The Movie Waffler New Release Review - The Reaper | The Movie Waffler

New Release Review - The Reaper

A group of teens are stalked by a pick-axe wielding maniac in an abandoned amusement park.

Directed by: Kimberly Seilhamer
Starring: Tony Todd, Sally Kirkland, Douglas Tait, Tyler Wolfe, Jay Gillespie, Hope Jaymes, Christopher Raff, Amber Zion

Horror is that most delicate of beasts. It all looks so deceptively easy; kids will pay money to jump at the right moments and squeal at the gore. Within the confines of the genre then, the slasher film seems the easiest of all. Get a group of teenagers, stick them in a location, create an inventive killer and watch the money roll in. That the shelves of supermarkets and bargain bins are awash with this type of fare would then point to the contrary. John Carpenter's 'Halloween' may look deceptively simple, but is one of the most polished and well oiled of machines. Without a frame waste, compositions of the highest order and edited to within an inch of its life. 'Halloween' doesn't just assert itself as one of the best films of its type, but one of the all time greats in modern cinema.
So how does 'The Reaper' match up in the slasher stakes? In truth, not very well. When a group of teenagers are forced to go on a class field trip to a railroad museum as punishment for not completing an assignment on the Industrial Revolution, all seems so mundane. But when the school bus crashes on the way home, they find themselves stalked by a shadowy figure with a pick-axe. The teacher has vanished and the only place for miles is a working but abandoned amusement park. What could possibly go wrong?
The best films of this type always give you at least one character to root for; here, though, they are all such objectionable little shits you can't wait for them to be fed to the meat grinder. You have your Jocks, your shy nerd, the albino!!, the deaf girl et al, which the director is at pains to elaborate on. Jess (Jaymes) would appear to be the victim of sexual abuse from her father. Token fat kid Harold (Raff) would appear to be in a dangerously Oedipal relationship with his Grandmother (Kirkland). With the exception of Shawn (Gillespie), dealing with the pregnancy of his teenage girlfriend, none of these issues are ever dealt with or mentioned again. It's like the director, Seilhamer, is kicking her heels to pad out the runtime before we get to the meat of the matter.
Tony Todd turns up at the museum for a brief cameo as Mr Steele to spout vaguely threatening bollocks about the destructive power of trains, which doesn't make a huge amount of sense. But then Todd is blessed with one of those voices that has the ability to imbue even the most hackneyed of dialogue with a certain gravitas.
By the time the bus has crashed and the kids are enjoying the carnival, you get the feeling that you are watching a 'Final Destination' movie without the accident. These kids are so dumb that left to their own devices they would all be able to find a way to kill themselves accidentally before sunrise. Who needs a killer with a pick-axe when you have a teenager that thinks it's a super idea to climb to the top of a Ferris wheel. That the most likable character is deaf (Zion) might be because she is the only character that doesn't have to speak the cheesy dialogue (for some reason she never speaks, despite the fact at no stage are we told she is deaf and mute. However, as the characters are amazed she can lip read, maybe she thought it was the better option to say nothing).
Despite the character of Railroad Jack being slightly creepy, he is given so little to do before the rush to kill everyone as quickly as possible that he doesn't register as an unnerving presence. That and being saddled with a mystical edge with a voice-over that sounds half Mystic Meg, half 'Desperate Housewives' undermines the basic concept of the villain. The whole Railroad motif just does not make any sense, and the ending any seasoned horror fan will spot a mile off.
It's a sign of a film's ambitions when it opens with a cartoon character taking a dump on the floor and we open with the legend “A Madcrapper Films Production”. If that doesn't give you the idea that this endeavor is not being taken entirely seriously then nothing will. It may have the cachet of an Oscar nominee in it's cast, but then so did 'Sharktopus'. If you're an undemanding horror fan there may be some enjoyment for you.

Jason Abbey