Five people take a road trip to a rave. “Trip” brings enough ecstasy for the five of them and basically everyone they know. This angers Gretchen, who would rather dump Trip off on the side of the road then get busted with that much illegal narcotics in her car. After the two disagree on how they should deal with this problem, the five find themselves stranded and out of gas at a motel that is mysteriously deserted. It is at this motel that they become the target of something known as the Reeker.
The movie begins with a family driving through a desert, apparently on vacation. While the father and family dog is sleeping in the back seat, the mother and son play a game of “I Spy.” Thanks to the mother taking her eyes off the road, the car plows right into a deer and immediately swerves off the road. While the father inspects the damage to the front of the car the family dog runs off and is soon yelping in the distance. The father goes to find the dog, leaving his wife and son in the car. Unfortunately, the first to return is the dog, missing its entire hindquarters and dragging itself through a pool of its own blood. Then the son screams and the wife turns to see her husband walking towards her with the entire left side of his face sliced off. Thus begins the horror-thriller Reeker.
As is the case with most slasher flicks, you need a group of kids to feed to the killer. We get that group here, with all the stereotypes filled in. We get the trouble maker in “Trip” who steals a large amount of ecstasy from a drug dealer (Eric Mabius) before they leave. We get the tough girl in Gretchen (played by producer Tina Illman). We get a ditsy blonde in Cookie (who was allowed to choose her own name at the age of three). We get the nice guy in Jack, who also happens to be blind. And finally, we get the dude who wants to get laid (and seal his own fate) in Nelson (he was Jeff Daniels in Dumb and Dumberer).
The set up is the five are heading to a rave in the desert. Nelson and Trip are friends but the rest really don’t know each other and are just sharing a ride to the party. They stop at a diner where Trip proves to be a dick by leading the blind Jack into the lady’s room. After leaving the diner, Trip lets it slip that he has a lot of illegal drugs and Gretchen promptly turns the car around and heads back to the diner to dump him there to find his own way. The problem is, when they get to the diner/motel, it is now completely empty. The second problem is they have run out of gas. Trip then gets a phone call from the drug dealer he robbed saying he is coming and will reclaim his drugs or else.
While those problems seem to be reason enough for concern, a new problem arises that makes the rest seem obsolete. The five begin to see visions of dead people in various states of decay. Then one-by-one, they start to be hunted down and killed by an unseen apparition that is only recognizable by a horrid smell.
The movie has been compared to other road trip horror movies such as Wrong Turn, but Reeker is better than that comparison. Instead of inbred cannibals or nuclear-affected hillbillies, we get something here that is much more creative and inventive. The setup and execution of this horror movie is very well done and the twist at the end is wonderful. It is not a twist just to shock, though. The final revelation is the entire purpose of the movie. Currently, there is a sequel in the works, but I don’t see how it could be anywhere near the level of the original, because you just can’t do that ending twice.
The acting is pretty good for a group of nobodies and television stars. Scott Whyte (Trip) is annoying at first but seems to grow into his role as the movie goes on. Devon Gummersall (Jack) is kind of bland, but it works for his blind protagonist. The rest are not really annoying, which is a compliment for a slasher flick. Eric Mabius and Michael Ironside (as the driver of a mobile home looking for his wife) are both really nice additions in their cameo roles. The dialogue is pretty funny in spots, although some of the more serious bits can be a little over the top (“If you want to live, you can’t be afraid to die”).
The special effects are pretty great for a low budget feature. Both the gore effects and the special creature effects are solid. The dead people are all really pretty freaky and the apparition of the Reeker is also very well done. Director Dave Payne put together a nice little picture here and it deserves a much larger audience than it has received so far. He is returning for the sequel and, while I don’t think it will be as interesting as this movie, I am interested in seeing where he can go from here.
The DVD has a pretty nice picture and, while in places it is really dark, it works for the movie. Everything also sounds really good as well. The transfer is nice for such a small movie. It is presented in a 16:9 widescreen and is available in both English Stereo 2.0 and English Surround 5.1. There is also a feature “The Making of Reeker” which is a short self-congratulatory featurette in which the only thing I learned was that Arielle Kebbel is really ditsy and not interesting at all. None of the actors really had anything interesting to say. There is a photo gallery that provides more pictures of the Reeker than you need to see and one very interesting picture of how they achieved the doggie gore effects from the opening of the movie. The extras are rounded out with a few trailers of other movies.