A group of strangers finds common ground in a remote desert town when they realize they’re being hunted by a foul-smelling enemy. But can they stay alive long enough to neutralize the rotting killer who’s mucking up the air around them? Devon Gummersall (“My So-Called Life”), Eric Mabius (“Ugly Betty”) and veteran character actor Michael Ironside (Top Gun, Total Recall) co-star in this tongue-in-cheek horror romp from writer-director Dave Payne.
Pee-yeew! REEKER is a stinker. Boy, am I disappointed. I had all my delightfully tacky puns lined up and ready to go. Unfortunately, writer/director Dave Payne had to go and ruin it all by making a horror film that really surpassed my expectations. It just goes to show you that a film with a conventional set up and a crappy title, which could not even get a theatrical release in the United States, can still turn out to be a pretty good movie. This is one perfect example as to why movie lovers need to support independent cinema.
The plot follows five college students sharing a ride through the desert. When the main highway is inexplicably closed off, they find themselves stuck at a recently deserted travel destination where they are haunted by the mysterious apparitions of several grotesquely mutilated travelers. They suspect the disturbing sightings may explain why the diner and motel have so abruptly been abandoned. But when an odd man with a missing wife (played by veteran actor Michael Ironside) arrives in an RV, it confirms their darkest fears. He can also see the ghostly travelers and it becomes apparent to all of them that they are victims of a killer, likely responsible for the disappearance of the man’s wife.
Except this is no ordinary killer, but a dark forces which travels in an otherworldly form carrying with it the distinct stench of death. Led by Jack, a blind grad student with a heightened sense of smell (Devon Gummersall), and Gretchen (Tina Illman), a no nonsense coed with great survival instincts, they must figure out a way to make it through the night and find a way out of what appears to be an unexplained realm between the living and the dead.
Payne’s script really elevates the material above and beyond the standard conventions of the genre. All the characters seem to start out as bland stereotypes but quickly develop into multi-faceted individuals with little idiosyncrasies that make them very believable as people. Devon Gummersall does a great job at playing blind without falling into the inevitable clichés.
Payne’s decision to focus on a character with a disability works on multiple levels. It adds an additional dimension of fear as one can imagine being in a terrifying life or death situation and being completely in the dark, only being able to hear and not see what is going on. Consequently, his character has an advantage that the others do not—a heightened sense of smell. He can sense the killer coming before anyone else. That is just one clever device of many in
Payne’s crafty screenplay.
REEKER is deliberately intended to be mysterious. This works as a whole but can be a little irritating at times. We see glimpses of ghostly, mutilated travelers and even “The Reeker” himself without fully understanding what the hell is going on. There is a great twist at the end that puts everything into perspective. However, I can understand if at times the audience feels lost through out the second act of the film. Fortunately, there are several creative and gruesome death scenes at the hands of The Reeker that will keep audiences engaged till the thrilling conclusion. A good feel of suspense and mystery seems to be lacking from the majority of contemporary horror films. It was nice to see some of it again.
Dave Payne has recently completed a sequel to THE REEKER titled No Man’s Land: Rise of the Reeker. For all I know, it could be better than the original but I find that a little disappointing. Payne has a lot of talent, especially as a writer—which is the most difficult and important part of filmmaking. I understand his decision but I would have really liked to seen him dive into another original project. THE REEKER is a clever film and I recommend it to any horror fan who misses creativity and originality in the genre.