Day of the Reaper 1984 Review
Day of the Reaper 1984
Directed by: Tim Ritter
Starring: Cathy O’ Hanlan, Collen Foley, Patrick Foster
Review by Luisjo Joaquín González
Tim Ritter was one of the pioneers of DTV horror throughout the eighties and his output has always been well received by fans of lower budget creativity. His 1986 splatter effort, Truth or Dare: A Critical Madness, became notorious for its copper masked psychopath, a slightly more developed motive for the killings and an extraordinarily overblown performance from John Brace as the film’s bogeyman. If I haven’t posted it already, there will be soon be an in-depth review on this site, as its a film I have enjoyed more and more every time that I have watched it. It is one of my favourite campy slasher flicks from the mid-eighties and a great postcard from that non politically correct era.
The budget for the aforementioned genre entry was put together from the profit made from two bargain basement DTV flicks that Ritter produced and then sold to video rental stores around Florida. One of those was Twisted Illusions from 1985, which was a collection of short stories in the mould of Creepshow and Twilight Zone. Before that, he made this little rarity from 1984, which is probably the purest stalk and slasher of the many efforts he has under his belt.
It was shot in January and February and released eight-months later. The complete budget of the feature was $1000 (about $3,300 nowadays) and Ritter admits that most independent video retailers bought it out of sympathy for the sixteen-year-old ambitious film-maker, but even they had complaints about its quality. The last laugh was on Tim however, because the movie proved to be a popular addition and a few stores even asked for more copies.
A maniac who stalked and killed a group of girls, leaving only one female survivor breaks out of the Sunnydale insane asylum (same one as Mike Strauber from Truth or Dare) during his transfer to death row and heads back to stalk the youngster that he didn’t finish last time, complete with black ‘executioner’ style mask. Jennifer (Cathy O Hanlan) cannot convince the local law enforcement that the lunatic is still at large, so she must prepare to battle him alone. Or does she?
Now if you are still reading this review after I mentioned its budget then you more or less know what to expect. Put it this way, I could record much better footage with infinitely clearer sound on my iPhone and there’s probably an app available that would allow me to edit it to a smoother standard too. This was a very hard movie to watch, because of the quality of the production. Ritter used duck tape to piece together the negatives and it was shot in silence and dubbed sometime later so you can imagine the net result. There’s hardly any lighting in the night scenes, which means that when the screen is not tinged in a murky blue then it’s pitch black and let’s not talk about the shaky cinematography.
Of course this was just a gang of Ritter’s friends in the cast, so there are no real actors, but it’s the man himself that delivers the most excruciating lines. Watch the scene when he meets with Jennifer and dismisses her claims that the killer is once again stalking her. The dialogue is absolutely fantastic and it’s bad-movie comedy gold. There is an idea of a plot, but its the storyline of a sixteen year old and feels like a high school summer project as a homage to Halloween, which the film heavily imitates. In fact, this was exactly just that; – and the average age of the cast was around sixteen. The final girl was in fact too young to shoot the scenes that had her driving.
I get the feeling that I am coming across rather harsh on this cheesy slasher, which is perhaps a tad unfair. How many 16 year-olds do you know that have a movie in circulation? It is also important to know that the director himself admits to how rubbish his first feature is and I have heard that there’s a newer version around with a commentary where he highlights everything that I have mentioned here and more. As I have said before, I like some of Ritter’s work and its intriguing to see such an early instalment, but it’s incredibly hard to recommend it.
Worthwhile only for an interesting mask, but aside from that I think that you’ll struggle to sit through it.
Final Girl √