Whew, something smells. Like the eons-old stench of rotting human flesh released in one fell "whoosh" of contaminated, miasmic air.
It's Reeker! No, wait, it isn't.... The cats freaking peed on my comforter! It's not the movie stinking up my house after all. I wish it were; DVD containers are much easier and cheaper to clean than down.
In the credits, the Reeker staff warns against using easy "it stinks" jokes in film reviews; personally, I took that as a challenge. No one's going to tell me how to write my review! Don't go and title your film Reeker and then be all cheeky when people try to make jokes. Get over yourself.
Now that we have that out of the way: Reeker is actually an atmospheric, creepy meditation on life and death. Since the titular character is supposed to smell really terrible, we can be glad that Hans Laube's 1939 invention Smell-o-Vision never really caught on.
Some teenagers are on their merry way to a mega-rave in the middle of the desert. When their car proves less than reliable, they end up at the "Halfway Motel." Before long, they realize that something isn't right; the highway, and the hotel, are too empty, and mysteriously mutilated figures creep and crawl around the edges of their sight; and sometimes into full, gory view.
What this movie does well is maintain its atmosphere. Neither you as the viewer nor the young people stuck in this situation know what's going on, which creates additional suspense and confusion, making Reeker a fairly creepy flick. Too many horror films create initial suspense, but then have a character halfway through (let's call her Sue) who figures out the not-very-complicated rules and explains those rules to the audience by explaining them to her close buddy Sharon (destined to be murdered gorily, BTW). The rest of the movie is then predictably paced and plotted, as Sharon and our hero Sue, in full knowledge of the rules, attempt to manipulate the situation so that they can win.
This is fine. But it's not very horrifying. Movies like this lose their drama and tension in favor of a nice, clean ending. Maybe there'll be some fun gore, a couple creative deaths, when Sue barely escapes the villain's flashing knife with her dress still on, and when Sharon and her boyfriend Sylvester meet up with the villain's lawnmower. But your investment in the plot isn't real high at this point. You know what's happening and why, and you know Sue will win in the end. Really, it's all denouement. The foreplay's over, the wad has been tossed; it's just some half-assed snuggling with a coating of blood.
I give Reeker credit for resisting this tendency. You aren't told what's going on, what the rules are, until the very end of the film. Odds are, by this time, you have a pretty good guess, but you aren't sure. Kudos to Reeker for giving the audience some credit for having half a brain, and kudos to the film for not overexplaining itself.
Reeker has some solid genre effects: people missing half their heads, missing limbs, getting splattered by the titular Reeker's whirring-death-on-a-stick instrument. The gore is entertaining and reasonably creative. The Reeker monster himself is fairly scary: a blend of WW2 gasmask Nazi with leather-clad biker psychotic. And then, he has a cool whirring deathstick tool, like a handheld mixer on violence-enhancing drugs.
A couple caveats. The film's acting isn't too hot, though it stops short of being bad. The film's premise --once you find it out-- has been overdone, though this is a respectable entry into the subgenre. And there're a couple continuity goofs and such that reveal the film's low budget origins.
That said, I've ended up with many much worse horror films when surfing the shelves at Blockbuster. This one's pretty creepy and has some good effects. It's not brilliant or terribly original, but it gives the audience some credit for being at least half-witted, and it doesn't explain things too soon.
If you can sit around, as I did, with some beer and good friends, it'll be a positive experience.