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Reeker: The Scent of Payne
Every horror movie with a monster in it likes to create a gimmick, a "brand" if you will, that sets it apart from the rest of the pack. Once Jason Voorhees inspired an insane amount of imitators, they gave him his now signature hockey mask. Freddy Krueger wasn't just a scary burn victim....he was a scary burn victim with a fistful of knives. Unique villains are just part and parcel to making a horror film that's not a knockoff. So when David Payne, the director/writer of Reeker (2005) and the man behind such horror "greats" as Alien Terminator, sat down to create his epic piece of horror cinema he thought long and hard. He stayed up late agonizing over what has and hasn't been done in the genre. And then, as he sat upon the toilet, it came to him (I only assume). No one's made a STINK-based horror movie. Instead of flushing the idea (and wiping, hopefully) like most of us would, he took that little loaf of inspiration and decided to film it. But what to call this masterpiece? And thus, Reeker was born.
Oh man. When you name your movie with the effective title "Stinker", you're just asking to be called crap. Like, it's too easy. Oddly enough, David knew this. Check out this message in the end credits:
Sweet Jesus, he actually put a preemptive "YOU GUYS SUCK FOR MAKING FUN OF THE TITLE OF MY MOVIE" message into his credits. Obvious self-esteem issues aside, I kind of like how the credits actually contain the phrase "this movie stinks." Screw context, whenever I have to say that, I'm going to cite the credits as my source. Ah, the joy of misquotation.
If you'll humor me for just another moment, there is something else we need to talk about before we dive into the stench of Reeker. Most DVD's now have all sorts of bonus features. On the Reeker DVD we get mini-interviews with the cast and crew. I actually watched these before watching the actually movie. Don't ask me why. I'm just the kind of guy who peeks at his Christmas presents if he can.
Say hi to David Payne. Besides giving us two big thumbs up, he's got a lot to say about his masterpiece. Well, maybe not lot but he does let you know how he sees his own film. He calls his film an "intellectual" horror, which raises the bar pretty high already. Luckily we're going to later find out that David has a different definition of the word "intellectual" from most of humanity, but let's not get ahead of ourselves. He talks about the difficulty of making a stink-themed film without making fart jokes. Which, funnily enough the very first line of the movie is "I spy something that starts with F........Daddy's Fart!" There's also an extended "toilet" scene in the movie that, well, you'll see. It just makes me wonder why they put this interview on the DVD. Maybe this is a Stunt David Payne pulling a Jim Jarmusch. (Jim Jarmusch has sent people pretending to be him to press interviews, in case you didn't know. Guy is nuts, but in that awesome way.) The other thing that's said in these interviews is that Reeker is a brand new genre. There's the weird implication that it's not a horror movie. They don't come out and say it like that, but it's pretty overtly implied. If you do rent this film (or find it in the gutter) check out the extras to know what I'm talking about.
Enough blather. We now know that Reeker is an "intellectual" film that may or may not be the first of a brand new genre of horror and does not, in any way, contain any fart jokes. With that in mind, let's do this.
The very first scene starts when a family (talking about farts) pulls to the side of the road and get mutilated by an unseen and very smelly creature. This is the film's introduction, here to convince you not to turn off your DVD player.
(My editor tells me this image may be too gruesome to be safe for work. I disagree, but hey, Compromise Thumbnail!)
I thought that'd get your attention. This is the special effect that gets you into the movie. It's undeniably a pretty good special effect. The bad news is that it happens in the first two minutes of the movie. The other bit of bad news is that nothing else in the film can even compare to this. And I do mean that. All the other deaths that happen in this film are much more low-key and nowhere near as brutal as this. Now that you've seen the best we've got coming our way, the opening credits begin to roll and the Reek-fest begins.
The film's one real location is the "Halfway Travel Oasis". It's a rest stop in the desert and, well, a whole bunch of young college kids get stranded there. The cast is pretty standard: young woman looking to be re-united with her cheating boyfriend, the druggie/jerk loner, and the sensitive new guy in the group who ends up being one of the heroes. The rest stop turns out to be something from the twilight zone. The television and radio aren't working, all the people that were there have disappeared, and someone just found a legless trucker in a dumpster. At this point in the film, I was pretty damn interested in what was going on. Why the hell was there a legless trucker in the garbage? Where has everyone gone? What the hell is Michael Ironsides doing in this film?
Michael's the guy who rocked the 80's by being in great movies like Scanners and not so great movies like Highlander 2. He's only got a tiny cameo role but at least he has the grace to die before the film implodes on itself.
So I kind of skimmed over it but all you need to know about the plot is that young, beautiful people are stranded at a rest stop/motel. There's lots of mysterious things going down. And then....the movie turns into a slasher flick. We go straight from Twilight Zone to, well, this:
THE OBLIGATORY GIRL (WHO WAS ABOUT TO HAVE SEX) IN PANTIES GETTING KILLED SCENE
I've always wondered whose job it was on the set to pinch the actresses' nipples before the camera starts rolling. Did the director shout into a bullhorn "Perkier! I want those nipples to cut glass!" I doubt it, but then again, you never know.
Anyway "cute girl who's about to die" has to go to the bathroom before she does the nasty. Oddly enough this is a motel without any toilets (most realistic premise to get a girl in panties outside ever) so she goes looking for an outhouse.
