It’s safe to assume that almost everyone in the developed world is overly familiar with the slasher movie formula. Normally, a group of promiscuous high school/college students travel into the mountains or countryside for some reason, get lost, then all but one or two of them are horribly killed off. This formula has produced some modern classics (“Texas Chainsaw Massacre”), but has also been responsible for some horrendously bad films (“Jeepers Creepers 2”). Because the structure of the common slasher flick is so recognisable, the only merit a slasher film can really obtain is how innovative it can be within the confines of that given structure. If there’s one thing that can be said for “Reeker”, it’s that it at least tries to do something new.
“Reeker” starts off in a familiar way: a group of college students head off into the Nevada desert for a party at Area 52 (apparently Area 51 was booked that weekend). Among the group are the usual archetypes of the slasher genre: two dumb college guys (Trip and Nelson), the ditsy blond (Cookie), the slightly more intelligent brunette (Gretchen) and the one guy who is slightly different from everyone else (in this case they chose a blind guy instead of the token black guy or invalid). On the way to the party, the gang experiences some strange things: mild earthquakes, the inexplicable smell of death, and visions of a hooded figure. Predictably, they run out of gas and have to stop at an abandoned motel for help. And, also predictably, they are hunted down by the mysterious hooded figure and maimed with large, drill-like tools.
To “Reeker’s” credit, it manages to offer up some decent scares and some good characterisation in spite of its seemingly Godawful premise. The sense of claustrophobia brought on by the motel, coupled with the gang’s tendency to take mind-altering substances, make “Reeker” a lot more suggestive than most slasher flicks. The possibility that the visions experienced on the doomed road trip are in fact in the group’s collective mind lingers over the film for some time. Also, the addition of a blind guy gives “Reeker” a new edge. A particular sequence where we see the horror through his eyes (opaque as they may be) is probably the scariest thing in the film, and shows us that it’s even scarier when you don’t see the killer.
However, any creativity and innovation that “Reeker” possesses dwindles after thirty minutes of screentime when the deaths start happening. Don’t get me wrong; “Reeker” starts off pretty well, and is pretty damn original compared to the usual MTV-styled slasher flicks, but all of that fades away after the first death, when the director starts to put as many singular images on the screen at one time as he can. While the killings themselves are not entirely unoriginal, the order of the deaths is so predictable that even a slasher novice could see it coming.
On top of this, the acting is pretty bad. Apart from David Gummersall, who plays the blind Jack, the rest of the cast seems to have been plucked from an acting class in the YMCA. The worst has to be Tina Illman (Gretchen), who has the fakest Australian accent I’ve ever heard. Nearly all the way through I thought she was English, until she mentioned her Aussie lineage, then I became pissed off on behalf of the Australian people. Why the filmmakers couldn’t have hired an actress who could put on an Australian accent rather than just get a girl who could do an English accent and try to convince everyone that she’s Australian, I don’t know.
The twist ending of “Reeker” is by far the worst thing about the movie. It seems like writer/director David Payne just tacked it on because he couldn’t decide how to finish his movie. Still, Payne deserves points for effort in at least trying to invigorate a tired genre. Even though it isn’t a great movie, I would still recommend “Reeker” to any avid fan of slasher films, or horror in general. It’s a step in the right direction, even if it does flounder somewhat in its execution.
Dave Payne (director) / Dave Payne (screenplay)
CAST: Devon Gummersall …. Jack
Derek Richardson …. Nelson
Tina Illman …. Gretchen
Scott Whyte …. Trip
Arielle Kebbel …. Cookie
Michael Ironside …. Henry
David Hadinger …. The Reeker