I've said for a long time now that there aren't enough good generic "monsters" that can be-reused and recognised. Surely we've done zombies and vampires to death (excuse the pun), and while Freddy Kruger, Jason Vorhees, and the Cenobites were (are) brilliant baddies, they are rather tied to the license so we don't get to see them used anywhere else. Not only that, but the fears of the time that created these baddies have been replaced by new fears; no longer are we terrified by the concept of hell, psycho stalkers, or pretty much anything else. So when someone mentioned to me that 2005 slasher/thriller Reeker had a new kind of baddie, I had to check it out. While strictly the villain of the piece is more a crossbreed of ghost and walking dead, I suppose it's choice of a kind of industrial meat-mincing power-drill is new, right? Sadly that pretty much sums up the whole movie: It's fairly well done but really it's all been "fairly well done" several times before.
Reeker starts with a splat, as a family driving through the American desert hit a deer in the road and almost career into the ditch as the driver brainlessly tries to figure out how to turn the wipers on to clear off the thick gore from the windshield, apparently without thinking once to actually, y’know, slow down or anything. Anyway, they stop, get killed by our eponymous baddie, and then we move on to the main cast of the movie. What exactly the family at the start have to do with the rest of the story is never entirely clear other than a later attempt to crowbar them in (apparently simply in an attempt to make them relevant to the story). Soon comes our main cast, straight out of the teen slasher cliché bin: The airheaded "hot" girl, the smart sassy girl, the horndog jackass, the "average Joe", and the sympathetic "weaker" character with hidden talents, as portrayed in this case by a blind guy (who really provides some of the best acting of the piece). And the cliché’s don't stop here, oh no. Shout ding every time you spot a horror cliché. The teenagers meet up for a road trip across America to Area 52 (some kind of desert rave), and get double back to and trapped at an isolated diner in the middle of nowhere as a possibly psychopathic ex-doctor turned drug peddler may or may not be on his way to exact revenge for the theft of his stash. At their return to the diner the previous occupants have mysteriously disappeared, leaving half-empty plates still on the tables and so on. And as you can probably predict, our hapless band of characters soon start getting killed off one by one. Oh, and there's a twist at the end, but you probably predicted that too.
For once, just once, I’d like to see a group of mature adults being stalked instead of a group of junked out halfwit teenagers. Hell, give me a busload of OAPs on a day-trip from the retirement home and I’ll be in seventh heaven!
Gore hounds may be disappointed by Reeker; although there are some moments of blood and guts (including a half-a-head moment) there is also a sensitivity to the horror of what is not shown. This is best exemplified during one of the earliest scenes where, in Hitchock-ian style, we see the actor’s reactions but not the actual violence itself. This is belied by the 15 certificate. While usually I’d be all for the relative subtlety offered over the likes of Scream or it’s ilk, the vacuous teenagers portrayed in this movie just seem to inspire such bitterness in me that quite honestly I was cheering for our smelly undead monster and looking forward to seeing the next character turned into human mincemeat.
The 10m Making Of on the DVD is utterly disappointing, playing out far more like an extended self-congratulatory advert attempting to tell us all how great Reeker is. Frankly as extras go it's about as pointless as they can come. On the flipside the commentary is actually rather good, and works out as a much better "making of" than any 10m could have done. What makes this commentary unique among almost any other I have heard is that the director invites different members of cast and crew to discuss sections of the film as well as the film in general as it progresses, then when they have had their section they depart and the next person or people come along. It's impressive that the director manages to keep the commentary flowing throughout without there being a sense of jarring jumping around.
What's amazing about Reeker is that, considering it's such a boiling pot of leftover ideas, it's actually as watchable as it is. In fact for someone who hasn't seen nearly as many horror films as, say, anyone who would read reviews on this site, it could actually be a fairly interesting and fun film. It's refusal to play out as a strait-edge slasher but insisting on putting something more cerebral into the runtime is certainly a refreshing break from the slew of "look there's blood and tits" slashers floating in the cesspool of 90's-naughties cinema. But that alone isn’t enough to make this film especially good. In summary Reeker is an OK movie that nudges “the right buttons” without quite pushing them properly, and is memorable for only two things: the “give a damn” blind guy, and the toilet-scene death that stomps all over Dead Snow’s more recent attempt.