Dread / The Final / The Graves / Hidden / Kill Theory
Mungo / The Reeds / Zombies of Mass Destruction

STUDIO: Lions Gate
MSRP: $16.49
RUNNING TIME: 90 minutes
* Trailer

The Pitch
What if a lake were haunted by… teenage meth addicts?!

The Humans
Karl Ashman, Geoff Bell, Anna Brewster, Daniel Caltagirone, Emma Catherwood
Director: Nick Cohen
Writers: Chris Baker, Mark Anthony Galluzzo

The Nutshell
A group of Londoners partying on a boat become lost amongst the titular reeds. As night falls they find themselves menaced by an uncompelling premise.

[insert preferred King of the World joke here]

The Lowdown
Sigh. I love the After Dark Horrorfest as a concept, but much like the Masters of Horror series, the actual results have been beyond hit or miss. Out of the eight films in each series there is usually but one gem amongst the toilet bowl of turds. Alas (for me), The Reeds is not the gem of ADH4.

The film isn’t bad so much as it’s uninspired. It feels all too familiar. Almost routine. The overall film isn’t a carbon copy – to say so would be prickishly dismissive – but the individual elements are. 

Structurally The Reeds falls into the horror subgenre of breakdown nightmare movies, like The Hills Have Eyes or Wrong Turn. Here a hobbled boat replaces a hobbled car and murderous skate-park urchins replace murderous hicks. Our victim pool is comprised of six vacationing Brits: Main Girl, Hip Black Guy, Fiancé, Fiancée, Wacky Guy and Wacky Guy’s Girl, who venture to the UK boonies for a boat excursion in celebration of Fiancé & Fiancée’s engagement. Of course they end up getting lost and soon night falls. The horror element comes in the form of a gang of seemingly homeless teenagers who are stalking our heroes. The shit hits the fan when the boat hits a long metal spike under the water and Wacky Guy becomes impaled upon it. Stuck and with a serious injury on their hands, the group must seek help while dealing with the increasing mystery and danger of the dirty teenagers.

Wacky Guy didn’t follow the first rule of nautical safety – don’t fall on spikes.

Very conventional set-up, yes, but I could imagine a perfectly enjoyable film being woven from this. Ironically The Reeds‘s generic feeling comes from its attempt at originality. For it becomes clear early on that we are not in fact dealing with nefarious teen-punks but something supernatural. What was surely meant to elevate the story above a standard hack’n’slash gorefest renders the film inert. The attempt to not be generic is in fact what feels so generic here. With moments like Hip Black Guy looking out the window of the boat and seeing himself (with demon eyes) illuminated by the lightning, only to have no one believe what he saw, the film relies too heavily on “mysterious” and “intriguing” what-does-it-all-mean moments to keep our interest.

A glaring example of this is a scene in which Fiancé has gone ashore to seek help and encounters the teenagers cooking animals over a fire. They completely ignore him, except one girl who starts inexplicably making out with him (which he inexplicably goes along with). Then the teens all exit, not a word exchanged between anyone. The scene was no doubt meant to elicit a Lynchian atmosphere of creepy curiosity – what-does-it-all-mean?! – but it left me wishing that something had, you know, actually happened in the scene. Lost often enrages me with this same thing; give me action/story over precarious, hollow intrigue any day.

A compelling piece of evidence for the argument that ugly people are scary.

Another issue: no one dies for the first 45 minutes of the film. This in itself is not a problem. What is a problem is that once we get that first death we suddenly lose four of our six characters moments later. This ten minute deathie middle section of The Reeds is unsurprisingly the most entertaining segment of the film. Then we’re back to the precarious intrigue.

It feels unfair to call the film wanky, cause it doesn’t feel pretentious, but it nonetheless suffers from Wank Syndrome – unevenly absorbed with its own twists and turns and ideas. A film like The Ring was able to really heighten things with a big twist at the end because it was building off of rules and ideas already established and played with earlier in the film. The Reeds pays for all of its mysterious slight-of-hand at the end, because by then we just don’t care. We get the whole movie and backstory explained to us and then we’re handed our big twist mere seconds after that. The emotional impact is then zero. Rather than thinking Whoa!, which I believe the film wanted me to, I was instead left wishing I had in fact sat through a mediocre hack’n’slash flic.

To battle the evil teenagers she must use her atomic breath!
[join us again next time for Fun With Wildly Out Of Context Movie Stills]

From a filmmaking perspective The Reeds isn’t half-bad. It is professionally done and the acting is all above average. The film has the tone of a Wolf Creek, where we’re really supposed to buy the characters as legit human beings and not just popcorn kill-count fodder like Friday the 13th Part IV (for random example). Strangely enough I think this works against the film. It’s not quite Devin’s Tyranny of Realism, but when you ask me to look at a film with realworld glasses on, I start to ask questions about the characters and story I might not otherwise do in another horror movie (horror fans are of course the most forgiving genre fans). Like, why are these people celebrating by taking a boring daytime boat trip in the middle of no where? The location didn’t have nostalgic importance to any of them, and the lake clearly isn’t a tourist stop. Who are these people in the real world? Why are they friends? In the end good acting and capable directing can’t cover up 2-D characters and hackneyed staging.

Honestly, the only reason I would recommend this film is if you’re simply into watching all eight films in the Horrorfest series. In which case, knock yourself out. Otherwise there’s really not much to see here.

“Yay! I’m so glad we decided to do a  conga line just like regular people always do when they’re having fun! Hey, someone should yell “Wooooo” and then someone should spray us all with beer and yell “Woooo” again! Then someone should say the last line of a joke and we should all laugh and laugh and laugh!”

The Package
After Dark needs to step it up here. While I wasn’t left too curious about behind the scenes details, having a “Special Features”  section with a trailer as its lone feature seems almost insulting. And can we please drop the cardboard slipcase around the DVD already? Given the quality of these films and the impending reprisal of the Lorax for wasting packaging material, I think the next volume of 8 Films To Die For should really come all in one set, two movies to a disc. These films just aren’t worthy of this singular presentation.

4.5 out of 10