The film started off really strange with a “voice” giving us some bizarre introduction about some “harvesters, for whom past, present and future exist as one”… I did not pay any attention to that, and continued watching. Towards the end of the film, I realized what those words mean.
“Jack the Reaper” follows a bunch of some school kids that did not complete their school project – a paper on industrial revolution. So now, their teacher takes them on a tour, since they still have to finish their 10 hours of study. As you’ve probably guessed already – this will be their last ride…
First, the students are taken to a railroad museum, where a mysterious Mr. Steele (legendary Tony Todd) tells them about the railways, and also a little about the “Railroad Jack” – some giant that was supposedly killed on these railroads in the early 20th century, and has been killing people since then.
Once the group leaves the railroad museum, on their way back, their bus breaks down, and they end up strangled in the middle of a desert, near some strange carnival. Of course our unsuspecting teens leave the bus to get some help. Meanwhile, “Railroad Jack” is already waiting for them at the carnival, armed with a pickaxe…
If going deep, it is obvious that the film’s idea is nothing new, it has been done before a number of times. The film drags in the beginning a lot, since the first “manhunt” starts only with 40-45 minutes into the film.
Douglas Tait, who’s no stranger to playing various creatures and monsters, does his job well. Although despite being the central character of the story, Railroad Jack has limited screen time, and most of his kills are either off camera or just plain weak.
Other actors that stand out among the rest are of course Sally Kirkland and Tony Todd. Being an actor that he is, heavyweight horror icon Tony Todd manages to shine, delivering boring and dull monologue about railroads and Railroad Jack, while Sally Kirkland only has one scene in the beginning of the film. She, and Douglas Tait (Railroad Jack) were also the producers of the film.
Obviously a low-budget production, “Jack the Reaper” gets entertaining way too late, and leaves a few story questions unanswered (like why none of the teens use their mobiles after the crash, instead going to the carnival searching for help).
For a first time effort, Kimberly Seilhamer did very good, and it was rewarded – being shot in just 13 days, “Jack the Reaper” somehow managed to win a “best horror/sci-fi film award” at the 2011 Cannes Independent Film Festival.
I wonder if the film could have done better having a different title, since if we already have “Jack” in title, why not name the film “Railroad Jack” or “Harvesters” or something like that. In my opinion, would have been better than “Jack the Reaper” which of course confuses people with “Jack the Ripper”.
Anyway, had the film (being a slasher after all) more gore or more exciting moments, it would have been more entertaining. Seilhamer (who by the way is a former United States Marine) should keep this in mind, when making her next feature film.
BZFILM SCALE: 4/10
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