WHAT IT'S ABOUT:
What is supposed to be the best holiday of their lives turns to horror as a group of teenagers is picked off one by one in a small coastal village.
WHAT WE THOUGHT:
Surprisingly, there’s a bit of a gap in South African cinema about our teenagers – born-frees that grapple with the inequalities of a modern Rainbow Nation while trying to navigate their flourishing hormones. In another vein, local horror is another neglected genre – especially when made for a mainstream audience.
Rage, however, brings the two into one – teenagers celebrating their freedom on a Matric Rage holiday while being stalked by a murderous clan of pagan ritualists. With a diverse cast of talented, young actors – many hailing from the series The Girl from St Agnes – it’s a love letter to the classic horrors and slashers of old, enhanced by the ethereal terror of films like Hereditary, Midsommar and The Purge. It might not be something you haven’t seen before, but you’ll always feel a bit more invested in the story when it’s told from a place of familiarity.
A group of privileged school friends celebrate their Matric Rage in one of their parents’ holiday houses, isolated and far from anywhere. But something sinister is lurking in the shadows, watching their every move, plotting a cruel fate for these youths.
While I am a fan of a good pagan-ritual horror, I do wonder if this wouldn’t have been a great opportunity to find inspiration from a more traditionally South African ritual rather than importing it from the West. Paganism isn’t exactly something you’d find hiding on a beach in Africa - and they could have dived deeper into our bloody history of land dispossession, vengeful apparitions haunting the living. On the other hand, maybe we first need these slightly more superficial exposes of horror (and in Rage it gets quite horrifically graphic) as a foundation for the more place-a-mirror-up-to-society horrors that are becoming more prevalent in Hollywood.
The gore, the scares and the horror are well-executed, supported by a strong cast of performers, but there are many plot holes you must try not to think too hard about. For a house with such a dodgy history, they never explain how the jock of the group’s dad got hold of the house, or even why. And then there’s a locked room that says Do Not Enter, said to be his dad’s study, but is actually just full of creepy stuff from the previous owner.
The rules of this pagan ritual are also very confusing – it’s never fully explained what the ritual is exactly for beyond bringing good fortune and life – but why do they need good fortune? And who’s life? There’s also talks of virgin sacrifice as well, but it’s never brought up again, and the supposed 'virgin' isn’t even really a big feature of the ritual in the end.
Despite its flaws, Rage is a cool watch for horror fans if you want to escape the actual horror of real life right now, and visually – with blood and all – it’s quite stunning and brilliantly filmed. Maybe just don’t watch it if you’re in lockdown mode in the middle of nowhere – the imagination can be a treacherous thing.
WATCH THE TRAILER HERE: