PICKIN’ THE CARCASS: THE REEDS (2009)
by Michael Arruda
Let’s take a boat ride.
A group of London friends take a boat trip through the Norfolk Broads, only to get lost in the reedy waters, where they fall victim to an unknown evil presence, in the 2009 thriller THE REEDS (2009) now available on DVD.
THE REEDS is a stylish thriller that starts out strong but then loses steam in a big way. When things are unknown, and people are asking “What is it? What’s out there?” the movie is scary, mysterious, and works well, but once the answers start rolling in, the movie becomes confusing and the pacing slows down dramatically.
When we first meet this group, they’re a fairly entertaining lot, even though no one amongst them really stands out. The acting is fine, but as written, these characters fail to make their marks as individuals. As a result, I really didn’t care about any of them.
Anyway, this group of friends get themselves lost in the reeds, and they do it so easily it makes you wonder just what they’re doing in a boat in the first place? They’re not that swift. Further proof of their incompetence is they crash their boat and suddenly find themselves stranded in the middle of nowhere. At this point, I’m asking myself, why do I want to watch a movie about these people?
The crash is actually a good thing, because it provides the best sequence in the movie. A huge— and very sharp— protuberance rips through the bottom of the boat right through the chest of one of the friends. Since this protuberance prevents him from bleeding to death, he doesn’t die. Nice! So, this poor guy has to lie there in agony pinned to the floor of the boat with this thick thing jutting out of his bloody chest. Meanwhile, his friends are obviously freaking out, and as they scramble to save him, there’s lots of gritting of teeth and spraying of blood. It’s an intense and exciting sequence, definitely not for the squeamish.
At this point, THE REEDS was rocking, but then— well, then our fearless friends hear noises coming from the reeds surrounding their boat. Are there people out there? Animals? Just what is it that is out there in the darkness? There’s almost a BLAIR WITCH PROJECT (1999) feel to these scenes. Too bad there wasn’t a witch out there in the reeds. Instead, they discover teenagers running through the reeds, fleeing from a mysterious man in a hood, armed with a rifle. This man is shooting the teens, hunting them down one by one.
Once this guy finishes with the teens, I’ll give you three guesses who he turns on next, and the first two guesses don’t count. Midway through this movie, most of the cast is dead, and then things just slow down because it’s just a couple of folks running for their lives from the mysterious baddie in the hood. Things have to slow down because otherwise he’d just shoot them, and the movie would be over. Hmm. That might have been a good thing.
So, here’s the scoop: the evil in THE REEDS is an old man with a rifle. But there’s more! The teens he’s shooting aren’t just ordinary teens. They’re ghosts. Or at least I think they are. It’s not really explained all that well. See, this old dude with a gun, he shot a bunch of kids years ago, and now these same teens are still running around, and so he’s still out there shooting. Whatever.
THE REEDS is a classic example of what happens when a story just isn’t fleshed out. The movie is extremely stylish. During the first half of the movie, I really enjoyed the work by director Nick Cohen. He sets up the action with flair, as there’s plenty of neat camerawork early on that more than makes up for the weak character development. And the sequence where the guy is impaled is exceedingly well done.
But later, as the story stops making sense, the direction by Cohen becomes less impressive.
The biggest fault here lies with screenwriter s Chris Baker and Mark Anthony Galluzzo. They create this creepy mysterious scenario, friends stuck on a boat surrounded by dark reeds with some unknown threat out there in the darkness, but then they completely fail in answering the question, what’s out there? Had they thought this part out, had they created a real and genuine threat, they would have succeeded in creating a first-rate thriller. As it stands now, the first half is fairly entertaining, eerie, and mysterious, but the second half is disappointing.
An old man with a rifle is just not that compelling a threat, and the ghost story involving the teens is so underdeveloped and confusing it’s a hindrance to the story. Don’t get me wrong. An old man with a rifle could be compelling. Hell, if I were on vacation, and lost on a boat, and some guy with a gun was taking shots at me, yeah that would be scary, but Baker and Galluzzo don’t develop this guy at all, and they don’t turn him into a viable threat or memorable villain.
The same can be said for the rest of the characters. Nobody was memorable. While the acting was serviceable, no one stepped up and created a character who stayed with me.
THE REEDS begins as an atmospheric horror movie but eventually deteriorates into a slow-paced plodding snooze-fest, which is too bad because I liked the first half of this movie a lot, but then everybody dies, and the two people who are left are forced to slowly learn about the man with the rifle, and in this case, there’s just not that much to learn.
When all is said and done, this is one trip you don’t need to take.
© Copyright 2011 by Michael Arruda