I know you’ve all been wondering, “What’s Xina going to review next?” Well, with the newness of my job finally behind me, our younger boys back in the swing of things at school, and Kid #2 finally a Navy RTC (boot camp) graduate and off to his next stage of training, I finally have a chance to offer a review. (By the way, the Navy RTC graduation was right outside the Windy City. And sorry, Chicago, we don’t plan on visiting you again! Your traffic blows serious chunks!)
For my first review in almost a month, I picked… a strange one. Yeah, strange!
First off, let me just say the name of this movie, Jack the Reaper (2011), is a tad misleading, or rather I should say it’s a turn off. I’m not saying the title isn’t relevant, just that a different title might have caused this little flick to make a bigger splash than it did. In any event, at only 88 minutes, you can crank this movie out quickly.
Note: There are potential spoilers throughout this review, so you may want to stop here and return after watching the movie.
We open to a couple laying bent and broken on the ground. I’m guessing a car crash. And I believe that was a railroad track that flashed in the beginning. Maybe! To make matters worse, the couple appears to be newlyweds. We don’t catch his name, but poor Emma looks as if she got beat up a little worse than our groom. The groom is trying valiantly to get to his bride, who is all of a sudden rudely dragged away by someone… or something. We don’t really see his/its face… CREEPY! And then the groom gets a little action he didn’t expect on his wedding night.
Cut to present day and a school parking lot. It is here that we meet our group of teens:
- The asshole jock
- The jock that can act like an asshole, but is really a good guy
- The guy who’s GF just told him she is pregnant
- The new, hot chick (so says the jock; hot chick also happens to be deaf)
- Hot chick’s cousin
- An albino that everyone ridicules
- An overweight kid that everyone ridicules
- A young woman that is possibly being sexually abused by her father
- A spoiled rich girl
- And a fashionably late punk running away from bullies
Names aren’t important, as they are rarely used. What is important is that we differentiate the kids from one another. And this ragtag group of students is led by the well-intentioned Mr. Smith. Apparently, he assigned a history paper that they all failed to write. He estimates it should have taken them ten hours to write. They didn’t do it, so now they owe him ten hours – of what we don’t know yet.
But wait! In those ten hours they get to be entertained by who else but… Candyman! Yes, people, Tony Todd graces us with his presence. The Bad – he’s playing pretty much the exact same character that he does in The Final Destination series and any number of movies. The Good – he can make anything sound creepy and sinister. Apparently, all this little field trip consists of is listening to Candyman, I mean Mr. Steele, regale them with stories of just how deadly the Iron Horse (trains) can be, and that trains are more deadly than cars. So, I guess the lesson is to stay away from trains.
As the kids are leaving, Pregnant Guy (Yes, I know guys don’t get pregnant, but it keeps it short and to the point.) is checking out some photos and notices a creepy figure in one of the pictures. A little girl comes up behind him and says that’s the Train Man, and she saw him earlier in the day. When Pregnant Guy tries to tell her it’s an old picture and couldn’t be the same person, she just shrugs and runs to her mother. But wait! More Candyman. Pregnant Guy decides that pressing his face very close to the picture is the best way to obtain information about this spectre, when Mr. Steele comes up behind him and tells him that he’s looking at Railroad Jack. Apparently, Jack is timeless and moves in and out, and if you see him, he has already had his eyes on you… Meaning, you’s gonna die!
Duh! Moving on…
The kids all board the bus and start traveling home. It’s dark, people are drifting off to sleep. And then our Heroine (the young lady with the lecherous father) thinks she sees a man on the side of the road. Mr. Smith blows her off, and tells her she’s just tired and that the desert is playing tricks on her… but alas, that doesn’t stop her from screaming bloody murder when she thinks she sees someone in front of the bus, scaring the bus driver, who overcorrects and flips the bus.
CRAP! So, they are now stranded in the desert – right next to a railroad track (Duh!). Chunk (Okay, so that’s just what I call the overweight kid.) starts screeching in this horrifically annoying voice. He’s worried that they’re in a The Hills Have Eyes situation (We recently took some back roads that I am pretty sure had mutants living on them, so I feel you, Chunk!). But… hold up… Wait a minute… In the distance…
It’s a carnival! Say what?
No matter their teacher is missing, as is the bus driver. No matter that this is literally the middle of nowhere. It’s a carnival, dammit, and people are gonna ride the merry-go-round! But our Heroine is not having it. She proposes that they stay with the bus – help will come. Pregnant Guy agrees, but alas the Asshole Jocks are good at getting everyone riled up, and of course they think they can get help at the carnival (after they ride the merry-go-round).
So, all but three of the kids jump off the bus and head out for the carnival. Then Pregnant Guy gives in and joins the crew heading out. That leaves just two on the bus – our Heroine and the albino.
Eventually, the kids get to the carnival and realize it’s deserted. Eww. Creepy! Nahhh… let’s ride the horsies and play the strength game! And let’s even live dangerously… the Haunted Mansion it is! (Morons!)
50 minutes after the first kill scene, we finally get another, as Railroad Jack (Douglas Tait) makes an appearance. And then things pick up.
Back at the bus, the albino gets antsy and finally decides the others have been gone too long, so he sets out for the carnival… dummy. This leaves only our Heroine on the bus.
Our kids start to get picked off one by one. And to be honest, the only one I was sad to see go was Jock #2 (He’s kind of an asshole, but not really.). He tried to stand tall, but alas it just wasn’t meant to be.
After our kids get picked off, we are left with two – Pregnant Guy and the girl on the bus. Pregnant Guy takes off running toward the bus with Railroad Jack following close behind.
And it’s here that we find out what’s really going on. See, our killer is Railroad Jack, and Jack is a Reaper – as in Grim Reaper. The kids all died in the bus crash, and he was just helping them cross to the other side (or at least that’s how I’m reading it). I’m guessing Pregnant Guy initially survived the crash, but once Jack caught him, that was the end for the expectant father.
We flash to Candyman… crap, I mean Mr. Steele… reading about a bus crash that killed the kids, and then a car crash that killed the little girl from earlier and her entire family.
Back at the scene of the bus crash – our Heroine is found alive! Apparently, Jack never caught her. Mr.Smith is alive too. He’s a sobbing mess, weeping for his students and wondering how he is supposed to tell their parents what happened.
But… hold up… wait a minute! There’s a creepy paramedic loading our Heroine into the back of the ambulance…wait a second… I wonder who that is! Why is he laughing?
And poof… credits!
As the credits rolled, I sat there for a moment, wondering how I was supposed to take the ending. I’ll also go on record and say this movie surprised me. I was expecting it to be… well, dumb. And don’t get me wrong, parts of it were – especially some of the over-the-top screeching. But for the most part, the kids were well cast, the acting was decent, and the premise held my attention – even with such a big gap between the death scenes. It did take its precious time to set things up and get everything in motion, but I wasn’t bored!
Jack was suitably creepy! A tall, looming figure with no eyes and an evil grin. He clearly enjoys what he does – collecting souls. Again, my interpretation, but I’m sticking with it.
This isn’t the best slasher movie I’ve ever seen, but it certainly isn’t the worst!
A solid 3 crashed buses out of five.