Reeker – 2 out of 5
I spotted this film after a hard day of wrestling Loch Ness Monsters and competing against Sasquatches in slam dunking contests (read that as I was sitting around in my penguin-patterned pajama pants with nothing to do) and I decided to do a little browsing on Netflix. This one popped up on my recommendations and I read that it was about a malevolent apparition that announced itself with a foul smell. I laughed and said, “A fart ghost? I’m in!”
Five college friends (with most of them looking too old to be playing the age they are playing) set out to a massive party in the middle of the desert. On the way, they experience some car trouble and stop at a motel in the middle of the long stretch of highway. Once successfully stranded there, they discover that not all is as it seems and it appears they are not there alone and something sinister is after them…something that smells awful, apparently.
|"It smells like my future career, the stupid look on my face, and my current acting ability!"|
Reeker opens very poorly and sets the bar for the film very, very low. It opens with a small family being victimized by this foul smelling beast and their acting is cheesy and unbearably over-the-top. Secondly, the film starts as any generic supernatural monster movie would and it doesn’t do much to do otherwise until the very end.
I checked out the special features and making-of on the DVD and the writer/director Dave Payne hyped the film up as a smart and scary film that “riffs” on the teen slasher subgenre. I missed the part where it was scary and I definitely didn’t see where it “riffs” on the clichés that are far too familiar in the world of horror. There was no two ways about it, Payne just did all the expected things you’ve come to know from horror. Things like the car getting taken out and leaving the kids stranded in the middle of nowhere, no cell phone reception, characters with little-to-no depth to them, etc. The only thing that really gets “riffed” is the few times when comedy is awkwardly placed in the film and makes the movie look like Payne momentarily forgot what type of movie he was making.
|At one point, he really forgot what type of movie he was making.|
Despite the claims of the director and the very unconvincing job the actors do trying to sell this as an amazing movie in the making-of, Reeker ultimately felt clumsy and like it was two scripts merged into one. There was the whole story about the kids being tormented by the fart demon and then there’s the twist ending that I won’t reveal but will admit was probably the only thing I dug about this movie. These two elements could have easily worked together and, much of the details provided in the story really sells that they gel like peanut butter and jelly, but the real killer came about with the overall silliness and superfluous nature of the stank beast.
While Monster Stinky ends up being a metaphor for the big reveal at the end, the design of the creature just made Reeker look cheap and like a hundred generic monster movies that have been released over the years. Things get even more hard to deal with when you see the creature has a mechanical buzz saw attached to its arm (that element is really pointless once you know the ending). "Less is more" could have been a great mantra for the use of this beast but, instead, they went for some silly business that became all the more absurd thanks to its major selling point: The creature's funk.
|I guess when your monster's major selling point is that it smells like shit, you might|
as well go full steam ahead and make him look absolutely ridiculous.
Once again, this concept behind Reeker has some play at the end and is used to hint to the film’s twist but it ultimately ended up being something that made the film laughable. Despite the ultimate symbolism behind both the apparition itself and the smell it emits, it becomes the defining element of the film that kept me from taking the film, and its terrific ending, seriously. Yes, they both provide hints to the film’s clever ending but when you can’t help but laugh at the Reeker because he looks like the steampunk offspring of an Orc and Captain Hook and imagine that the smell the characters are dealing with is reminiscent of cat piss, it was hard to take the creature and the entire film seriously.
|Even Michael Ironside's appearance couldn't bring the film back from the edge|
Things aren’t helped by the mediocre performances and substantial lack of scares, either. Expecting convincing performances in a horror movie is just ridiculous thanks to how low the genre has sunk over the years; so, I can forgive the less than stellar performances—with the exception of Scott Whyte as the character Trip, that character was annoying as all hell and was the one guy that I wanted to see die more than anyone else (every horror movie seems to have that character…and they always live way longer than they should). However, the film has very little atmosphere to work with and that creates absolutely no scares.
|It was, however, quite hilarious watching the movie try to convince me that|
Trip was a 20-something, skateboarding, drug-obsessed college student when,in reality,
he looked like a car insurance salesman.
This is actually surprising since one of the characters is blind and if you can’t make some scary shit happen to a blind guy in your film than you are clearly a failure in the medium. Instead of scares, the film just kind of lazily proceeds through its story and throws in some clues and bones here and there to tease the final twist before it finally arrives at the end. The characters barely looked frightened or even mildly disturbed by the events transpiring around them (except the character of Trip, who looks like he’s auditioning for a role in an Abbott & Costello reboot). It’s only moments before the twist that we see any real fear from most of the characters and, by then, it was already too late to try to make anything scary.
|I guess I can give Trip points for really overselling all the non-scary parts.|
Finally, this film took way, WAY too long to start killing off its characters. Maybe this is the “riff” Payne was talking about but usually in slasher/monster movies, the trapped kids start getting picked off one-by-one pretty early. This one waited till there was about a half an hour left in the film. This would be fine if we were establishing the five college kids but the only real establishment comes from the blind kid and all we really learn about him is how he deals without sight. The rest of this time waiting for the body count to go up (even by one) is spent with meandering scenes that throw in clues about the big reveal like an afterthought and Trip trying to be funny. Of course, when we finally get to see one of these kids bite the dust, it gets dragged out to the point I started to wonder if this film wasn’t meant to be a short film and the director arrogantly decided against it and was going to pad the ever-loving fuck out of it to get it to an hour and a half (but seriously, this would have been better as a short film).
|"Somebody help me!!! It's taking way too long for me to be murdered|
in this outhouse!"
Reeker definitely had some potential and wasn’t entirely bad. Granted, the monster is silly as shit, the smell part—even though it has a place—was too hard to take seriously, the acting is mediocre, it’s not scary and the characters are one-dimensional, walking/talking blank slates with minor character attributes and names but the end showed a lot of potential and was, shockingly, decent. Had the production focused more on that and less on their attempted misdirection of the Funk Ghost and his design, this film could have been infinitely more entertaining.