2006-11-10 17:05

Students Gretchen (Tina Illman) and Jack (Devon Gummersall) are headed to the party of the year, way out in the desert. They’re sharing the ride with a pair of mischievous roommates named Josh (Scott Whyte) and Nelson (Derek Richardson), and a party animal named Cookie (Arielle Kebbel). When the highway is inexplicably closed, and their car dies under them they find themselves stranded at a deserted motel. Undaunted, they settle in for the night, but their evening is soon interrupted by gruesome visions of mutilated travelers. The appearance of a retiree (Michael Ironside) searching for his missing wife confirms their worst fears. He too has seen the dying people - victims of a killer - a killer trailing the stench of decay and rot.


Horror flicks have always been a poor cousin in the world of film. Despite two golden ages which spawned screen icons like Dracula and Frankenstein (the ‘30s), Jason and Freddy Krueger (the ‘70s and early ‘80s), the genre has always been considered distasteful by “serious” filmmakers and watchers. That hasn’t stopped the fans though and, thanks to the internet, it looks like we have entered a bronze age of horror with gory little films like Reeker leading the charge.

Like most of its peers, Reeker operates within classic horror conventions, toying with established ideas and expectations rather than creating new ones. While it loses points for lack of originality, it quickly wins them back for intelligence and sheer effectiveness. Unlike po-faced remakes like Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Reeker seems to be a product of enjoyment and not slavish reverence to a lost era.

Not that this is an A-grade film. On the contrary, it is “B” right to its core, and that is part of the attraction. It plays directly to its late night, gore-loving audience, choosing to spend its energy on gruesome effects and elaborate death scenes and not plot or character.

And yet, B-grade or not, Reeker is surprisingly smart and unexpectedly funny. Director David Payne knows his audience backwards, and he lays out delightful little riffs on classic set ups, winking mischievously at us as we take the bait. The dialogue, however inane, is as natural it comes and the jokes are all right on the money. Payne seems to delight in making us jump, laugh and jump again, all within 30 seconds.

As far as the acting goes, the cast are likeable and largely inoffensive and the characters are well drawn enough to avoid irritating us, but this is no Capote. Look out for Tina Illman, a locally grown actress who also produced the film. It’s nice to see that not all South Africans who go to Hollywood have to ditch their accents.

In many ways Reeker is like Sting’s old band, The Police. When they started out they were, ostensibly, a punk band. But people soon realised that, unlike most punk bands, they could play more than three cords that there were complex musicians behind that simplistic genre definition. While David Payne may be no Gordon Sumner, he has a lot more talent than his choice of movie might suggest, and his movie is a lot better than it looks on the cover.

So roll up gore-fiends, and enjoy this juicy little tidbit of a movie. It’s not going to rock your world, but it’ll make you chuckle and, hopefully, jump right out of your seat.

- Alistair Fairweather
Gore meets giggles in Reeker, the kind of grungy, late night schlock-horror that fans of the genre will adore.

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