Director : Jaron Lockridge
Writer : Jaron Lockridge
Stars : Harlee LowderKenon WalkerK.J. Baker
As The Reaper Man begins, Joseph (Kenon Walker, Queen Rising, Curves) and Jessica (Jessica Jai Johnson, The Stix, Damaged Goods) are having a very bad day. First, they find out that they’ve been approved for a home loan, only to find out minutes later that a better offer, one they can’t match, has been made on the property. They return home disappointed only to walk in on Marcus (Michael Gordon III, Vile Lane, The Red State), Josh (Coley Bryant, Driven, Killer Concept), Nick (Brandon Russell, Shaolin Blues, Live With It) and Brandon (Brandon Person, The City of Crosses, The Preacher) in the midst of robbing it. In the ensuing panic, Joseph is killed and Jessica is injured.
In the days following the killing, Detectives Casey (K.J. Baker, The Third Saturday in October, Nashville) and Brown (Keith Lamont Johnson, They Live in the Shadows, Eternity) are trying their best to solve the case, but someone keeps killing the suspects before they can get to them. Someone who looks a lot like Joseph.
The press release for The Reaper Man refers to it as “Candyman meets J.D’s Revenge”. And while it’s good to see J.D’s Revenge get a mention, what writer/director Jaron Lockridge (Succuba, Hongo) delivers is closer to other films from the same era such as Sugar Hill, the Night Stalker episode Zombie, or even Zombie Nightmare.
Because, as you may have guessed, Jessica has visited a Voodoo priestess named Sheba (Tarsha Gibson, One Man’s Bed, Close Caption) to bring Joseph back. But, as is usually the case, what has come back isn’t the man she lost. He’s now a soulless entity bent on revenge, complete with creepy contact lenses, an impossibly deep voice and a bloodlust that drives him to kill not just the gang, but their entire families.
For a low-budget film shot guerilla style, The Reaper Man looks and sounds good. Along with his other roles, Lockridge was the film’s cinematographer and just about everything else, he only had enough funds to hire a makeup person and a producer, and he does a solid, if unspectacular, job of capturing what’s going on. Unfortunately, due to The Reaper Man’s low budget, there’s not really a lot to capture. The body count is relatively low and relies on somewhat effective scenes of Joseph stalking his prey and killings that frequently happen off-screen or just out of the camera’s range, which is to be expected with a film like this.
The real problem is the script doesn’t do anything new with the plot to help detract from the lack of action. There’s lots of dialogue, but little of it is interesting or compelling. And if you’re going to revisit a plot that is as well used as this, you need to have something to set yourself apart from the crowd. Either that or do an exceptional job of retelling the story. Instead, The Reaper Man undercuts itself and reveals a couple of things before they should have been spoiling the chance to build suspense and make their revelation more effective.
To be fair, Lockridge seems to be trying to change things up a bit in the final act but the material isn’t as new or as thought-provoking as he seems to think it is. And that includes a final scene you’ll see coming well before it the film gets to it. The end result is a film that, while not truly bad, just lacks something. Like Joseph, it shambles along doing what it needs to do in an efficient but lifeless manner. The Reaper Man may be worth watching if you’re feeling undemanding, but you can find the same plot done better as well.