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No Man’s Land: Rise of the Reeker

Directed by Dave Payne

Written by Dave Payne

Starring Michael Muhney, Desmond Askew, Mircea Monroe, Stephen Martines

Produced by Dave Payne

Rated R

88 mins

**

I wasn’t expecting a lot out of this one—it’s a direct to video sequel to a direct to video movie that didn’t do all that well in the first place. But I have to be honest with you…after watching the first five minutes, I was downright amazed.

And if you can get my attention in the first five minutes, congratulations—you’ll have to really screw up the rest of the movie to do poorly.

The plot is unsettlingly similar to the first one, in which a whole bunch of people figure out entirely too late that they’re in some kind of waking coma somewhere between live and dead. Think of it like Downtown in Monkeybone—they used the exact same explanation—but you won’t find any nifty visuals or Rose McGowan dressed like a catgirl around here. No sir, all you get is some rivethead in a gas mask with a flamethrower and assorted sharp things turning the population into dead folks. The original sheriff who took down the Death Valley Drifter, a serial killer who apparently became the Reeker (though I can’t remember the first Reeker having anything to do with the Death Valley Drifter) lives long enough to face the revived Reeker, but also turns over a good chunk of his legacy to his estranged son. So now father and son, along with a handful of other equally colorful characters, will all have to try and survive their run-ins with the Reeker.

Now, where this movie actually manages to surpass the sequel is in the introduction of two new and nifty things—one, massive damage. One character will actually wander around with the top part of his head and most of his face completely missing. Two, the introduction of The Absolute Edge of the Universe, a strange phenomenon that’s bulletproof, completely puncture-proof, and cannot be passed through or broken down, ostensibly to give the Reeker a narrower zone in which to hunt.

It’ss the little things that help give No Man’s Land: Rise of the Reeker its boost—for instance, there’s this little bit I happened to catch in the credit roll:

“Shot entirely on Kodak film. Fuji film used to be cheaper, but the dollar is so weak. Eastman Kodak thanks you, George Walker Bush.”

It’s certainly not every day you get commentary in the credits. It’s certainly arguable that it’s not exactly kosher to put comments in the credits, but I find it a welcome diversion.

And the rest of the film, meanwhile, will be at least passable with the Reeker appearing in a burst of stuttery motion to kill whatever happens to be in front of him in a thoroughly bloody motion. Not bad. Nothing great, but certainly nothing terrible. A significant problem, however, is that it’s a bit top-heavy. They spent about two thirds of the movie trying to build suspense with a few occasional killings, but they blow it off in this last burst of fighting, the ending.

Speaking of which, the ending does a fair job of wrapping things up, much in the same way the first one did. At least it looks pretty familiar from where I sit.

The special features included a behind the scenes featurette, a storyboard to screen comparison, a retrospective on the production team, a featurette on what scares the crew and cast, and trailers for No Man’s Land: Rise of the Reeker, Dance of the Dead, The Substitute, Dark Floors, Room 205, Last House in the Woods, and Brotherhood of Blood.

All in all, No Man’s Land: Rise of the Reeker presents something of a rarity among horror movies, and indeed among movies in general. It’s actually, somewhat, at least a little bit better than the original. Not by much, granted…but by just enough to make it noticeable. Sadly, it’s not so good that it can stand on its own merits, however.

Steve Anderson is a film critic who collects action figures so he can dress them up as his favorite horror villains. He lives somewhere in the United States.


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