It’s time for an axe massacre double feature! I take on the cheesy slasher Jack the Reaper and the deeper Dread, based on a Clive Barker story.
JACK THE REAPER (2011)
Jack the Reaper is one of those flicks you watch when you just want a mindless slasher with a freaky killer and a bunch of stupid kids. As to be expected with this type of film, there are some familiar faces, including Tony Todd and Sally Kirkland, plus the 2001 Maniacs gay kid who got anally skewered to death.
The opening scene is unique in that the killer doesn’t have to chase down anyone. A couple’s car has crashed…and the killer just comes over, drags the woman away, and then hacks up the guy!
So we move on to a bunch of kids, all dealing with their own issues. Plus, they all have to go on a bus trip with their teacher for a day. I don’t know. I think it had something to do with them not doing some sort of class project. Whatever. Who cares. As long as they die.
Along the way, one of them keeps seeing some creepy dude with an axe standing on the side of the road as the bus travels desolate roads. Then they stop someplace. I don’t know. I think it was a museum. Whatever. Who cares. As long as they die.
Tony Todd says some creepy and mysterious things to them (shocker) and then they head on their way. Their bus crashes, the bus driver has disappeared, there’s a brightly lit carnival in the distance, and so a bunch of them head on over for some fun while the scaredy cats stay in the bus.
There’s a fake person in the ticket booth at the carnival. There are no people at the carnival. They have the place to themselves, so the kids ride the rides and play the games…for free! Wahoo.
Meanwhile, someone’s watching them through blurry tunnel vision while breathing heavily. Awesome.
These annoying kids fight and get into some personal dramas, but once you get past all that, this freaky killer basically just steps out in front of all of them and starts swinging his axe! Jack needs to be featured more in the sequel.
The final 20 minutes is the typical run/hide/hack/slash we can never get enough of. Plus, there’s a pretty cool twist. Yeah. You’ve seen it before, but you don’t really see it coming in this one.
Dread is based on a Clive Barker story—but doesn’t have any weird, alternate dimensions or freaky creatures. It’s actually one of the easiest of his movie adaptations to relate to because it delves into basic human fears.
The catalyst for the exploration into terror is a college student named Quaid who wants to do a thesis on the fears and dreads of people. So he gets some of his friends in on the act, interviewing participants and hearing all their horror stories about the awful things that have happened to them and created their phobias.
As the film unfolds, Quaid decides to make his subjects relive the things that terrified them. It’s a combination of physical and mental torture, making it a pretty twisted film. But at the same time, Quaid himself has a fear; as a child, he watched his parents get slaughtered by a guy with an axe.
It’s the focus on Quaid dealing with his own bad memories that brings a gritty slasher element to the film as well. And this is actually my favorite part. It is hardcore! Intense, brutal, and gruesome. And it starts to affect Quaid’s mind. There’s an incredible scene involving him tripping in a strip club and seeing axe cuts just appearing in the naked dancer right in front of him. Dare I say, the special effects are perfectly executed!
And of course, because it’s Clive Barker, there are plenty of sexual hang-ups, including a homo-awkward moment in which one character becomes uncomfortable when his buddy strips in front of him.
Dread really is the best of all worlds, crossing the line between psychological horror and gory, violent terror.
And here are the horror hunks from both movies: