‘Everyone dances with the Reaper…’
Jack the Reaper is a 2011 American horror feature film written and directed by Kimberly Seilhamer. The movie stars Tony Todd (Candyman, Final Destination, Hatchet), Sally Kirkland (Gnaw; Double Exposure, Fatal Games), Douglas Tait (Stitch), David Beeler, Chris Bruno, Joel Bryant and Stacey Carino.
Beyond the catchpenny crassness of the title, you’ll find a middling teen horror that doesn’t offer anything particularly new and finally leaves you which a sense of ‘huh?’.
A group of teens turns up on a Saturday morning to undergo a school trip as punishment for a missed homework assignment. The kids arrive one by one in order to make room for the back stories that horror films now think their cannon fodder needs. So we have the typically crass jock, his more sensitive brother who has just discovered that his girlfriend is pregnant, the spoilt brat, the deaf girl and her cousin (who has a crush of the aforementioned jock), the repressed fat kid, the albino and the possibly-being-abused-by-daddy girl.
The teens all head out to a local railroad museum, where they encounter Tony Todd, making one of his one-day, take the money and run appearances where he hams it up, lays on the sinisterness with a trowel and rambles on about railroad deaths and someone called Railroad Jack, who may or may not haunt the local area. The kids look as baffled as the viewer may be by all this, but sure enough, on the way home one of the girls freaks out after seeing a man at the side of the road (I mean, when does that ever happen?) before the bus driver is thrown into a swerve by the appearance of something in the road…
Unfortunately, you have to wait until we’re 51 minutes into the film -– having ‘enjoyed’ plenty of footage of teenagers on merry-go-rounds in the interim –- before the first kill. Railroad Jack -– a decently impressive character with missing eyes and a sinister demeanour –- starts killing off the kids in the traditional body count manner. Who will survive and will anyone watching care?
Jack the Reaper suffers from gaping plot holes, a level of illogical behaviour that even your regular horror characters might raise an eyebrow at and –- most heinously –- delayed gratification for the viewers who have tuned in to see a supernatural psycho offing annoying teens in inventive ways. The characters are all pretty irritating –- even those we are supposed to like -– and waiting the best part of an hour to see any of them killed is pretty unforgivable in a film that exists solely to show those scenes. What’s more, the actual killings lack any sense of invention or drama.
It’s a pity because, on many levels, Jack the Reaper is considerably better than you might expect. It’s reasonably well-shot and the acting is decent, if unremarkable – given that they are playing stereotypes and sub-teen soap cast-offs, the actors do a mostly solid job. Railroad Jack is a better supernatural monster than has been seen in many a bigger budget film and probably deserves a better script – one that actually gives him something to do despite look creepy.
Jack the Reaper ends with a whimper rather than a bang and unfortunately that just about sums the film up. A nice try, it’s ultimately let down by a screenplay that has plenty of ideas yet little coherence.
David Flint, MOVIES and MANIA