Reeker (2005)

Directed By: Dave Payne
Written By: Dave Payne
Starring: Devon Gummersall
  Arielle Kebbel
  Eric Mabius
  Scott Whyte

Reeker sees a group of young adults travelling out into the desert in order to attend an illegal rave. Unfortunately, their plans of taking drugs and indulging in some wild abandon in the middle of nowhere are disrupted when their car breaks down and, whilst also having a disgruntled drug dealer on their tail, they are forced to take refuge in an old, seemingly abandoned motel. If that weren’t bad enough, they are then stalked by an invisible killer whose presence is only apparent via the putrid smell of rotting flesh that surrounds them each time he’s near. Could it be that Death itself has come to collect their souls?

Reeker has an excellent premise but its execution (if you’ll excuse the pun) could have been much better. It’s not the first time we’ve seen ‘Death’ coming to claim his victims in film. Hell, there’s an entire franchise built upon the idea in the Final Destination movies, but at least Reeker has the decency to do it a bit differently. Not being able to see your attacker is a genuinely terrifying prospect and in the first half of the film, it’s dealt with wonderfully and results in some pleasingly jumpy scares. During the second half however, for some unknown reason, we, the audience, are able to see the cloaked killer as he ambushes our baffled protagonists. ‘Death’ is realised in a suitably frightening fashion. Gone is the hokey version of old, brandishing his scythe and looking more constipated than intimidating, Instead we are presented with a semi-translucent spectre who uses a variety of nasty looking home-made weaponry to exact his vengeance. As scary as he is, the audience never really needed to see him in order to understand the threat, the film was far more chilling when he wasn’t visible at all.

The acting isn’t bad though, and the presence of Arielle Kebbel is bound to please the hot blooded males that no doubt make up the majority of the films intended audience. Even the characterisation is well thought out. Each character has a distinct personality and, likeable or not, they are a sympathetic lot whose plight is undeserved. The director has made good use of the limited sets and manages to create a real sense of claustrophobia throughout, which, for a film set amidst the vast expanse of the desert, is no mean feat!

There is disappointingly little gore, although there are some memorable moments that help to make up for that, most notably the incidence of half a trucker appearing from a dumpster outside the motel, and crawling away on his hands, dragging his innards and mangled torso behind him. It’s moments like these that elevate Reeker above other forgettable movies of the same ilk.

Despite the films promising start and confident rendering it ends on something of a down note. The regrettably supercillious movie convention of spoon feeding the audience is used to a patronising degree, just as everything is set to wind-up. Are we really that stupid that we need to be bombarded with a series of flashbacks of events that we’ve just seen in order to make sense of it all? No, we don’t. This overuse of heavy-handed techniques is bound to anger audience members who feel, quite rightly, that they are unnecessary and a little condescending to boot.

It’s main downfall though, is that the slightly superior Dead End (2003) beat it to the punch a year or two prior to this flicks release. Using almost the exact same narrative manoeuvre, the makers of Dead End achieved a more innovative and sophisticated movie which unfortunately dilutes the effects of Reeker somewhat. Had this not been the case then I would have found it easier to bestow praise on this movie but sadly, it’s difficult to believe that it wasn’t influenced by the films that came before it. Reeker is an above average, enjoyable movie but sadly, won’t win any awards for originality.

Rating: ★★★★★★☆☆☆☆

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