Day of the Reaper (1984)

Shot for $1,000 in Florida on Super 8 — yes, so much SOV is another format, but go with this — Tim Ritter and Joe Preuth made a movie that is basically two teenagers playing Jason and The Shape in their sunburnt hometown and yet there are moments that transcend just dicking around with a camera.

For 70 minutes, a hooded killer (Todd Nolf) does what he does best: kill. Kill and kill and kill and kill, killing bikini girls, killing people in white cutoffs, killing as he menaces Jennifer (Cathy O’Hanlon), the only survivor of his killings from before when he killed now. He can’t stop. He won’t stop. Even death can’t stop him. Even his opposite number, his mind destroyed by the electric chair and the sinister therapy of Doctor Bloch (Patrick Foster) to become an unstoppable force of destruction can’t stop this. Nothing ever will.

Do you know how Ritter raised the money for this? He washed dishes. How many dishes did he have to wash, how many hours did he have to touch half-eaten food from strangers, to earn the money to fill the screen with bending video fuzz, scorching your ears with drone synth, messing with your sense of story by just having the death be the story?

This whole movie is made with ADR sound and a soundtrack that sounds like the synth parts that go whoosh on Van Halen albums when Eddie got sick of playing guitar once he lapped everyone else. What’s even more amazing that by the end, the lack of explanation comes up against exposition that gets so dense, like a pro wrestling fan bugging you with lore that even most of the grapplers haven’t considered. The Festival of the Sanguinary finds one violence-obsessed person every seven years to become a specter and therefore become undying and eventually, it will kill everyone on Earth unless you cut out its heart and eat it in time.

There are just as many people that love this that hate it. Perhaps you will only see the flaws, the lack of budget and the fact that this movie was made with no experience. Or, and I hope this with all my still beating cholesterol ridden heart, that you see past that and allow it to take you over, like when you eat way too strong of an edible and have that sinking feeling that any moment you are about to be overtaken by a high that you may not be able to ride out but then, where is it you wonder, so you take even more and you’re overtaken by tracking lines and sticky corn syrup and food coloring blood melting in the humid Florida sun.

Herschell Gordon Lewis once made a mess here too.

You can get this from SRS.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.