I am about to totally spoil this film, so if you hate spoilers stop reading. I hate to read spoilers myself, but I seem to have no qualms about employing them. Why? We are talking about formulaic horror films and for the most part and I figure out endings in the first ten or fifteen minutes anyway. Sometimes I try not to and still do. I did not figure out the ending to Reeker (or The Reeker) but it is only because I did not think it warranted much thought and the film was more than a bit bewildering as it went along anyway. It is hard to reason how a film might end when you not sure what the hell is even gone at the moment you're watching it. So, the deal here is that everybody, well almost everybody, in the film is dead. And you don’t find that out until the final few minutes of the film. Somehow that is supposed to suddenly have the film all fall into place and make sense. It doesn’t. And the reason I spoiled the film –other than neurotic compulsion- is that the ending simply does not work. In some films it does. The ending where the person is either dead or in some sort of coma and they are having an artificial reality fed to them somehow. Like the film Vanilla Sky with Tom Cruise. Whether you like that film or not the way it is done works a bit. Not perfectly maybe, but suddenly you starting piecing things together. In the 2005 film Reeker that does not happen as there is not that much prior to the film’s ending that really has you wondering what is happening. Not in a positive way anyway. There is no reason that everybody has to be dead and nothing in the film would have you accept the ending as anything other than a cheap shot ending. And sure horror film’s are infamous for cheap shot endings but I hate it when a half way decent horror film is ruined by a pseudo-pretentious ending. I figured the ending might have something to do with the fact everybody is near Area 51 or that some of them are doing psychoactive drugs. But nothing of the sort. It has to be that they are all, in fact, dead. Running around doing stuff all on their own but they are all dead.
So there, I ruined it all. But I am not saying the film is not worth giving a single viewing. It seems to start off well and you get the sense something is going really happen. There are creepy moments that sadly go nowhere and the realization at the end that they are in some nether world where anything can happen only makes you more frustrated because the situation is never really explored and/or exploited by the filmmakers. Typically films where it all winds up being someone on drugs, or dead or in a coma -or even where it all winds up being the worst of all possible endings, a friggin' dream!- filmmakers can go a bit overboard with the hallucinations and weirdness and effects. Does not happen here.
What does happen is a group of teens are headed for a rave or party out in the desert near Area 51. One of the kids, an annoying frat-boy, decides to steal thousands of dollars worth of psychoactive drugs from the sort of drug dealer you don’t even want to steal one extra pill from. The group has the asshole frat-boy’s more sensitive frat-boy buddy, two hot babes (one played by Arielle Kebbel) and the standard horror movie character you can never do without… the blind guy! Yea, there is a blind guy tagging along for some reason. When the full of herself gal from South Africa Gretchen decides she cannot tolerate too many drugs in her car –a few okay, but not too many- she decides to leave frat boy/asshole Trip out in the desert to fend for himself. The rest of the group insist she at least take the jerk back to the diner they had stopped at earlier and she decides that is not too unreasonable, since he would probably die of exposure out in the scorching wilderness, though it he probably deserves it. Upon getting back to the junction and diner/hotel they find it abandoned.
Weird things seem to be happening, but not really all that weird. Less weird than Vanilla Sky anyway. In fact at this point nothing much really happens. Night falls and horror veteran Michael Ironside has a brief role as a man in an RV looking for his wife. People with mutilated faces appear and disappear, truckers cut off at the torso crawl out of dumpsters and sometimes you can see someone staring at you from a window, but when you look again they are, eh, gone. While the movie has brief moments of violence and gore they are few and far between. Some scenes are wasted, like the one were cute little Arielle Kebbel is pulled down into the festering shit hole of an outhouse toilet. I know what you’re thinking. The same thing I was. There is so much possibility with a scene like this, but it is totally wasted. She just gets sucked down and that is it. Much of the violence takes place off camera even. Trip the frat-boy winds up later with his arm hewn off and we never see it happen, or maybe the version I watched was edited. That’s possible I guess. First cheated out a pretty girl being mangled on a toilet then not seeing the most unlikable guy in the film get his arm hacked off is just too much. Eventually we meet the Reeker himself, and I guess he is Death, with a capital D. And death has long dispensed with using a scythe and now uses electric drills and saws. Why? I don’t know. I don’t care.
Not without its moments I suppose. Check it out, you might like it. I was liking it for the first half hour or so to be honest, but the last part just did not go anywhere. The ending was simply lame in my view. But I am way too jaded by now. The Reeker character was nothing special really. Not poorly shot and the acting is okay. The direction by David Payne is not too shabby really. The script (also by David Payne) is more of the problem. The characters are shallow stereotypes and the story is just not that great. Some people disagree. They have that “low budget masterpiece” sense of awe about films like this I lack. Low budget does not mean bad, but it does excuse bad dialog and storytelling either. Payne went and made a prequel that is supposed to explain the Reeker character and I may check it out but it is has not been added to my list of films to see before I die.