Directed by: Dave Payne
Written by: Dave Payne
Starring: Devon Gummersall, Derek Richardson, Tina Illman
Released: 2005 / Genre: Horror / Country: USA / IMDB
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Forgive me for paraphrasing but I believe it was Francis Ford Coppola who said in the documentary A Decade Under The Influence that after Jaws and Star Wars the film industry began to take less risks and simply reproduced the stars, the plot lines, and the themes of movies that had made a lot of money. There’s nothing profound in his reasoning, the obvious fact was that the industry had to make money and the easiest way possible was always going to become prevalent. However, it is disconcerting when trash like E.T. cash-in Mac and Me and its ilk dominate the market. The Star Wars-inspired The Last Starfighter, Flight of the Navigator, Enemy Mine, and Battle Beyond the Stars are all enjoyable little movies but the lack of fresh ideas is only detrimental to the medium. You just have to look at how heavily Wes Craven’s Scream influenced the industry with the overbearing number of teen-inspired horror flicks. Did we really need Valentine, I’ll Always Know What You Did Last Summer, Urban Legend, Cherry Falls, and useless remakes of Black Christmas and When A Stranger Calls? I find it hard to say, sad almost, that I enjoyed Cherry Falls immensely, so perhaps I’m helping feed the frenzy, but the others were poor at best.
That brings me to Reeker – a film that might make you think people die from a killer who uses flatulence as his weapon of choice. You’d be wrong, but it’s a rather funny presumption. The film concerns five college students who end up driving down a very lonely, desolate road and run out of petrol at a deserted Motel (stop me if you’ve heard this before). Then as night begins to fall, things start to go bump. People have sex, or at least try to, and others decide to camp outside in a tent (are you kidding me!). It is amusing how, with all the self-reflexive, post-modern horror films we see today, characters still act like they’ve never seen one. Am I being over-paranoid – even I check to see if an axe-wielding madman is in the back of my car when I’m driving at night. No matter what happens, horror film characters still go wandering alone, say ‘I’ll be right back’, and pretty much ask to get murdered in the most horrific ways possible. Alas, you have to admit that’s part of what makes a horror film so enjoyable, but the great thing about Scream was the way it reversed those conventions and it goes back to originality, something that is all too commonly lacking. And it’s originality that is seriously A.W.O.L. in Reeker which at first glance is influenced by The Hills Have Eyes and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. As you watch the story unfold you see that it is more heavily influence by the recent films Identity and Dead End to the point it’s almost a direct copy. The film basically takes Dead End’s beginning and ending, and attaches it to Identity’s middle. If you’ve seen Jean-Baptiste Andrea and Fabrice Canepa’s excellent Dead End you’ll recognise Reeker’s stench a mile off, and you’ll have no problem predicting the twist.
Reeker is in many ways the embodiment of what Coppola was talking about when referencing trend changes during the late seventies and eighties. It shows little artistic merit or skill with a script that is nothing more than derivative and direction that lacks any flair. Indeed, director Payne struggles to create tension. His killer is too ambivalent, and the ambiguity at the source of the ‘evil’ is underdeveloped. He looks very much like a man ill at ease with (comparatively) big-budget, big-studio constraints, and with his back catalogue of rubbish like Alien Avengers II, Alien Terminator, Showgirl Murders, and Addams Family Reunion, you know you’re seeing a film by an under-skilled, awfully average director. He even completely fails to capitalise on an interesting dynamic with one of the characters who is blind. I found it intriguing to have a character which couldn’t see and used his working senses to control his environment. It crossed my mind how the suspense might have an added angle if a character couldn’t see his or her attacker. After all, the likes of Micheal Myers and Jason Voorhees in Halloween and Friday The 13th (well, the second movie onward) didn’t rush on their prey, using slow and controlled methods of capture. But, as victims saw their fate, they tried desperately to escape. Taking away the ability to see seems to me like an interesting set-up, and other directors have exploited disabled characters in the past (see The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Friday the 13th: Part II, Friday the 13th: Part V, and Leprechaun) but Payne seems less concerned, simply using the disability as a cheap red-herring as if blind people automatically have something to hide.
If the film had any merits they’d be thrown out in a court of law because it’s all a big con anyway. It’s like sending your car in for a service and getting something back that looks and feels like your car, but is actually an imitation, made from cheap parts, dodgy oil, and wheels that look half-on-half-off. Even the acting is uninspired. These young actors look desperate for parts and as such took the opportunity to star in this tripe. It all adds up to a nightmare of gigantic proportions, and sadly, it’s for all the wrong reasons.