Ghost House Underground: No Man's Land - The Rise of the Reeker (US - DVD R1)
Gabe Powers watches a sequel/prequel to a slasher movie called 'Reeker'...
A group of relative strangers find themselves trapped in a desert diner/motel, hunted by an unknown killer. That’s about it.
Sometimes it’s tempting to give a horror film a pass just for a few good scares. No Man’s Land (aka: Reeker 2) does feature a few good scares, and a few great make-up and gore effects, but it doesn’t feature any new ideas, and it’s particularly predictable. I am tempted to give it a pass for those scares and effects, but when I’m able to call every twist, climactic action, and even half the dialogue I can’t bring myself to whole heartedly recommend it.
The film’s concept and last act twist are Twilight Zone text book material, and popular fodder for lower budget, STV and made for TV horror. I won’t ruin it for anyone (even if the back of the box does), but I’m pretty sure most folks will guess where things are going about ten minutes into things. The film is a sequel, but writer/director Dave Payne doesn’t do a whole lot to cue those of us that haven’t seen the first film into any sort of continuing story. I’ve looked up the plot synopsis of Reeker, and it appears that there isn’t much serialization to the plots. In fact, it kind of looks like the sequel is the same movie with a slightly different cast and location. Perhaps Payne is assuming we already know the twist because we saw the first movie, and isn’t actually trying to hide it, but why bother to hide it at all. I suppose the good news is that No Man’s Land holds together pretty well as a standalone film.
Payne’s writing talents aren’t spectacular, but he’s hired a pretty good cast of B-television stars and relative unknowns, and he’s put some decent dialogue into their mouths, even if the characterizations are kind of uninteresting. Untalented criminals and small town folk trapped in a survival horror situation is pretty passé. Effective scares and gore effects aside the film’s sense of humour is probably what’ll get most viewers through the experience. Most low budget horror seems to depend on broad gross out jokes alone, or avoids any humour at all, but Payne’s pretty dry about the dry stuff.
No Man’s Land is one of the better looking Ghost House Underground discs. Payne’s day time desert landscapes are purposefully washed out, but not pushed to detailess extremes. The noise and artefacts during these daylight shots is almost nonexistent, and even dark on light contrasts are relatively edge enhancement free. The darker scenes are a bit on the noisy side, and tend to lose a little more detail than I’m guessing was intended. Overall detail is very good for a low budget, and the colour schemes are effectively reproduced.
Payne’s homemade music is a bit on the canned side, and really doesn’t feature an original twinge, but it sounds like multimillions on the 5.1 Dolby Digital track. Payne’s best idea is the bassy atonal undercurrent, which adds almost continuous texture to all five channels. The LFE participates in the continuous texture, but really comes to life during punchy jump scares and expositions. There are a few minor inconsistencies in the dialogue’s volume levels, but surround effects like ricocheting bullets and growling Reekers sound pretty good. All this disc needs is a scratch and sniff feature.
The special features begin with a commentary led by director Dave Payne, including cast and crew member drop in on some occasions. Payne is a good storyteller, and he puts an effort into teaching a few lessons on low-budget filmmaking. His cohorts are good additions, telling their behind the scenes stories quickly enough as to not stop Payne’s general pacing. All in all, this is a very warm, informative, consistent and fun track. I’m also happy to report that I feel I better understand the differences between this film and the first movie.
Next up is a behind the scenes featurette. This is your basic, no frills, hit the ground running EPK, curiously crammed full of spoilers. Maybe I totally misunderstood Payne’s aim with the final twist. Perhaps I wasn’t meant to be shocked by the outcome at all. Anyway, the Payne and his producers set up the film’s generally universe, the cast give up the basic facts of their characters, and we’re privy to some of the hardships of location shooting. Then we get a quick breakdown of the film’s generally impressive special effective (given budget), another quick breakdown of the film’s big car crash and explosion, and a general wrap up, all in all running about twelve minutes.
The disc also features a decent storyboard to final scene comparison, a fun little featurette concerning the film’s production team (the unseen heroes, running about five and a half minutes), various cast and crew members running down their personal fears, the original trailer, and the trailers for the other Ghost House Underground releases.
No Man’s Land isn’t a great film, and I’m still a little confused on whether the twist was actually supposed to be a twist, but I had enough fun watching the low budget production. There are a few laughs, a few scares, some decent gore effects, and characters that aren’t complete imbeciles. The disc looks and sounds pretty solid, and the minimal special features are quite informative.
Review by Gabriel Powers
Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian
Release Date: 14th October 2008
Disc Type: Single side, dual layer
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1 English
Subtitles: English, Spanish
Extras: Cast and Crew Commentary, Behind the Scenes, Featurettes, Storyboard Comparison, Trailers
Easter Egg: No
Director: Dave Payne
Cast: Robert Pine, Michael Muhney, Desmond Askew, Wilmer Calderon, Valerie Cruz
Length: 88 minutes
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