What I'm Watching: Jack the Reaper
Yes, Jack the REAPER. You read that correctly.
No, this has nothing to do with what you THOUGHT that said.
Instead, we have a bunch of kids who get rounded up to do some time at a railroad to make up credit for missing an important paper in class, or something. Whatever, it's our thin excuse to get the plot moving.
On the way home, their bus is in an accident, the kids wake up to find the teacher/chaperone, and the bus driver are missing, and a vacant but lit-up carnival off in the distance.
Most of the kids head to the carnival to try and find some help, and being teenagers decide to play on the abandoned rides, thinking they are completely alone.
Unsurprisingly, since the plot needs it, they are not, and bodies start to drop.
Now, while reading that, you may be able to key in to the big twist of the movie pretty quickly, and I too saw it coming a mile away. Which is a shame. If the plot wasn't so overdone, it might have actually been an okay movie. But with SO many more, better versions of this sort of story, it makes it hard to recommend this one.
The characters are pretty much your stock characters from horror movie casting, and the only thing the movie then has going for it, is the killer/monster. And he's almost intriguing. Railroad Jack is a myth in these parts, and they say if he sees you, you're already doomed. He carries around a pickaxe, which I will say this, that is a GREAT visual nod and twist to the typical grim reaper's scythe. I like that.
Jack also has a number of fun kills, but they do all kinda devolve into "sticking people with my big pointy weapon. Which is another shame, but done well.
The only other unquestionably great thing about this movie is Tony Todd. The Candyman himself is always, ALWAYS worth watching. Sadly, this movie doesn't use him much, or that well. He does what he does in the movie, and does a good job, since he's Tony freakin' Todd, but once he's done with his scenes at the start of the movie, he's never really seen again. Sigh.
I really don't get how you go from having this railroad centric character going around killling people, and then randomly have his killing ground be an abandoned carnival? How does that work? The movie's lack of focus on this point is another stumbling point. It's like they had on the one hand this pretty cool villain, with the psuedo-scythe and the mythology behind it, and on the other hand they had this cool setting they wanted to use, because carnivals can and are creepy places. Not to mention the dichotomy of them being fun places, but also places with scares, and then have people die in these vacationy fun spots.
But when they smashed the two together, little to no regard was paid to realise, wait, these are two separate ideas that don't quite go together!
The cinematography also left a LOT to be desired. Much, if not all, of the movie is shot handheld, and it's not shot very well. I was getting flashbacks to Blair Witch at times, which should not be happening in a movie that is not found footage! They also had WAY too much love for the DRAMATIC ZOOM whenever someone said an important or poignant line. Fortunately, once the characters start dying, THAT stops happening, so the overly silly self-importance goes away.
On the plus side, the characters may be your usual tropes, but they do spend QUITE a bit of time developing them, even if they're stuff we've seen before. You actually manage to care about the ones that aren't total assholes. And there's a few surprises in store with who survives the plot.
Still, the movie has its problems. But if you don't mind the usual tropes, and a rehashed plot, and want to see something with an arguably creative antagonist, and at least some good deaths in a creative setting, well...it's not a TOTAL waste, if you can see it.
But with the subpar acting (But on par for this site), and a story you've seen everywhere, and done so much better in those places, this movie is REALLY hard to recommend. It isn't terrible, but there are other options for you to enjoy. You just kinda walk out of this with a sigh.
But hey. Tony Todd, right?