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  • Rev Horror

Reel

Dir. Chris Good Goodwin (2015)

A serial killer becomes obsessed with a horror movie critic.


Meta horror is all the rage now, films seeking to comment on horror as a genre or movies as a whole. Rarely does it strike particularly close to home, though, generally concerned with an industry that very few horror fans are actually a part of, and the meta "tropes" are generally just used to appeal to people who are as familiar with the movies they're commenting on as the filmmakers. Today's film, though, feels like it's aimed directly at me: a serial killer stalks a low-rent horror movie YouTube critic in an even more indie takeoff of August Underground. Kinda makes me wonder if I should change course...


Ultimately a film about dual obsessions, Reel follows internet critic Todd Smith (Mike Estes) in his fanatical attempts to prove his estranged brother's wife is cheating on him. Internet horror lover/serial killer Slashervictim666 is obsessed with Todd, however, and has poured through all of Todd's videos to learn every detail of his life. The film, which is "directed" by Slashervictim666, documents his pursuit of Smith, telling the story of both men's lives and Todd's attempt to make a movie on his own. Eventually, their two worlds will collide, the finale of the film being described as "one of the sickest bloodbaths in horror movie history."

While that may be a bit of a stretch, the ending of the film is really the whole reason why you'd watch. The last act, or roughly the last twenty minutes or so of the film, are depraved and horrific, a vast departure from the previous hour. A torture scene every bit as horrible as Vogel's AU trilogy closes out the flick, and it's very difficult to watch. I won't give away too much of what's going on for those who would like to watch the film, but suffice to say it's a pretty extreme film, and much more hardcore than I would have expected going in. It's dark, gritty, and disturbing, not one for the faint of heart or those who are even a little bit squeamish.

It's a believable film, very similar to Be My Cat: A Film for Anne in its realistic plotline and the quality of the actors. It's difficult to call the acting good, because everyone in the film is very stilted and aloof, but that actually works fantastically well in a film about a two-bit YouTuber and people who aren't prepared to be on camera. The camera is disorienting, necessary for the type of film that this is. The narration of the killer, while difficult to hear at times, is creepy and off-putting. It's clear there are nefarious things at play here from the very beginning, though it's shocking how dark it gets by the end.


This is not to say that it's a particularly good movie. In fact, I'd venture to say that there aren't very many, if any, movies like this that are actually good films. It's a rough watch for numerous reasons, most notably the slow buildup, the rough production values, and the general unlikeability of the characters. These are relatively par for the course for most found footage horror films, however, so that's not particularly a gripe. If I had one issue with the film's choices, it would be that the sound mixing was not very good at all. The score is overlaid with the dialogue, making it exceptionally difficult to hear during some moments. The score is droning and repetitive, which is not in and of itself a bad choice, but the way it impacts the watchability of the film doesn't lend itself to a wide audience.

Not that there are going to be a whole lot of horror fans that this film works for, anyway. This is definitely a movie for people who appreciate extreme horror, even if it takes a while to get there. Goodwin does a good job of creating a found footage film that makes sense, from the necessity of the cameras recording every scene to the interspersed home movies inserted by "Slashervictim666." In the realm of extreme horror, though, it's not half bad. There's a reason for it to exist, which gives it a leg up on a lot of Vogel's work, and it doesn't feel like a film that just comes out of nowhere with its plot. Everything has its cause and effect, and it's a decent stalker movie with lots of hidden details in the background if you watch closely enough.


Who this movie is for: Found footage lovers, Extreme horror fans, Shitty YouTubers


Bottom line: Reel is a tough watch for a lot of reasons, but this is definitely one you'll want to skip if you're not into extreme and disturbing horror. It's a slow mover, taking a lot of time to establish itself, but it's a realistic found footage effort with an incredibly unnerving and fucked up finale. If you are into extreme horror, however, or just found footage in general, it's definitely one you'll want to watch. How more people haven't heard of this, I have no idea, but hopefully this well help get the word out. If you're interested in checking it out, you can watch it at the Reel Store, where you can also rent the second film in what is becoming a series. Just don't say I didn't warn you.

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