UK (dir. Nick Cohen)
Cast: Scarlett Alice Johnson, Emma Catherwood, Geoff Bell, Will Mellor, Anna Brewster
Synopsis: In “The Reeds,” a weekend boating trip through the Norfolk Broads becomes a terrifying, deadly ordeal for six 20-something year old friends as they lose their bearings in the vast reedy tidewaters. The hope of survival and chance of escape diminishes as mysterious forces assault the lost and terrified group.
Review: “The Reeds” is a movie that just barely manages to keep its head above the water, so to speak. It has enough suspense and weird supernatural elements to make it better than the substandard crap of this year’s After Dark Horrorfest (i.e. “Kill Theory”) but it’s nowhere near as good or as memorable as some of the better entries (i.e. “Lake Mungo”). Yup, “The Reeds” is definitely in that meh territory I discussed as being the case with “The Hamiltons”; it’s an entry that is essentially in the middle of being good or bad. It’s basically condemned to horror movie purgatory, and that’s unfortunate because these types of films tend to have such great potential but get bogged down by a messy plot, bad acting or poor production.
“The Reeds” starts off with the all too familiar setup of 20-somethings on vacation who encounter trouble when something shockingly goes awry (gasp!). It’s an almost overused horror cliche at this point, but it tends to be one of my favorite types of setups (along with breakdown movies where car trouble leads to a disastrous outcome for the movie’s main characters). In “The Reeds”, a weekend boat trip goes sour after a boating accident which leads to the vacationers being tormented by what would appear to be their own selves. It’s a lot like “Donkey Punch” meets “The Broken” but with less sex and no mirrors. The boating accident involved the token horror movie jerk (this time played by an angry drunk who sucks at gambling) getting impaled by a rusty metal pole after the boat hits a bumpy spot.
The impalement actually becomes the only gory part of the entire movie as the rest of “The Reeds” is dedicated to weird supernatural shit that kind of makes the plot feel a little messy and unfocused. On the plus side, the 20-somethings are a jolly, generally likable bunch for the most part (well, except for the gambling drunk), however I found myself feeling entirely indifferent to them. None of them are truly villainous (even the jerk) in the sense that you would want them to meet an unfortunate, bloody end and none of them are truly heroes in an over-glorified sense (our final girl is a smoker with a mysterious past!). In essence, they are just your average people.
The biggest problem with “The Reeds” is that just as it gets good, it goes sour. There are a bunch of weird, supernatural twists that are all supposed to help explain the final girl’s back story (how her mother was a teenage runaway who was murdered by a crazy old man who lived in a reedy swamp) and then there’s a nonsensical ending that makes you go “hunh?”. The ending essentially left me drawing a huge blank because it is basically the same scene from the beginning of the movie with a slight twist… then the credits roll and you get shots of the 20-somethings partying on a boat again. Uhhh… so they are doomed to repeat these events forever? Are they actually in purgatory? Have they been dead the whole while? WTF!?
To further add to the confusion, I felt like I had to rewind certain parts of the movie and re-watch them to catch crucial parts of certain scenes because I could not make out people’s faces when they flashed by so suddenly. Sorry, but I really don’t think I should have to rewind a movie to catch a crucial part. In this case, you can just barely make out that the ghostly looking people stalking our vacationers are actually the vacationers themselves. Maybe they just wanted to keep that a surprise or something, but it certainly detracts from the “scare” value of a scene if we can’t really make out who is lurking in the background. Yes, I realize that someone lurking in the background of any horror movie is still pretty damn scary, but if that lurker happens to be a character’s doppelganger (but with bigger pupils) wouldn’t that make the movie scarier? There’s also one of those heartbreaking scenes where someone accidentally kills a friend whom they didn’t recognize due to being burned, but it happens in a crystal clear shot that required no rewinding for me to catch. Don’t you think a scene like that could have had more of an impact on the audience if you could barely make out who was being killed by the good guy?
“The Reeds” is a good enough attempt for someone who is relatively new to directing horror movies, and it’s a passable entry into the After Dark Horrorfest, but there are much better movies out there. I’m excited to see what Nick Cohen will pull out of his sleeve in the future, and I’m certainly hoping it will have a better script than this.