This review is from an unfinished version of the film and was used as a test to see audience reactions. This may not be the final product.
warning SPOILERS APLENTY!
Last night I saw BACKWATER’wait’THE REAPER’wait’VENOM, the title on the invite I got said Venom, but this movie has had 3 titles in 2 weeks, and needs another because Venom is a *beep* title that reminds me of spider-man, which sets my expectations for competence higher than this film could even fathom achieving.
I did not like this film. The audience HATED this film. About 8 people got up and left in the middle of it. That’s more than I’ve ever seen leave a test screening. And I was suckered it to tests for Just Married, Scooby Doo, Honey, and Man-thing. This ‘movie’ is closest to Man-thing in style and crappy coloring of blood, only done with a less competent director, and less plot. In fact, I think they might have used some of the same sets! Man-thing, is definitely the better of the 2, and that didn’t even got straight to video, it went straight to SCI-FI CHANNEL!
The plot is as follows; tow-truck driver gets possessed and kills everything in sight, the only hope of stopping him is voodoo.
And that’s about as fleshed out as things get. Ill try to give you a better idea though’Ray is a redneck, we know, because everyone calls him a redneck, and he drives the worlds biggest tow-truck. By everyone I obviously mean the half a dozen idiot kids who seem to be Backwater Louisiana’s only inhabitances. they are characterized by’well’one likes to drink, one shoplifted a bra, one is the pseudo moralistic black chick, but she can die because she’s black, and she drinks a bit too, there’s the ditzy blond, the ex-boyfriend who doesn’t get why his girl wants to leave’Backwater Louisiana, and the good girl who rides her bike everywhere so that she can save up for college and who has a dead father. That last bits not important, the dead dad, but we sure spend a lot of time on it.
There’s also the spooky black voodoo women. Who is characterized by being spooky and black. She has, what I think was the Jumanji chest in the back of her car and because of the most obvious setup ever, she crashes and hangs precariously half off the bridge that scenes like this inevitably occur on. Ray saves her but goes back into the car to get the Jumanji board, because, you know, that’s what you do when your car is teetering on the edge like the car in Beetlejuice, you go back in and get personal items.
The car falls in the swamp, and the chest opens. Only, instead or Robin Williams, out pops’snakes. In an actually cool scene, Ray sinks to the bottom in an upside-down car with some air trapped inside while he is attacked by the snakes. Before you can say FRIDAY THE THIRTENTH PART IV, Ray is in the coroner’s office, and wakes up. Oddly, he sneaks out of the coroner’s office, then jumps back in through the window to kill the coroner, who conveniently left Rays pants on. (aren’t you usually naked when they are preparing to put you in the freezer?)
Then, for the next 70-80 minutes, Ray runs around killing people who I think might be androids because they sure have no semblance to any human I’d ever met. Honestly, I kept waiting for the trick ending where it turns out that they were all Replicants. Sadly, we just get lots and lots of totally pointless gratuitous gore. I like gore films, hell, I’ve MADE a few with friends. But here, there is literally NO MOTIVE. The killer goes out of his way to kill people’and then draws on them’why’because that’s why evil dead people who have a voodoo curse on them through snake bites do I guess.
He’s apparently also super fast, because he gets from ‘downtown’ out to the boonies where Ray lived, faster than Redman, who is driving approximately 3 blocks. No one seems to notice Ray’s obscenely big truck driving around town carrying the bodies of his victims to the crypt. Which is odd seeing as his truck could run over a hummer like it were a geo. At one point its implied that ray wants CeCe, the crazy black voodoo womans’ cute black voodoo granddaughter dead. Why? We don’t know, but it doesn’t matter, because he does kill her, and then keeps going. He has the bodies in at the cemetery and doodles snakes in blood, but we’re given absolutely no clue as to why.
There is one hilarious set piece where CeCe takes the two girls who showed up to ask her what the *beep* was happening into a prayer room saying it’s the safest room in the house. Meanwhile rest of the kids show up for no reason, and then as soon as they enter the safe room, one of the kids is killed! Then the tow truck is used to pull the house in half while CeCe and the good girl turn the dead kid in the room into a voodoo doll because he is Ray’s son (which was actually the one good writing twist thrown in here, sadly, it becomes just a throw away factoid and is never played upon). But yea, they make a person into a voodoo doll; that was sorta clever’only, he would have been a voodoo doll on himself, not Ray, because it was his blood in his veins, not Rays.
The death scenes are pretty nasty, one using a sand blaster was even a bit stomach churning until it pussied out and did a POV shot to show the characters demise. The director seemed to wake up when it was time to kill someone off. These scenes actually look good and are mostly well choreographed. You get impaling, stabbings, hangings from chains, choking, beating with crowbars, desecration of the dead, and a body that explodes when hit by a car.
Some of the action is good too. There is one effective scene where Ray uses his chain to choke a girl in a car that is racing away from him and pulls her in towards himself. She meets a grisly end while her friends hold onto her legs in desperation. Another scene set in the swamp where Ray drops down under the water to walk on the bottom before jumping up at just the right time is actually pretty tense. The bit where there are two not quite dead people in Rays body heap who wake up to find themselves in a heap full of their dead friends is effective too, And the final sequence taking place in a cemetery during the day is well lit and made me jump.
The ending, other than the obvious setup for a sequel that makes the preceding 90 minutes completely pointless and adds a stupid sense of anti-climax to it all, is stolen almost directly from ‘Leprechaun’. Yes, Kevin Williamson has been reduced to stealing from the Leprechaun series.
The make up is pretty good, and the gore is mostly on set, annoyingly though, it is ‘enhanced’ digitally in almost every death scene with awful CGI blood spurts. And about Ray, the thing is, he sorta looks like ‘Big Daddy’ from Land of the Dead mixed with ‘The Toxic Avenger’. So that’s not too good. Although, if you do pretend it’s good ol’ Toxie doing the killing like I started to the movie does become way more interesting.
This film is almost Uwe Boll bad, if Alone in the Dark made sense you to you might like this. But, if you want a horror film with good gore, and anything close to a coherent plot’look elsewhere. The kills here are ok’but most are stolen from other better films, (and yes, I liked leprechaun better than this drivel). The acting is awful across the board and the piss poor writing doesn’t help anything either. It’s a step up for Williamson after the atrocious ‘Cursed’ but its still front runner for worst film of the year award.