Every so often, I find a movie that really tests me. Maybe sometimes it tests my patience, or my cognitive reasoning center, or maybe even my sheer tolerance for insanity. This week was no different, but this time, I faced down the sheer power of a new idea. Executed really, really poorly.
GRIM REAPER brought what started out as a truly ho-hum familiar storyline; essentially, some stripper was waiting for a cab outside the strip joint in which she shakes the moneymaker and got hit by the aforementioned cab. This launched off a series of strange events--including an admonition to "stay in the light" from a random passerby and spurs her pre-med boyfriend to go hunting her up, and finally finding her again in an insane asylum. Even better, she's seeing a random hooded whatsit armed with a scythe stalking and messily killing anyone that it comes in contact with.
Hence the title.
Now, you're probably already shaking your head and sighing as you run down the list of possible knockoffs: FINAL DESTINATION, maybe? DARKNESS FALLS, with that whole half-assed "stay in the light" business? Maybe even that upcoming THE INVISIBLE? Maybe you're even digging way, way back for memories of the fourth NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET installment. And in all honesty, you'd not be wrong to do so. It turns out to have shades of all of these, though it favors FINAL DESTINATION a bit more than it should.
Okay, so maybe it's not all that original an idea, but let's be honest--when's the last time you saw a FINAL DESTINATION knockoff? Not recently, I'll bet.
Sadly, what really might have saved GRIM REAPER and its vaguely original idea was some good execution, something in very short supply here. I may be wrong on this one, but I think stripping involves a little more than circling a pole dressed as an angel in the midst of a crowd of hooting men and not taking off so much as a wing before walking off stage. Though I have to give them some credit for not using the strip club sequence to set out the canary-in-the-coal-mine tactic of naked chicks in the first few minutes. There is, interestingly, no nudity. Plus, the narrative itself is pretty thin. Events, especially for the first half hour, seem to happen semirandomly with little or no interconnecting dialogue or exposition to explain what we're doing jumping from one thought to the next.
It was a pretty fair idea, in all honesty, and at least they deviated from some of the standard horror movie cliches. They took a pretty good chance on this one--it's a crying shame that it didn't manage to turn out any better than it actually did.
The ending is a bit confused--she's got to stop death, by dying, kind of...but only for a couple minutes? If you think about it a bit, it starts to make some sense, and otherwise isn't a bad ending despite some confusion.
The special features include English and Spanish subtitles, plus trailers for SAW III, CRANK, MURDER SET PIECES, and A DEAD CALLING.
All in all, it was a good idea gone fairly well awry, and thus
manages to slot itself firmly into mediocrity by virtue of averages.
RATING: ** (out of four)