Reviewed by: Anton Bitel

Gretchen (Tina Illman) has offered four other students a lift through the desert to the notorious Area 52 party, but when she learns en route that one of them, Trip (Scott Whyte), has brought with him a vast quantity of Ecstasy tablets, she turns back to the Halfway Travel Oasis, insisting that Trip pick up his own ride from there. At the Oasis, something does not smell right. The motel and diner, abuzz with activity when they passed through before, are now mysteriously deserted; the fuel-line on Gretchen's car has been cut and the only signal they can get on the radio is a garbled message about the roads being closed.

Forced to spend the night there, they soon realise they are not entirely alone. A distraught man (Michael Ironside) in a campervan joins them, searching for his missing wife and alarmed by something he has seen; Radford (Eric Mabius), the vicious dealer whose drugs Trip has stolen, keeps turning up only to disappear just as quickly; and travelers with hideous injuries are half-glimpsed wandering through. But these oddities are as nothing compared to the shimmering figure, easier to smell than to see, who starts killing the confused college kids one by one with his collection of improvised power tools. Guided only by the heightened senses of blind Jack (Devon Gummersall), Gretchen must work out how to survive the implacable onslaughts of The Reeker before it is too late.

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Not unlike his hapless characters, Dave Payne has gone driving off the beaten track, writing, directing, producing and scoring a horror film that evokes the very best of the Eighties at a time when everyone else seems obsessed with the Golden Age of the Seventies. With its sex mad co-eds, silent masked killer, bucket loads of gore, inventively baroque deaths and general slash'n'dash mayhem, all splattered with liberal doses of sophomore humour, Reeker is a throwback to the decade that saw the Friday The 13th, Evil Dead and the Nightmare On Elm Street franchises vying to terrify their teen demographic out of its pocket money.

Reeker is slyly funny and certainly macabre (if not exactly scary), but its real strength is its crash-proof screenplay, full of smart, naturalistic dialogue that is never less than entertaining, but which at the same time conceals a generous layer of ambiguities and equivocations serving to set up the big surprise with which the film concludes, so that even the most throwaway of details acquire unexpected relevance in retrospect. It might be objected that the final, Serling-style twist has appeared in countless other films (which it would be criminal to name here), but Payne, a one-time alumnus of legendary B-flick producer Roger Corman, controls his material with such a deft hand that, for all its unoriginality, it still remains unlikely that you will see the end coming.

Add to this some likable character acting, grotesque special effects and a genuinely trippy visual style and you have a mystery slasher that knocks much of its blander competition right off the road. From its arresting opening to its mind-bending denouement, Reeker proves that the horror genre will always gain from the right amount of Payne.

Reviewed on: 29 Jun 2006
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The humour is dark and the effects gruesome in this terror motel Eighties-style gorefest.
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Director: Dave Payne

Writer: Dave Payne

Starring: Devon Gummersall, Derek Richardson, Tina Illman, Scott Whyte, Arielle Kebbel, Michael Ironside, Eric Mabius, Marcia Strassman, David Hadinger, Les Jankey, Carole Ruggier

Year: 2005

Runtime: 90 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: US


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