Not to be confused with the TV series of the same name; Reaper is the 2014 thriller/horror from director Philip Shih and writers Mark James/James Jurdi. The film features a strong cast including Danny Trejo (Machete Kills), Vinnie Jones (Snatch), Shayla Beesley (Sex and the USA), Jake Busey (From Dusk Till Dawn – TV Series), Christopher Judge (Stargate) and James Jurdi (Pocket Listing).
The story plays out initially like a typical road horror movie in the tradition of The Hills Have Eyes & The Hitcher. Hitch-hiker Natalie (Beesley) gets a ride with happy-go-lucky travelling salesman Bill (Busey). When Bill crosses the line Natalie turns the tables on him and we learn there is much more than meets the eye to this girl. This leads her to run into drug runner Brad (Jurdi) who is carrying out a pick-up for tough criminal boss Rob (Jones). Later on the pair meet Jack (Trejo) at the suitably named ‘Last Chance Hotel’ and the story turns somewhat sinister. The twists in this tale remind me a lot of Tarrentino’s writing for From Dusk Till Dawn.
The monster of the piece is ‘Reaper’; a former ordained preacher of a murderous cult that escapes his death row fate when an electrical fault occurs during his execution. This gives him abilities similar to Magneto where by he can control electricity to scare and shock his victims. There is a lot of religious symbolism here as represented by the neurotic motel operator Caine (Justin Henry).
I found the characters in this film really well developed; especially for a genre where there is usually more attention paid to killing off characters than giving them believable stories. Trejo plays a character he has played many times before and easily masters; the toughened criminal with morals. He even brandishes a Machete in tribute to his best known role. Beesley is a revelation as Natalie and we see her character jump off the screen and delve to new depths as the story develops. Busey; despite only making a brief appearance is electric as Bill and really helps to kickstart the film; following his success in the From Dusk Till Dawn TV series. I also really enjoyed Jurdi’s performance as self-interested criminal Brad.
The film does live up to it’s low budget credentials how-ever in terms of the production design, special effects and cinematography; this is very telling and the effects are minimal. In-fact, the ‘Reaper’ character is probably the least developed aspect of the film. There is nothing especially gory here and likewise there is not many big scares but this is made up for with strong writing/direction and a stellar cast that will keep you engaged till the end.
I don’t know if the Reaper character will be successful enough to fuel a sequel but as a stand-alone movie it is enjoyable and a must see for fans of this horror sub-genre.
Originally reviewed for Battle Royale With Cheese