Rage is a 2020 South African folk horror film, originally released as a Showmax original, directed by Jaco Bouwer. It follows five teenagers who have landed in a small coastal town for a huge rave called Rage. What starts as a drug and booze-filled romp turns into a nightmare-fueled battle for survival as they find themselves hunted and toyed with by locals intent on using them for nefarious purposes. 

I went into this film blind, forgoing my usual trailer viewing and internet deep-dive of reviews before watching. It’s often fun to go in blind and without any biases or plot predictions. The first scene had me excited, with cheeky and flashy intros to the 5 main characters awash in A24 reminiscent neon magenta and greens, at a rave in various stages of “fucked up.” It promised fun, it promised over strong characters, and it promised stylized horror in the mid-budget range that I love. I had visions of The Sound of Violence (2021), Come True (2020), and Bliss (2019). Sadly, these promises were not fulfilled. While I wouldn’t say it’s a bad film per se, I also wouldn’t recommend it to friends.


The acting was strong, and a couple of the characters were moving, particularly Shalima Mkongi as Sihle who is charismatic and penetrating. David Viviers as Leon was also enjoyable as the sad sack with a good heart, exhibiting little nuances in body language and inflection to portray more than the lackluster dialogue. I also enjoyed the South African setting. Anytime horror is set in a location I haven’t seen it previously set in. The characters regularly switch to Afrikaans, and recite aphorisms that seem to hold specific cultural meanings, which was super cool to hear and gave the film a strong sense of place. I kept trying to surmise references to apartheid or colonization, but nothing jumped out at me, and it almost felt like the film intentionally steered away from a deeper conversation.

Though Rage would technically fall into the folk horror category based on the premise, it more often employs the tropes and techniques of teen slasher with a sprinkling of splatter horror, but it was half-hearted on all fronts. The jaunty character intros, with each person getting a freeze-frame mid-partying and a narrator voice-over announcing their predominant trait (i.e., “wanna-be fuck boi,” “top of the class,” or “raised in the ghetto”), have little impact on the rest of the story, as these character tropes mean almost nothing as the story plays out. I wouldn’t say that the characters are bad, but they are just so poorly defined by the time the action begins. When you see a cast of teens like this, it’s hard not to expect borderline over-the-top characterizations, drama, and unexpected twists in behavior, but they feel bland. They are more subjects of the plot than characters swaying the story one way or another; the violence just happens to them. The violence is swift and irreverent but doesn’t leave the screen “drenched” in gore.


As a huge fan of folk horror, I was disappointed with the antagonistic setting of “creepy locals.” There have been so many folk horror bangers in the last few years that it’s hard to give a pass these days, and creepy masks and the naked bodies of older women are just not enough to get a gold star. (Note: I am in fact very tired of the bodies of older women used for horror. Women’s bodies age, get the fuck over it.) However, I did enjoy the constant juxtaposition between day-drenched terror and pitch-black confusion, where even a scene set on the most picturesque beach imaginable is incredibly tense. The film was absolutely beautiful. Yet again, the choice in cinematography wasn’t enough to tip the scales in the film’s favor, because without even seeing the trailer or reading a single synopsis I was still able to quickly surmise where the plot was going. That’s not to say the action wasn’t harrowing, as unrelenting and violent as it was, but the violence wasn’t enough to hold up a lackluster plot.

At the end of the day, maybe this film just wasn’t for me. There is a great chance that an individual familiar with South African culture and cultural tensions picked up on way more than I did, and if that is the case then please leave a comment relating these details because I would love extra context. I would recommend it for folks who enjoyed the new Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2022) and other folk horror-lite films that have a strong “teens gonna get murdered” appeal. I think this could have been an excellent film with just a little more investment in developing the 5 main characters and thinking outside the box a little with the creepy locals, which is sometimes more frustrating than a total miss.


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Rage (2020) is available to stream on Amazon Prime here*

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