Jarv’s Schlock Vault: No Man’s Land: The Rise of Reeker
I once stole money from a quadriplegic because I needed shoes
This is a turn up for the books, and I’m not joking here. Ordinarily, a DTV slasher sequel has basically one of two ways to go: it can either produce a lame facsimile of the first film, or it can completely ignore it and throw something truly bugnuts out into the world. The latter is probably the better way to go, and when successful can throw up some absolutely hilarious efforts such as the two Prom Night Mary Lou efforts. David Payne, however, when returning to Reeker in 2008 thought he’d try his hand at something slightly different, and, I have to say, that I’m truly impressed at the final result, because Reeker 2 (I’m not typing the whole title out every time) is far far better than it has any right to be.
Absolutely contains stinking fucking spoilers to both this and the first film below.
Opening in 1978, we’re introduced to a travelling salesman (Michael Robert Brandon) driving across Death Valley. He has an unnerving encounter with a hitchhiker then drives off about 100 yards when he stops the car. The Hitcher thinks that he’s come to his senses and is going to offer the lift, when the salesman accelerates back at a rate of knots and smears him all over the concrete. One messy murder later, and we return to the Salesman’s shack in the deserts. It’s, frankly, disgusting and nobody shares the horror more than David Stanbra’s Deputy McAllister. He should be fucked, but unexpectedly the Salesman turns himself in. Cue a couple of interviews with the Salesman where he lays out that he’s obeying the orders of the voices and when he dies he will capture souls until his flesh is no more. The world, understandably, lets out a sigh of relief when this nutter is finally consigned to the gas chamber, but cut back to the shack in the desert, and there he is, bloody, crawling, and ready for his new purpose. This is where the spoilers now appear.
The premise of the first film was that our central characters were actually dead the whole time, and the Reeker was merely ushering their souls into the next world, so all wounds were similar to those inflicted in the car crash. Think Final Destination with an actual manifestation of Death. Reeker 2, obviously, knows the big twist from the first film, and therefore the usual slasher template, is a bust, so has to operate on a different level. Therefore, the main crux of the plot, victims caught in an isolated location being picked off by a masked killer, is going to struggle if its to be anything more than a rehash (of the lame variety) of the first film.
We’re introduced to our cast of victims, there’s Sherrif McAllister (Robert Pine), his son (who will be taking over) Harris (Michael Muhney), unhappy waitress Maya (Mircea Monroe) and a few others that will become relevant shortly. Into this mix is added psychotic Binky (Desmond Askew) and fuckup Alex (Stephen Martines), Maya’s ex. The two dimwits have robbed a casino and in a spectacular act of fuckuppery ignite the petrol pumps blowing the whole mess sky-high. The screen flickers briefly and our characters are now isolated, joined only by Allison (Valerie Cruz), a local doctor, and briefly, a drunken exposition-fueled injun to tell us important need-to-know information. Our characters waste no time in investigating their surroundings, with mildly amusing results, and Reeker appears frequently to pick them off one by one. The film ends with our survivor (no prizes for guessing who) destroys Reeker in a big fucking explosion.
This, and I know it’s an immensely dumb thing to say, can be enjoyed on a few levels depending what you’re after from a slasher movie- if you are a standard gorehound type then the variety and ingenuity of the kills is more than enough to keep you interested. If you know the first movie, there’s plenty of entertainment to be found from trying to tie in the way the characters are punched out with what happened in the first accident. However, I found the extension of the mythology and the creation of the wraith genuinely interesting, and as an idea for an unstoppable killing machine goes, this is an absolute cracker. Reeker has a reason for his actions, but we’re never allowed an insight into who is pulling his strings. He’s merely the agent of death operating almost with absolute impunity, and there’s a certain entertainment value in watching our motley crew of corpses banging their heads against fate in the most futile way.
The performances, with the exception of Brandon are little more than passable, and the writing, aside from the cleverness of the central premise, ditto. Occasionally the odd piece of dialogue (the exchange between Alex and Harris, for example) sparkles, but mostly it veers towards the exposition heavy (particularly from Allison). There is also the odd hilarious set piece, such as Binky crashing his car into an invisible barrier with gruesome and highly amusing consequences. Overall, though, the strengths of this film don’t like in acting or writing.
Where they do lie is in the direction. By far the worst thing about the first film, and what stopped it getting an approval, was the completely idiotic smell-o-vision. Payne has learnt from his mistakes, and this is now, thankfully, a thing of the past. Furthermore, he’s aware that he has a supernatural monster on his hands, so has come up with a clever visual trick with Reeker edited to move in a disjointed fashion. It’s a simple effect, but it works with no little style and adds a layer of creepiness to Reeker that serves the film well. Reeker himself, incidentally, is an excellent villain- the zombie and gas-mask makeup and costume is itself inherently creepy, and he has a not inconsiderable presence on the screen.
Overall, this is clearly a heavily flawed movie: the performances are passable, the script contains moments of brilliance but mostly lives in the mundane, and it is, essentially, just a slasher movie. Although one that provides a very impressive set of bells and whistles. Nevertheless, the mythology is well thought out, the makeup and effects are impressive given the budget, and quite simply it is entertaining. Furthermore, the villain himself makes a supremely welcome addition to the slasher monsters, and I found myself enjoying the film far more than I otherwise should have been. No Man’s Land: the Rise of Reeker, is an impressive and assured DTV effort that is quite simply far better than it has any right to be.
Incidentally, and hilariously, part of the budget for No Man’s Land: The Rise of Reeker was supplied by the Council for Ethical Use of Cellphones at Gas Pumps (this is wholly appropriate). I didn’t even know such a body existed, and given events in the film, I’m not surprised they funded it.
Next up, I’m not really sure, but I doubt very much it’ll be of the same standard as this.