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Reeker (2005)

Paramount Home Entertainment
DVD Released: 9/25/2007

All Ratings out of
Movie: 1/2
Video: 1/2

Review by Mike Long, Posted on 9/11/2007

Last October, Paramount Home Entertainment announced the release of three horror films on DVD through their Showtime Entertainment imprint. (It's my assumption that all three films had appeared on the Showtime channel.) The films were The Roost, The Curse of El Charro, and Reeker. However, Reeker was cancelled at the last minute and only the other two titles were released. Now, a year later, Reeker is finally ready to make its DVD debut.

Reeker tells the story of five college students who are traveling through the desert on their way to some sort of party/rave thing. Gretchen (Tina Illman), a no-nonsense woman from South Africa is driving. Up front with her is Nelson (Derek Richardson), a standard nice guy. In back is Trip (Scott Whyte), a wiseass, Jack (Devon Gummersall), a well-adjusted person who is blind, and Cookie (Arielle Kebbel), a free-spirited and slightly naive young woman. When Gretchen learns that Trip is carrying thousands of dollars worth of stolen ecstasy, she refuses to take him any further and plans on letting him off at a diner which the group had visited.

But, once they return to the diner, they find it abandoned. They search the restaurant and the adjacent motel, but can't find anyone. In addition, it's beginning to get dark, they only get static on the radio and they can't get any cell phone reception. Gretchen's jeep has developed a fuel-line leak, and although Trip patches the leak, there's no way to refill the gas tank. Thus, the group decides to stay at the desert oasis for the night. Then, strange things begin to happen. Each member of the group (well, save for Jack) sees a different mysterious, often injured person, who suddenly vanishes. Following this, a dark creature, whose presence is signaled by a disgusting scent begins to stalk the group. Will they be able to last until sunrise?

English is a very complicated and dense language and most words can have multiple meanings. Some words can have a different meaning when used as a colloquialism. To me, the word "reek" means to smell bad. When I first saw the title Reeker, I thought, "That can't have anything to do with a bad smell." But, sure enough, the title refers to the creature in the film, whose M.O. involves a gag-inducing scent. Other than movies involving Bigfoot, you don't see a lot of stinky monsters in horror films.

The smelly monster isn't in the only quasi-unique touch in Reeker. Writer/director Dave Payne has attempted to take several familiar facets and sub-genres of horror and mix them in an unusual way. Despite the fact that a pre-credit sequence hints at something supernatural, when the group first returns to find the diner & motel deserted, the viewer may think that they are in for a "traveler gets waylaid by crazy locals” ala Texas Chainsaw Massacrew or the recent Vacancy. Then, the group begins to suspect that they’ve been cut off form the outside world, as they can’t find anyone or communicate with anyone. This reminded me of Dean Koontz’s Phantoms. (The novel, not the movie. Although, as you may have heard, Affleck is the bomb in Phantoms.) Then, the group finds themselves under siege from a shape-shifting monster who seems impervious to harm and has the ability to attack from anywhere. Reeker’s twist ending brings the whole thing full-circle.

This mix of horror sub-genres keeps Reeker feeling fresh for a while, but the second half of the film feels very redundant, as we watch these characters get spooked by the titular creature. This is mixed with an uneven editing style, as the movie tries to keep track of everyone when the characters separate. It often seems to cut just when something is about to happen to a character, negating any suspense. The movie also asks the audience to take a very long journey with it, as no explanation as to what is happening is forthcoming until the twist is revealed. (Although, astute viewers will most likely get an idea of what is going on.) The problem here is that the twist is nearly a 100% cheat. Once the movie goes back and explains everything, most of it falls into place. (Although it never really meshes with the pre-credit sequence.) But, we also realize that precious little information was given to the viewer during the film. And, once the revelation comes, we realize that we’ve seen it all before.

For a direct-to-cable and then to DVD movie, Reeker really isn’t that bad. I would still love to know why the release of this DVD was delayed, as this movie is light years better than the ridiculous The Curse of El Charro. The characters are interesting (save for Gretchen, who is the director’s wife), there are some nice gore sequences, and the story will have the viewer guessing until the end. Director Dave Payne has attempted to take a fresh approach to some stale ideas. But, the movie does have some pacing issues and the ending feels like a cheat. Still, when was the last time that you saw a horror movie where the characters stopped to sniff the air when the monster was nearby? (Apparently, that answer is going to be “2”, as a sequel to Reeker is in the works.)

Reeker hangs a cloying scent on DVD courtesy of Paramount Home Entertainment. The movie has been letterboxed at 1.85:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. For the most part, the image here is sharp and clear. The film’s opening daytime, desert scenes look good, as they are relatively free from grain. But, most of the film takes place at night, and these scenes look somewhat flat -- although the image is never overly dark. The colors look fine and the framing appears to be accurate. The DVD has a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track, although the 2.0 track is the default track. This may be because this 5.1 track doesn’t really sound like a 5.1 track. The dialogue is clear and audible, but we get very little in the way of stereo or surround effects. However, there is a lot of subwoofer action, which, at times, drowns out the dialogue.

The DVD features “The Making of Reeker” (11 minutes), which is a fairly standard featurette. The actors discuss their characters and the director talks about his ideas for the film. We are treated to a nice amount of behind-the-scenes footage here. The only other extra is a PHOTO GALLERY.

Review Copyright 2007 by Mike Long