Reeker (2005 film) review…

Reeker (2005 film) review after the break…

Reeker (2005 film) review…

A famous director was once asked why so many Hollywood movies kept using the same plot conventions over and over again. The director replied, “Because they work.”

We all expect older people to be more likely to pass away then a younger person. Although their passing is no less sad then any other, we may take comfort that at least they had the opportunity to live a full life.

Therefore, when younger people pass away or are otherwise killed, it is viewed as a greater tragedy. The untimely death is a greater “shock” and evokes a deeper emotional response. This is one of the reasons why the plot convention of “young people being stalked by a serial killer” works – Because it is viewed as habitually unfair to chase down and kill people who still have a lot of living left to do. Of course, it also doesn’t hurt that young adults are more likely to spend their money on a movie then someone who’s receiving a social security check. How many 23-year olds want to watch a film about a group of 70-year olds getting slaughtered by someone in a hockey mask and with a chainsaw? And would it be much of a fight?

“Reeker” is a 2005 movie about 5 college-aged young adults driving through the desert to reach a large party. Obviously, they don’t reach the party but they do encounter a certain something that wants to prevent any of them from reaching safety… Or does it?

It would be difficult to fully review this film (and, no, I will resist the director’s taunts to use the phrase “this film stinks” or some other variant) without spoiling the film. The film depends upon a “final twist,” much like revealing that the actor Bruce Willis was playing a ghost throughout most of the film “The Sixth Sense.” Therefore, if you don’t want the movie spoiled, here’s as much as I can write: A fair “slasher” film based upon a modestly inventive but previously used plot convention.

“Reeker” is in that class of “Inevitable” slasher films, the ones where the victims don’t know that they’re victims regardless of what they do or how they do it. Unlike the film series “Final Destination” where the victims have little to no chance of survival if they truly are meant to die, it’s unclear if “Reeker” gives it’s victims a greater chance to live. Victims smell an undesirable odor, a ghastly figure emerges from the odor and then proceeds to butcher the victim.

However, “Reeker” also puts it’s victims into a purgatory during this entire process, much like movies such as “Identity” with actor John Cusack where the setting is an allegory to what ever is occurring in “real life.”

The cast is a mixed group: A female driver hoping to make up with her boyfriend, a blind male who’s accident was responsible for the way that “jarts” are dealt with in America, a male who has just stolen a lot of party drugs and a young couple who will inevitably discover that having sex in a horror movie tends to be a bad idea (for your mortality, at least).

The action doesn’t really start until they arrive upon an abandoned motel at the verge of dropping off the obnoxious “party drug” student. With a suddenly dead vehicle, the group is forced to explore their creepy and deserted surroundings. Obviously, there’s really poor cell phone service in this film’s purgatory – How the world of horror adapts to our ever-changing technological landscape! What next? A horror movie about iPhone apps?

The entire movie hinges on the “final twist” – That our actors are in a netherworld, playing out the mortality that is served to them through a real-world automobile accident involving a recreational vehicle and the vengeful party drug manufacturer who sees the accident happen.

I almost felt that the final twist took away from the slight artfulness of the serial killer – A rancid odor that eventually personifies into an actual humanoid. Unfortunately, I just didn’t feel that the serial killer was developed fully – Is “Reeker” death itself or merely just another stock serial killer? Can you “escape” from Reeker or has your death already been decided? Why does Reeker need to manifest itself at all into a humanoid killer?

The movie turns out to be more complex then it needs to be upon a full viewing. While the automobile accident is creative, did they really need the “RV sub-plot” as well as the introductory sequence involving a family mini-van? Is the motel the purgatory setting for everyone in the area? I just didn’t feel that the introductory sequence was necessary, especially for a movie that relies so heavily upon the final twist – Why potentially reveal so much of the twist away in the first few minutes of the film? Why did the family in the mini-van “die” by the side of the road when the college students “die” at the motel in purgatory but “die” in real life on the road? And wouldn’t the cops wonder why the “hero” of the accident just happens to be there?

This film might’ve worked better had there been more mystery and less gore – Why is the motel abandoned? Why doesn’t the car run? If your film depends upon such a big final twist, why the emphasis on a conventional serial killer? Why not just use a cloud of odor and have people’s reaction from that odor be their death? Nelson’s death isn’t from “Reeker” but escaping Reeker’s odor by jumping through a plate glass window – A perfectly rational attempt at escape. Also, why not use a window fan to blow the odor away? The film might’ve attempted a sort of “Pitch Black” with odor taking the place of darkness. Imagine the group surrounded by every conceivable fan blowing outwards away from them.

The problem with a movie that relies so heavily upon a final twist is that the final twist must be crisp as a cipher to “solve” all of the unresolved questions the movie poses. The final twist in “Reeker” might’ve been slightly innovative but poorly resolves some of the lingering questions that “Reeker” poses.

“Reeker” doesn’t “stink” but it did need a tighter script and a more realized sense of identity. Is it fair for people to call this an inferior “Final Destination” clone? Sadly, yes, but it didn’t have to be that way and that’s what really stinks about this film.


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