We must now ask ourselves: at what point does a studio become merely a brand name? Let's not even make it a hypothetical: if we have something called Hammer Film Productions, and it's all legal and aboveboard and there's a clear line of ownership justifying that name, but also James and Michael Carreras are both dead and Anthony Hinds is 85 years old and quite retired, is there any real sense in which it's actually Hammer Film Productions? For this is the situation we find ourselves at in the early months of 2008 - 32 years after the company's last horror movie (1976's To the Devil... a Daughter), 29 years after its last feature film (1979's The Lady Vanishes), and 24 years after its last thing of any sort (1984's anthology television series Hammer House of Mystery and Suspense). In 2007, the company and all its assets were purchased by the Dutch media tycoon John de Mol Jr, who installed Simon Oakes as producer, and plans were put into place to immediately get back in the business of making suitably atmospheric horror movies.

It wasn't until autumn 2010 that the world at large got its first taste of Nu-Hammer, with the release of Let Me In. This maybe was a calculation on the new studio leadership to put its best foot forward, because Let Me In was by no means the new Hammer feature. In fact, it was no less than the third feature made by the reincarnated studio. The first, Wake Wood, premiered in 2009, but was held back from general release until 2011. The second, The Resident, was filmed a few months before Let Me In, but it didn't even premiere until 2011.

And even so, Hammer's actual return to the world, much ballyhooed at the time in a very niche way, and dropped straight into the memory hole in the decade since, precedes all of these. I am referring to a 2008... artifact, called Beyond the Rave, which premiered in April of that year as the first 19 episodes of a 20-part serial. And these episodes first saw the light of day, as videos streaming on the late, unlamented social network MySpace, of all inscrutable things - the 20th, the one actually resolving the story, didn't reach audiences until the series was released to DVD more than two years later. Presumably, this extreme wait for the climax must have greatly pissed off the serial's fans, but I'm not sure that I can actually imagine that something such as a "Beyond the Rave fan" actually exists. It's a dreary, wretched thing - I will not be so brazen as to call it the worst thing with Hammer's name ever attached to it, for there are some real dogs littered throughout even the heights of the studio's 1960s Golden Age. But it's hard to imagine a less impressive rebirth; the serial is bad enough on its own, and there's absolutely nothing about it that has been calculated to appeal to the people for whom a revived Hammer Films could have had any sort of emotional draw at all. Insofar as it does continue the studio's legacy, it's in the worst possible sense: the film feels like an attempt by badly out-of-touch executives to figure out what The Kids These Days like that misses the actual tastes of 2008 young people just as thoroughly as Dracula A.D. 1972 and Captain Kronos - Vampire Hunter missed the equivalent mark back in the 1970s.

Simply getting at the content of Beyond the Rave already involves fighting off a headache and exhibiting thoroughly unnecessary patience. As mentioned, the initial form of this material was a streaming video serial, with each of the first 19 episodes running between four and five minutes, opening with a loud, ugly, jarring title card in green and white and red, ending with a fast little montage of vampire faces in tinted colors. The "feature" version of Beyond the Rave consists of nothing at all other than all of these little episodes run end-to-end, intact: at no point in the two-year wait for the DVD did anybody re-edit the material to make it one smooth flow of plot, but instead every four or five minutes, the story pauses to have a little visual aneurysm for a few seconds and then proceed on its way.

This is obviously unsustainable, and it's made even worse by the diced-up, fragmentary nature of the cutting. Taken as a whole story, Beyond the Rave finds several threads coalescing into one location - a rave, naturally - right about the midway point, which means that the first 40 minutes of the thing are hopping between four different plots, maybe more. And of course, when there are only five-minute boxes to put those four plots into, there's never room for more than a couple at a time, and even those are treated with fairly cursory indifference, on top of which the speed of cutting feels like the editor - Lucas Roche, but I feel bad calling him out in public like this - arbitrarily slice every shot in half once he had an initial cut in place. If the intent is to evoke the jacked-up intensity of being full to the gills on club drugs and heading to a rave, I guess it's at least comprehensible, though intensely unpleasant to those of whose who don't go to raves or get fucked up on club drugs, but like silly, finicky little things like pacing, atmosphere, or even just plain ol' narrative comprehensibility.

At any rate, once the film stops darting around like a hummingbird on cocaine - or, at least, once the hummingbird is darting between few enough flowers that you can keep your eye on it - it's possible to figure out that the main trunk of the plot goes like this: Ed (Jamie Dornan) is shipping out to Iraq in the morning, and before he leaves, he wants to check in with his girlfriend Jen (Nora-Jane Noone), who has been hanging out with some antisocial ravers lately. In particular, she's been with a fellow named Melech (Sebastian Knepp), who just isn't even trying, with that name, to hide the fact that he's actually a vampire, and the big ultimate rave he's throwing this very night is just an opportunity to get a whole bunch of docile humans in once place to harvest their blood.

Also, there are gangsters.

Surely "vampires host a rave" can be made somehow good, but Beyond the Rave isn't the film or serial or video or what the fuck ever to do that. I don't know that anything could possibly have salvaged it after the delirious, inchoate pacing of the first half, but I also don't think that the people involved were actually trying. The script, by Tom Grass and Jon Wright, is a lousy network of Guy Ritchie-esque clichés, artless cursing, and exposition that gets buried beneath an impenetrable veil of vaguely hardcore attitude; the acting is never more than serviceable, and frequently finds the people involved indulging in the hammiest, shtickiest imaginable interpretations of characters who aren't worth much of a damn to start with. Director Matthias Hoene was clearly chosen to fulfill the "rave" half of the film, while letting the "horror" part dangle in the breeze. There's no sense of menace, ever; and while it's difficult to judge the pacing of anything with the editing doing it's little song and dance, it certainly doesn't seem like Hoene was encouraging his actors to take their time with line deliveries, or sink into moments and let them simmer.

The positive aspect to all of this is that the rave sequences are at least energetic, if that's your thing; they are very much the only parts of the film with interesting arrangements of people in the frame. Still "the rave bits are good" is no recommendation for any ostensible horror film; it's practically a criticism of a horror film drawing its gravitas from the Hammer brand name. The closest thing to a real Hammer connection is that Ingrid Pitt filmed a cameo, and that didn't even make it to the final cut; otherwise, the best Beyond the Rave can do is to include a decent number of fairly wet, dripping gore effects, including one admirably campy exploding head in the final episode (I hope and pray that it was deliberately campy, anyway). And while gore was Hammer's calling card 45 years before this serial was made, by 2008 it was, to say the least, nothing particularly special, nor is this a particularly gory film. All it really is is a whole lot of colored lighting, moving fast, and making quite a lot of noise about it: just a rave, then, nothing beyond it, and that is absolutely not enough to justify taking a respectable old institution out of mothballs. The resurgent (though, apparently, once again deceased) Hammer would only go up from here, but it's really a bit that it could only go up from such a shitty, enervating debut.