REVIEW: Jack the Reaper (2011)



Jack the Reaper: F

This film is insoluble excrement and the most snore-inducing thing I’ve watched in a while.

A group of about ten kids (who, just like the Breakfast Club, each represent a different sub-population of the school) go on a History class field trip only to wind up at an abandoned carnival in the desert. Well, almost abandoned…

There’s a guy named Railroad Jack at the carnival. He looks like Sloth from Goonies, has a pick-axe, and likes to kill teenagers. He wears, I don’t know… pajamas? Yawn. I’m trying to think of a more uncharismatic villain. Jason Voorhees with a sack over his head has more personality. Leatherface has more depth. Paul Bunyan even has a better back-story.  

The “teenagers” are pushing it too. A couple of them look like they could be thirty. With real drug habits.

You know how this goes: the kids are all uncomfortable and then they get picked off one by one. “But wait,” you may think to yourself. “They’re at a carnival! That opens the door for all sorts of low-budget, entertaining, carnival-themed kills! Maybe a witch in the haunted house shoots acid at the snooty rich girl, ironically disfiguring her prissy face! Or maybe the roller-coaster swings around and knocks the arrogant jock’s head off while he’s trying to show off! It could be like a 90 minute Insane Clown Posse song!” Nope. You’ll actually be BEGGING for the lyrical genius of Shaggy 2Dope. Every kill is just Railroad Jack with his fucking pick-axe.

Also, pretty much every kill is an off-screen implied one. Real fucking cheap. I can understand doing one of these in a movie, sometimes even two. But this movie does it like ten times. Ten times! Ten fucking times! Ten times there’s a close-up of his stupid grin followed by a splatter noise. You see the corpses later, which he has arranged on the carrousel. It spins around in slow motion so you can see their “head wounds,” which look like your standard 99-cent Spirit Halloween Store make-up.

Maybe the lack of on-screen murder was because they blew their budget hiring Tony Todd AKA Candyman to give the Wise Elder speech that foreshadows the teens’ doom. Candyman is an employee at a nearby train museum and he somehow knows all about Railroad Jack. Goddamn what has Tony Todd been up to? He likes to wear leopard-print scarves and other articles of clothing one might expect to see at a cabaret. He looks like a homeless pimp.

Also, there is an “ominous” female voice that delivers limericks in between several scenes. Not creepy at all. She sounds like the voice-over on a Life Alert commercial.

Oh, and don’t even get me started on the goddamn unresolved sub-plots. One kid has a grandma who behaves like a serial killer, another kid finds out he got his girlfriend pregnant, another kid is being chased by two mysterious thugs whom he ditches at the school bus, and one girl is obviously being molested by her dad. Literally no explanation/resolution for any of this bullshit!

Insufficient gore, cardboard acting, a vacuum of suspense, and an insistence on taking itself seriously are what really hurt this movie, the latter of which was the most insulting for me as a viewer. Seriously had to exert a lot of effort to not dump D-con in my beer.


REVIEW: eXistenZ (1999)


eXistenZ: C

This is a Cronenberg movie set in a videogame-obsessed future where reality and the virtual reality of games have become indistinguishable from one another.

Game consoles look like deflated breasts with umbilical cords which you can use to connect your nervous system and consciousness to the virtual world of the game. You actually play the breasts like a controller. Imagine an Alien face-hugger with tits that plugs into your back. Multiple scenes of Jude Law groping a melted mannequin torso.

I do it at Macy’s, and I get banned from the mall. Jude Law does it in this movie, and it’s “art.”

eXistenZ came out a couple of weeks after The Matrix and they share the philosophical theme of mankind’s struggle to define reality while our relationship with technology becomes more singular. Both films have us winding up in manufactured realities, but where they differ is their imagining of how we get there.

In The Matrix, sentient robots plug humans into a virtual reality against their will. In eXistenZ, we are so bored with reality that we plug ourselves into virtual worlds for entertainment. Both movies explore our increasingly intimate relationship with technology and our hubris from believing that we are on the dominant end of this relationship.

I think eXistenZ got overlooked because there are no stars from Point Break firing handguns in slow-motion. The movie is less sensational than The Matrix. It’s also way grosser; it has the aesthetic of Naked Lunch and Videodrome. Lots of slimy creatures and inappropriate tonguing of techno-organic private parts. Jude Law makes a working pistol out of the skeleton of a mutated salamander.

The overall look is a little clunky. You’ll immediately think to yourself, “Yep. That’s what people in the 90’s thought the future would be like.”

What about the plot? It’s a lot like Inception; multiple people can “plug in” to these machines and share the “game play,” much like the dream-sharing machine in Inception. Once in the game world, you can plug into another machine, taking you to another game world within the game world, from which you can plug into another machine, etc. just like the layered “dreams within dreams” in Inception. As a matter of fact, Inception ripped this movie off big time. What the hell, Inception?!

Get ready for you head to explode: A game designer is almost assassinated and Jude Law has to go into game land with her via a controller-port installed in his spinal cord by Willem Dafoe the gas station mechanic. Then they have to go a few layers further into game worlds and old Bilbo Baggins with a Russian accent has to perform bootleg surgery on the Lombard region of a game system. And there is an anti-gaming cult that commits homicides. Jude Law licks mysterious holes and guts lots of fish. It all works out.