21st Sep2013

‘The Reaper’ Review

by Phil Wheat

Stars: Tony Todd, Sally Kirkland, Douglas Tait, David Beeler, Joel Bryant, Stacey Carino, Richardson Chery, Adam David, Jemal Draco | Written and Directed by Kimberly Seilhamer

Reaper-header

An albino, a deaf mute, a jock, a fat kid, a sexually-abused girl and a token “Angry Asian” chick all get on a bus… Sounds like the start of some strange non-PC joke right? Well it’s not. It’s actually how writer/director Kimberly Seilhamer chooses to open her directorial debut Jack the Reaper - a great pun which is lost in the films re-titling to merely The Reaper.

The film follows a group of teenage stereotypes all forced into Saturday detention in the library at the railroad museum (really?) after failing to turn in a paper on the Industrial Revolution. What one has to do with the other I’m not sure – well the railroad was important in getting the products of industry across the US right.. ? And why any teacher in his right mind would take a group of slackers on a field trip for failing to write a paper I don’t know. Surely it would be easier to just make them sit a test! Anyway, when the bus carrying our illustrious group of teens back from their school field trip crashes, Jack (played by stuntman Douglas Tait) lures them to a nearby carnival where he picks them off one by one.

Yes it’s The Breakfast Club meets Friday the 13th… with a guest appearance by Tony Todd giving his best impression of his mortician character from the Final Destination movies, foreshadowing the events to come by telling the kids at his museum the tale of Railroad Jack.

Obviously shot all-digital, on a miniscule budget, The Reaper is your bog-standard slasher-movie wannabe, even if the budget doesn’t even stretch to some decent on-screen massacres. Instead we get a number of not-even-seen deaths and one death by ferris wheel that could easily be construed as a mere accident and not a murder by Railroad Jack. The film also wastes a hell of a lot of time on perfunctory arguments between its teen cast who, as Hollywood films have taught us, all look 25 or older – as well as some ridiculous (and dangerous may I add) activities at the carnival. In fact it isn’t until over halfway through the film that we get any Railroad Jack action!

Oh, and you know all the character cliches the film set up at the beginning? Well by the time the film is over both you, and the characters themselves, will have forgotten anything about them! Talk about a wasted opportunity…

And that’s the best you can say about The Reaper. It’s a wasted opportunity. There’s a good idea at the heart of the film, Railroad Jack is an interesting character – both in looks and motivation, there are some (small) flourishes in the storytelling and even a few of the films larger-than-usual teen cast are actually watchable… and convincing, but none of that raises the film anywhere above sub-par. Hell, there’s not even some decent gore that typically saves these types of low-budget slashers – although you have to find humour in Railroad Jack planting his pickaxe through the ears of the deaf girl!

Saved somewhat by a great twist ending, The Reaper is released on DVD on September 23rd, courtesy of Safecracker Pictures.

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One Response to “‘The Reaper’ Review”

  • Jason L.

    I have been wanting to see this, thanks the review. I always enjoy watching Tony Todd, and Douglas Tate is superb at playing roles behind makeup. Still will give it a shot.