Lionsgate // 2008 // 88 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Paul Pritchard (Retired) // October 31st, 2008
Trapped Between the Living and the Dead. Again.
Founded by Sam Raimi and Robert Tapert (Evil Dead 2), Ghost House Pictures has, thus far, released a fairly mixed slate of movies, with 30 Days of Night being the best offering from the company.
Preceding the return to the horror genre of Sam Raimi himself with the forthcoming Drag Me to Hell, Ghost House Pictures has released eight new movies under its recently founded "underground" label. The first run of titles, aimed at the home video market, includes the sequel to 2005's Reeker, No Man's Land: The Rise of Reeker, released internationally as Reeker 2.
A small diner, located on a remote strip out in the desert, becomes the setting for a showdown between the local police and a group of outlaws on the run following a casino heist. Following a shootout which sees the robbers appear to escape, the police, criminals, and members of the public find themselves being bumped off, one by one, by a masked killer clouded in a foul stench. The Reeker has returned.
'Twas an unbearably hot summer day when I first encountered the Reeker. Seeking a respite from the sun, which was beating down on me like the workhouse master from a Dickens novel, I suggested to my wife that we take shelter in the local multiplex. With very little showing that week, and the miracle of air-conditioning being more important than the actual movie, we settled on Reeker. Despite being a direct-to-video title in the States, Reeker had managed to secure itself a theatrical release in Europe and, though hardly setting the world alight, had picked up some positive reviews.
Having not crossed paths with the movie since that fateful day, my recollections of it are somewhat hazy. I do recall finding it somewhat unremarkable and, though I've seen far worse, found its rigid conformity to the horror rulebook a waste of a potentially interesting concept. My only real memory of the film involves one unfortunate character attempting to siphon petrol from a camper van, only to end up with a mouthful of the contents of the chemical toilet instead. Whether this says more about me than the film is debatable.
For those who haven't seen it, Reeker tells the story of a group of teens who, having recently been involved in a car crash, find themselves hunted down by a foul-smelling, power tool-wielding killer known as the Reeker. The "twist," which was wasted considering how poor the rest of the movie is, reveals that the victims are in a state of limbo following the earlier car crash and, through reasons that remain unexplained, must survive the onslaught of the Reeker if they wish to return to the land of the living. A cool idea sadly wasted.
No Man's Land: The Rise of Reeker acts as the sequel to the original film, while simultaneously offering a backstory which reveals how the Reeker came to be.
As a sequel, No Man's Land is guilty of merely retreading the exact same ground as Reeker, except for the aforementioned scenes that reveal the birth of the character. However, due to a surprising lack of imagination, the origin of the Reeker only serves to lessen the character's impact. A short epilogue, which suggests someone sees this becoming a franchise, plays on the ideas presented in the Reeker's origin scenes. This only emphasizes how, unless you have a genuinely great idea, presenting a reason/backstory for a villain can severely hinder the character's effectiveness. The biggest problem the film faces, which writer/director David Payne (returning from the original film) either chose to ignore or was just unable to overcome, is that the sense of mystery the original Reeker had is gone. We know exactly what is going on; the rules haven't changed this time around, so, apart from giving us new victims, No Man's Land relies on the rather weak origin story to find something new to say.
Much like its predecessor, No Man's Land: The Rise of Reeker gets the cast it deserves. Seemingly walking in from the set of a daytime soap, the actors on display give little hint of a future outside of DTV dross like this. Admittedly the material they are given leaves little opportunity for a breakout role for any of them, but still, everyone seems to be on autopilot as they drift towards the closing credits.
No Man's Land: The Rise of Reeker comes to DVD with a good quality 1.78:1 anamorphic transfer, with strong details throughout. The 5.1 soundtrack is also of a quality that surpasses the movie itself. Nice use of the rear speakers helps to recreate the barren desert landscape of the film's setting.
The extras on the disc, though plentiful, are of little interest. A behind-the-scenes featurette, running at a little more than 10 minutes, is full of cast and crew members talking about how great the movie is (did they watch a different movie?). Slightly more informative, but no less uninteresting, is the feature detailing the jobs of the crew. The final and most useless feature has members of the cast and crew naming their biggest fears. Rounding off the disc is a storyboard-to-screen comparison, which does exactly what it says on the tin, and a commentary track that patches together comments made by various members of the cast and crew.
Though it's highly unlikely anyone would confuse No Man's Land: The Rise of Reeker with a masterpiece, the film has respectable production values. Well-shot, with a number of well-realized scenes, the film is at least the equal of its predecessor.
Gorehounds of a more indiscriminate nature who don't mind enduring a pretty turgid movie, if it means witnessing some decent splatter, will find a few moments to relish in No Man's Land. The film's opening, which features a fairly graphic road accident, will whet their appetites before the main event: a character losing the top of his head while remaining fully conscious. Sadly it seems that budgetary constraints meant the effects could only be used sparingly, resulting in the semi-decap having to sport a plastic bag once the initial effect has been revealed.
With an attempt at adding weight to the character of the Reeker and an ending that plays on the newly created mythos, No Man's Land sees the Reeker entering franchise territory. Unfortunately, due to a lack of imagination and an unwillingness to move the concept forward, this is one horror series that seriously stinks.
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Scales of Justice
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
Running Time: 88 Minutes
Release Year: 2008
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* Audio Commentary with Cast and Crew
* "Behind the Scenes of No Man's Land: The Rise of Reeker"
* "The Production Team"
* "What Scares the Cast and Crew?"
* Storyboard to Screen Comparison
* Official Site