy Tuesday. Unfortunately, Tuesday is now dating the volatile and dangerous J.T., and he and Jessie (Patrick Cohen) have an evil rivalry. Throw into the mix a Vietnam vet, a nerd who loves his game boy, and a couple who work at the club, and you get; that’s right. To many characters. Immediately hampered by an opening that takes a good half hour to create because of all the different storylines and sub plots, Raving Maniacs is slow to get started.

Once the action does get going, it’s pretty good. The new glow-in-the-dark drug being distributed is actually of alien origin- it’s actually a pretty gross concept and will make you think twice about what you put in your mouth next time someone offers you something at a rave. The effect of the drug is an induced mindless, zombie-like highly sexual state that inspires you to randomly copulate in the most grotesque of ways with those around you. As the sex turns violent and bizarre, the few who didn’t take the drugs start to notice something is amiss. By that time, it’s too late for those who are infected, and for those who aren’t, because army protocol dictates that the facility be quarantined and no one gets out until after backup arrives. But is backup coming? Can one ex-marine hold down the doors while the innocent and the contaminated alike try to escape the rave? Its all frightening and fun from this point on, with some seriously disturbing scenes that cross the line of decency without being superfluous or unnecessary. (And THAT is a task hard to accomplish)

Griffin takes some pretty big risks with a low budget; it’s impossible to aspire to this level of filmmaking without acknowledging that the rave is going to suffer if the technology can’t be paid for. He does all right with what he’s got and actually makes a pretty intimidating feature relying on clever camera angles and creatively sinister lighting. Where Griffin fails Raving Maniacs is in his relationship with the actors; he doesn’t push them as far as they need to go to be believable. Emily Morettini as Tuesday can’t compete with Andrew Vellenoweth’s charisma and energy onscreen, and Patrick Cohen’s Jessie has a confidant, if somewhat affected, ability to contend. The long character development definitely holds back the characters once they are established; with so many intros and setups, the deaths come too quickly and seemingly out of nowhere. An unexpected love story comes through for the romantics in the end, but the glaringly obvious ramifications of frivolity and a callous attitude towards drugs looms largely over the entire narrative; drugs don’t make you different, they make everyone the same. Just like the traditional mindless zombie that Raving Maniacs imitates, those who indulge in addictions will become part of a pack of desperate and deluded sufferers.

Written by: Richard Griffin, Trent Haaga, Christine Peltier
Directed by: Richard Griffin
Starring: Patrick Cohen, Emily Morettini, Andrew Vellenoweth, Christine Peltier, Ryan Patrick Kenny, Jennifer Zigler, V. Orion Delwaterman, Edwin Cottle, Patrick Pitu, William DeCoff

Review by Heidi Martinuzzi.


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