Friday, July 22, 2022

Census Bloodbath: Don't Fear The Reaper

 Tim Ritter
 Cathy O'Hanlon, Patrick Foster, Todd Nolf
Run Time:
 1 hour 15 minutes

Plot: Day of the Reaper alternates between two timelines: one where a group of young women in Sunnyvale, Florida are murdered by a mysterious assailant in a black face covering and an apron, and the other, thirteen months later, where the only survivor of that massacre must face off against the killer once again.

Analysis: Day of the Reaper feels like it was directed by a 16-year-old. Which is a real compliment, considering it was directed by a 15-year-old. That's right, Tim Ritter, flush with $1,000 earned from his job as a dishwasher, set out to shoot a slasher movie on super 8 with his friends. The fact that this exists and has any sort of distribution, however small, is a feat in and of itself. However, it's still a slasher movie directed by a 15-year-old. I was 15 once, and I'm sure you were too. While Ritter makes up in enthusiasm what he lacks in training, it's still not something one necessarily wants to sit through for a feature-length run time.

Of course it's shoddily made. That's what you sign up for when you sit down with Day of the Reaper. First and foremost, all the dialogue is delivered in staticky post-dubbed voiceover that only occasionally deigns to resemble the shapes the mouths onscreen are making, rendering it almost impossible to parse out what face each name belongs to. Also, there are over a dozen shots where you can clearly see the actors waiting for "action" to be called before springing into motion, and even in the ADR dialogue, they frequently stumble over and/or forget their lines.

At the very least, the kills are lovingly rendered in a cheap but generally effective way that many video slashers would be delivering in the coming years, even if the scenes that contain them are universally meandering and overlong.

Really, the true pleasure of experiencing Day of the Reaper, if there is indeed pleasure to be had, is watching a group of teenagers goof off and try to get away with making a movie. From the Rugrats-esque misunderstandings about how adult life works (everything about the character Don and his "real estate convention" is hilarious, as is the pearl necklace worn by one of the female characters) to the squeaky-voiced detective and doctor characters, there is a distinct charm to the proceedings that isn't present in shitty films made by talentless adults.

I wouldn't say I recommend this movie to anyone, but it does feel like something I would have a blast watching 10 years later if I had made it in high school, and some of that feeling does rub off vicariously. If you were a creative teen with a heart full of dreams that you had no idea how to carry out, this might also be the case for you. 

Killer: The Reaper (Todd Nolf)
Final Girl: Jennifer (Cathy O'Hanlon)
Best Kill: One of the girls (whose name I think is Cheryl, though that's one of the ones I'm shakier on) has her head sawed off, and it's clear the blood is being squirted out of the saw blade, which is very cute.
Sign of the Times: One of the girls is wearing a denim skirt and a pink Lacoste polo with the collar popped.
Scariest Moment: There's a totally OK shot from above showing Jennifer hiding while the killer stalks through the woods nearby.
Weirdest Moment: Dr. Block reveals that he has programmed his own murderer to be the savior of humanity. This one wears a white towel.
Champion Dialogue: “You've come to the right place. Or person. Or both."
Body Count: 10
    1. Orderly #1 is stabbed in the eye with a syringe.
    2. Orderly #2 has his throat slashed with a razor.
    3. Jill has her arm cut off to death.
    4. Julie is chopped in the neck with a machete.
    5. Cheryl(?) has her head sawed off.
    6. Don is stabbed to death.
    7. Don's Girlfriend is strangled.
    8. Detective Rosenberg is dismembered with an axe.
    9. Humanity's Savior is dismembered with an axe.
    10. The Reaper has his heart cut out and eaten.
TL;DR: Day of the Reaper must have been fun for the literal teenagers making it, but it is not equally fun to sit down and watch.
Rating: 3/10
Word Count: 724

1 comment:

  1. I’m going to have to track this down. It sounds like something that some kids in my hometown did in the late 90s.