All seems to be going well. Well, maybe not. Few films actually show a female lead wiping her crotch with toilet paper, and even fewer show that same actress lifting up the used toilet paper to get a good look at it. Apparently "Girl who's about to die" has a bleeding crotch? The hell?
And then a robotic claw reaches out of the toilet and murders her. Yes, you read that right. A big cyborg robot arm...with spinning blades.
My favorite moment in this scene would have to be when she grabs the toilet paper and tries to pull her self to freedom. Remember this death. When we find out about the "surprise ending that explains everything" this toilet death will be important. Oh and while it's not a "fart joke" I'd say a scene where a woman gets sucked into a toilet and takes the toilet paper with her has got to be pretty damn close.
The mysterious slasher with the robotic claw also has magical powers, as he controls someone's Mp3 player to get it to play the funeral march before trying to pull him beneath the bed. The character ends up getting killed when he jumps through a window, while another one gets chopped/drilled to bits. While the Mp3 player is on my mind, let me share one of the interviews found on the DVD extras:
Interviewer: So, tell me about your character.
Derek Richardson: Well, I play Nelson and....he...um....has an Mp3 player and he.......uh.....dies on page 87.
You have no idea how hard I was laughing when I first watched that. When asked about his character he pretty much admits he didn't have one. This really is an intellectual horror.
So who/what is the Reeker?
When we finally do see the Reeker, he's got a cape and gasmask on. He's also got a huge robotic claw arm that, well, is how he kills you. The Reeker is also surrounded by a "cloud of reeking air" that's pretty much an Adobe AfterEffect gone wild. You can't actually see the monster so well because he's surrounded by a fuzzy distortion effect. It's not bad, but it's one of those special effects that's overtly over done. Why would they do this?
Because with a digital effect making it hard to see they can turn the above, into this:
Holy crap. The Reeker is a :deep breath: MAGICAL CYBORG STINK-ZOMBIE (in a cape). Where's the Scooby Doo gang when you need them? This is the main issue I've got with this film. It goes from mystery to, well, generic slasher monster film. Sort of. It's hard to call a magical cyborg stink-zombie generic, but you get my meaning.
I do like how he drills the brain of Mr. Sensitive though. Yes, the Reeker has all sorts of attachments for his robot arm. One of them helps him clean the couch, I'm certain. The two survivors make it to dawn and hop in their car. One of them starts to warble on about how you can't escape Death. Because, it ends up being true.
Oh My God, there's a Stink Zombie on the Roof!
The characters decide they can't be afraid of death so they crash the car instead of being mutilated by the Reeker. Not being afraid of something is one thing, but there are limits. If I wasn't afraid of bears I still wouldn't lube myself up with honey and start trying to wrestle one. Then again, "You can't be afraid of death" sure sounds like good last words before committing suicide. Luckily, this is what they needed to do to get past the Reeker and unlock the secret ending.
The ending that'll make this film intellectual.
The ending that'll make Reeker a new genre of horror.
An ending with no fart jokes.
After the crash, we learn that all the characters were in a fatal car accident. So the film was all a dream. Sort of. Apparently the Reeker is the Grim Reaper (not Grim Reeker) who ferries dead folks (or almost dead) into the afterlife by murdering their souls in exactly the same way that they originally died. That character who died when he jumped out of the motel window? He died when the flew through the car's windshield. The character who had his arm chopped off by the Reeker? He lost his arm in the crash. And so on. So the Reeker is really Death who murders people to match how they died. Apparently if I'd died because a swarm of rats ate me, in limbo he'd be chasing after me with a ballistic robot arm that shot rodents in my direction.
1: If the Reeker is only killing people in the manner that they died in the crash, what the HELL was up with the girl in panties getting sucked into the toilet? Did she crap herself like crazy when she died? Was that it?
2. This "intellectual" plot twist isn't that original. Sure, it's one step in the direction of "It was all a dream" but don't let that fool you. This gimmick has been appearing in films for decades...this movie just happens to be the first zombie robot slasher film to use it. Funnily enough, there was another film that came out a few years earlier (2003) that takes the same premise (all the characters are in limbo after a car crash) and ends up making a movie that I love.
Seriously, you should check it out. It's good enough that I CAN'T review it on the site. While Reeker took the premise and made a stinky zombie slasher film, Dead End took that and ended up making a suspense/drama two years before Reeker hit the discount rental aisle. It's still scary, but the joy of this film is that the characters figure out that they're dead somewhere in the middle of the story and all start having psychotic breakdowns. Unlike the cast of Reeker, who pretty much walk around with confused looks on their faces before running like hell from a magical zombie robot-thing. Both these flicks are horror films, but only one of them is worth watching. I'll let you figure out which one.
Oh, and did I mention that they're making a sequel?
Hopefully, now that the SUPER INTELLECTUAL ENDING of Reeker is known, the sequel can just accept itself as a zombie robot slasher movie. Oh wait, maybe he's been upgraded! Reeker 2: Fear the Ninja Robot Zombie Monkey that Stinks. Or whatever. I just don't know anymore.
In closing, allow me to quote the filmmakers themselves as per their credits:
"This film stinks."
PS: Reeker did end up getting a slot on my Strange Halloween celebration. Enjoy:
Copyright 2007 Jared von Hindman or maybe just Jared Hindman. It depends. Any images used that are not Jared's are used via Fair Use review purposes and belong to their respective owners....who are nice people that don't want to sue me. Oh and if your name is David Payne, thanks for having a sense of humor. I'm just glad you're not the kind of guy to google your own name with regularity.
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