Thursday, November 15, 2007

Reeker (2005)


You know, when I first espied the movie Reeker, I immediately assumed it would be a cheesy monster romp, only good for a laugh or two. The plot seemed awfully familiar, as a group of college kids are stuck in the middle of nowhere while someTHING picks them off. So when I finally sat down to watch it, I was pleasantly surprised to find that Reeker is a much more entertaining and clever flick than I initially gave it credit for.

Five strangers all pile into a rickety car to share a ride to a desert rave. Everything is fine and dandy until the appropriately named Trip (Scott Whyte) brags that he’s got enough E (which he stole from maniacal drug dealer Radford [Ugly Betty’s Eric Mabius], who just happens to be following the unsuspecting kids) to keep the five of them, plus a few hundred of their closest friends, pretty happy. The driver of the ragtag bunch, Gretchen (Tina Illman, who looks an awfully lot like Beetlejuice’s Lydia) isn’t taking any chances and insists on leaving Trip at the last highway diner-gas station-hotel combo they stopped at not 30 minutes before. When they arrive back at the diner, Gretchen’s old car decides to call it quits so they all troop inside to ask for help. One problem – the place is deserted. Half-eaten meals, overturned chairs and smoldering cigarette butts are all that remain to prove that just a little while ago, the joint was jumping. The hotel and gas station are also devoid of anyone and the kids can’t get anyone on the phone, much less on their signal-less cell phones. As nighttime settles on the stranded strangers, things get even more eerie. A creepy, and especially putridly pungent, specter appears and begins picking them off one by one…

I may not have had high hopes for Reeker, but I definitely got my money’s worth. Writer/director David Payne may have started with the stereotypical, kids-stuck-in-the-middle-of-nowhere-with-the-boogeyman-killing-them-off storyline, but by avoiding character clich├ęs, throwing in some genuinely funny moments and creating a spooky, engaging mystery, he has created a pretty engaging flick!

First off, the characters are very believable. They aren’t caricatures of college students nor are they the stereotypical jocks and bimbos that seem to populate horror films. No, every character feels real, like you might know someone like them in real life. The actors do a decent job of bringing their characters to life, and you’ll even notice a few of them from other films and television, like Michael Ironside, playing a fellow stranded traveler and Derek Richardson from Hostel.

Secondly, the mystery they find themselves wrapped up in (has some catastrophic terrorist attack occurred? a natural disaster? something more sinister?) is entirely engaging. You might be able to guess the ending, but you’ll still enjoy sitting through the rest of the movie to see if you are right. Payne keeps the pace moving along with some additional characters that pop up, like the previously mentioned Ironside as an RV-driving vacationer and Mabius as the crazed drug dealer.

Reeker pays off again in the gore department. While blood isn’t generously splashed across the screen every second, there are some pretty shocking moments throughout the film. For example, the opening scene shows a family driving down a deserted bit of road, only to hit a deer and splatter their entire front windshield in grue. That’s not all…the family stops to inspect the damage and the family dog runs off to explore. A few minutes later the father goes off in search of the dog while the mom and son wait by the car. The whimpering dog emerges a few minutes later…dragging its broken and bloody body behind it. While the wife tries to help, the husband stumbles out of the brush, the whole half of his head missing! This opening scene is quite a lot to live up to, but Reeker delivers the blood ‘n’ guts in more than a few surprise scenes that’ll have you jumping out of your seat.

Unfortunately, this film does have its share of negatives. The one thing that bugged me the most was the overall appearance of the Reeker creature. The creature itself was pretty wicked and scary looking, but every time it was about to appear, hazy fumes, like the kind you see reflected off the pavement on a really hot day, would announce its arrival. I think the filmmaker’s aim was to produce something akin to the stink lines that wafted off of the dirty Pig Pen from the Peanuts comic, but here it just looked plain silly. Also, it’s never quite specified whether the Reeker is solid or amorphous in nature. In one scene, it appears that the Reeker can move through walls and be invisible, but in another it is affected by bullets. Bullets? Against a rotting and putrescent corpse-like creature? Seemed more than a little far-fetched…

All in all, though, Reeker is a rather solid effort that features an interesting premise, realistic characters, good performances, a nice twist and good-lookin’ gore. And thankfully, it doesn’t live up to its own name!

Available from Amazon!

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