Reel Advice from the Video Store Guy
By Steve Anderson
November 1, 2008

No Man's Land: Rise of the Reeker

No Man's Land: Rise of the Reeker
Directed by Dave Payne
Written by Dave Payne
Starring Michael Muhney, Desmond Askew, Mircea Monroe, Stephen Martines
Produced by Dave Payne
88 mins

I wasn't expecting a lot out of this one--it's a direct to video sequel to a direct to video movie that didn't do all that well in the first place. But I have to be honest with you...after watching the first five minutes, I was downright amazed.

And if you can get my attention in the first five minutes, congratulations--you'll have to REALLY screw up the rest of the movie to do poorly.

The plot is unsettlingly similar to the first one, in which a whole bunch of people figure out entirely too late that they're in some kind of waking coma somewhere between live and dead. Think of it like Downtown in Monkeybone--they used the exact same explanation--but you won't find any nifty visuals or Rose McGowan dressed like a catgirl around here. No sir, all you get is some rivethead in a gas mask with a flamethrower and assorted sharp things turning the population into dead folks. The original sheriff who took down the Death Valley Drifter, a serial killer who apparently became the Reeker (though I can't remember the first Reeker having anything to do with the Death Valley Drifter) lives long enough to face the revived Reeker, but also turns over a good chunk of his legacy to his estranged son. So now father and son, along with a handful of other equally colorful characters, will all have to try and survive their run-ins with the Reeker.

Now, where this movie actually manages to surpass the sequel is in the introduction of two new and nifty things--one, massive damage. One character will actually wander around with the top part of his head and most of his face completely missing. Two, the introduction of The Absolute Edge Of The Universe, a strange phenomenon that's bulletproof, completely puncture-proof, and cannot be passed through or broken down, ostensibly to give the Reeker a narrower zone in which to hunt.

It'ss the little things that help give No Man's Land: Rise of the Reeker its boost--for instance, there's this little bit I happened to catch in the credit roll:

"Shot entirely on Kodak film. Fuji film used to be cheaper, but the dollar is so weak. Eastman Kodak thanks you, George Walker Bush."

It's certainly not every day you get commentary IN the credits. It's certainly arguable that it's not exactly kosher to put comments in the credits, but I find it a welcome diversion.

And the rest of the film, meanwhile, will be at least passable with the Reeker appearing in a burst of stuttery motion to kill whatever happens to be in front of him in a thoroughly bloody motion. Not bad. Nothing great, but certainly nothing terrible. A significant problem, however, is that it's a bit top-heavy. They spent about two thirds of the movie trying to build suspense with a few occasional killings, but they blow it off in this last burst of fighting, the ending.

Speaking of which, the ending does a fair job of wrapping things up, much in the same way the first one did. At least it looks pretty familiar from where I sit.

The special features included a behind the scenes featurette, a storyboard to screen comparison, a retrospective on the production team, a featurette on what scares the crew and cast, and trailers for No Man's Land: The Rise of Reeker, Dance of the Dead, The Substitute, Dark Floors, Room 205, Last House in the Woods, and Brotherhood of Blood.

All in all, No Man's Land: Rise of the Reeker presents something of a rarity among horror movies, and indeed among movies in general. It's actually, somewhat, at least a little bit better than the original. Not by much, granted...but by just enough to make it noticeable. Sadly, it's not so good that it can stand on its own merits, however.

Brotherhood of Blood

Brotherhood of Blood
Directed by Peter Scheerer, Michael Roesch
Written by Peter Scheerer, Michael Roesch
Starring Victoria Pratt, Jason Connery, Ken Foree, Sid Haig
Produced by Mark Burman, Nicole Ackermann
88 mins

When you read a plot synopsis for "Brotherhood of Blood", you might well find it somewhat familiar. Doubly so if you're an enthusiastic John Carpenter fan like myself who's acquainted with the source material.

See, when I read a synopsis--which basically states, a group of vampire hunters must penetrate a hive of the undead in order to rescue one of their own--it wasn't hard for me to note a similarity or two between that line and John Carpenter's Vampires, loosely based on the Steakley novel Vampire$. It had always irritated me that Carpenter didn't use the dollar sign in his title the way Steakley did, but then it's not like the rest of the movie bore much resemblance to the book anyway.

And though there are plenty of similarities, there are also a pretty sizable number of differences. In fact, for those of you who watch this and think, wow, the whole Vlad Kossei thing sounds a LOT like Keyser Soze, you're not alone. Yes, I too couldn't watch Brotherhood of Blood without thinking about The Usual Suspects.

Sadly, few of these differences are for the better. Where Vampires was a frenetic, high-speed blood-soaked romp, Brotherhood of Blood is thin, slow and overly chatty. Ken Foree spends most of his scenes tied to a table. And normally vibrant and vicious heavy-extraordinaire Sid Haig is downright anemic in this one, forced to deliver half-baked rants and occasionally beg for his life to unseen forces.

In fact, anemic in general is a great way to describe Brotherhood of Blood. Lacking in both style and substance, it watches like something brought in to round out a menu, something not necessarily awful but certainly nothing great. This is doubly sad being as this is a part of the new Sam Raimi / Ghost House Underground connection--frankly, it's almost, but not quite, insulting.

The connection between this and The Usual Suspects is clear and deliberate, as is evidenced by the ending. The ending is almost the exact same as that of Usual Suspects, right down to the last-minute realization. Okay, we GET's the all-vampire production of The Usual Suspects. Can they bludgeon us any harder with this concept?

The special features include a commentary track, audio options, English and Spanish subtitles, cast interviews, a behind the scenes featurette, a storyboard to screen comparison, and trailers for Brotherhood of Blood, Dance of the Dead, No Man's Land: The Rise of Reeker, The Substitute, Dark Floors, Trackman, Room 205, and The Last House in the Woods.

All in all, Brotherhood of Blood is a slow, anemic mess that's thin on plot and weak in sauce. The continual subreferences to The Usual Suspects certainly don't help it any, leaving it a yawn from beyond the grave.