Bad Movies at Redbox: Watching the very worst Redbox has to offer so you don't have to

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Jack the Reaper

The Breakfast Club meets Final Destination

Redbox Movie Art
Actual Movie Poster

Redbox Synopsis: The reaper, Railroad Jack, has no mercy when it comes to torturing and slaughtering anyone who meets his eye. When a group of teens set out on a school field trip to learn about the industrial revolution, Jack has a different plan in mind for them. Ensuring the teens' school bus crashes on their way back, he lures them to a nearby carnival, where he dares to pick them off one by one. Rated R, 96 minutes, no captions

NOTE: Several readers have noted that they have not had sound or there had not been any voices while watching Jack the Reaper on DVD. I rented a copy at Redbox and was able to hear sound, so take that as it is. Please feel free to comment if you have had the same issue.

In truth, I wasn't planning on reviewing Jack the Reaper. I had planned to watch and review Evidence last night but I forgot to reserve it on and ended up having to play happy go lucky at my local Redbox. I ended renting Jack the Reaper, a film that previously aired on Showtime. I was ready to pan Jack the Reaper despite it winning Best Horror/Scifi film at the Cannes Independent Film Festival, so I gave it a shot. Jack the Reaper is director Kimberly Sielhamer directing debut.

Full review, ratings and awards for Jack the Reaper after the fold

Lets meet our cast of characters:

Shawn Hickey (Jay Gillespie): Despite impregnating and then leaving his girlfriend, Shawn is not as callous as his brother, Stephen. We know Shawn is sensitive because he plays his guitar at the back of the bus. Kudos for giving him a real guitar and not a rubber yellow one.

Steven Hickey (Tyler Wolfe): The obnoxious brother of Shawn and a jock. We know he is a jock because he wears a cheap practice jersey and carries around a yellow rubber football he bought at Walgreen's.

 Maya (Amber Zion): Maya is the firey redhead who is Sommer's cousin. She is deaf and new to the school so of course Steven sexually harasses her. Interesting fact: Amber Zion is actually deaf and fluent in ASL.

Brian aka: "Casper" (Andrew Olsen): Brian is an albino with an alternative take-no-prisoners attitude. Brian likes to wear sunglasses even at night when his life is in danger. That is commitment to a fashion choice, my friends.

Sommer (Hope Jaymes): The sweet and naive girl, accompanying the gang on the trip to serve as an interpreter for her deaf cousin, Maya. Sommer is really excited to see Steven for some reason. Sommer is a likeable character despite not being able to spell the name "Summer."

Jesse (Alexandra Holder): Jesse is the cute, troubled. We meet Jesse as her creepy father drops her off and its implied he molests his daughter. This plot point is never touched on again.

Andre (Richardson Chery): Steve's best friend and follower and talks like Kevin Malone from The Office. Other than that, doesn't have a personality and I'm not sure why Andre's in this film.

Harold (Christopher Raff): Harold is the fat guy. You know he won't live to see the credits, however i'm not sure if it's due to the writing or how creepily Christopher Raff played the character. For about half this film I was convinced Harold and his weirdo Nana would turn out to be the killers. Someone right a movie about Harold or get Chris Raff a role as a killer, quick!
Trudy Yoo (Grace Jiyoung Park): Trudy is the stereotypical smart, rich, gorgeous Asian girl. She's stylish, drives a Porsche and is apparently a Marine sniper because she carries around a ghillie suit. I wish she had a bigger part.

Tyler (Jamal Draco): I honestly don't know what the deal is with this guy.

Mr. Smith (David Beeler): Mr. Smith is the most inept educator on the planet, allowing his students to fight, sexual harassment, child molestation or make profane gestures at him.
Mr. Steele (Tony Todd): Despite being the ambassador to the grim reaper and mastering the underworld, Mr. Steele cannot tie a necktie properly

Railroad Jack (Douglas Tait) Railroad Jack is a killer and grim reaper. I am pretty sure they didnt want to name this film Railroad Jack as it sounds too close to Kangaroo Jack and people would think its a sequel to the talking Kangaroo movie. Despite being named Railroad Jack, Railroad Jack never kills anyone on, much less goes near a railroad.

Our gang starts out to a railroad museum on a Saturday as punishment, for failing to learn about the industrial revolution. As they travel through a desert, through the grungiest windows on the face of the earth, Jessie spots the silhouette of a man on the side of the road.

They arrive and enter what appears to be not a railroad museum but a museum dedicated to minimalism.

Behold! Everything you need to know about the Industrial Revolution: some old travel posters and unclaimed luggage!
Mr. Steele arrives and gives the students a lecture about how many Americans get killed by trains every year which is neither germane to the history of railroads nor the American Industrial Revolution. After the lecture on train safety, the students depart on the bus. The driver must have spent his time windexing the bus's windows during the lecture.

Look, no streaks!
It's almost dark and the gang makes their way back to the school meaning they drove all day on a schoolbus to the sparest museum on earth to hear a 5 minute lecture on railroad/traffic safety from a man with, at best, iffy credentials for a drivers ed teacher. I don't know if this is just clunky writing, a damning incitement of the public school system as a whole or more proof that Mr. Smith is the worst educator in the world. Through the newly cleaned bus windows Jessie again sees the man, you can guess he is Railroad Jack...

Or maybe not
 and Kangaroo Jack Railroad Jack causes the student's bus to crash no where near a railroad because: railroad.

After the crash, the students awake to find not only the driver gone but Mr. Smith missing which really fits his teaching style. They exit the bus and see a carnival lit up in the night, they go to investigate as Jessie and Casper stay behind in the bus.

 I'm not going to recap any farther as to not give away any spoilers but I do want to address one scene and some of this movie's logic. As we already know from reading the synopsis, Kangaroo Jack Railroad Jack picks off the students one by one. Fittingly, Tyler has the most inane death that I would like to explore.

We find Tyler on top of the non-running ferriswheel...
I sh!t you not, he says "I'm king of the world"

Tyler takes a leak before the fariswheel turns on by itself causing him to fall to his death. How did he get up there in the first place? Can Railroad Jack teleport people or was Tyler killed by his own stupidity? I don't think Railroad Jack deserves credit for the kill on this one.

If Railroad Jack is indeed a grim reaper, what does that have to do with the railroad and vice-versa? More people died in Helicopter accidents last year*. Why not call him Helipad Jack and use the tagline: He's Hella-Deadly? It would have been just as easy to give Railroad Jack a scythe instead of a pickax, no?

*I was unable to source this


Sound: The sound mix on Jack the Reaper is remarkably well done and sound effects are impressive for an indie film. The one problem is the absence of closed captioning. While normal for indie films to not have captions, the absence is glaring when you have a deaf person as one of your leads. Especially if you wanted to have Amber sign "Easter Eggs" for everyone that knows ASL, but no closed captioning means you are cutting out your hearing impaired audience. Speaking of which...

Hott Hottness Award™: Today's award goes to Amber Zion and her portrayal of Maya in Jack the Reaper. You may know Amber from the Kay Jewelers commercials at Christmas time.

Amber looks older than a high school student. Thanks to her hearing disability, she is spared some of the hokey dialog in the film*. Amber emotes so well, the need for any dialog is moot anyway.

Amber looks amazing with her red hair, I hope she keeps it that color. Sorry, I couldn't find any bikini shots this time. Jack the Reaper is Amber's first feature film, though hopefully we'll see a lot more of her soon! Congrats to Amber Zion on her first ever Hott Hottness Award ™!

You can see more of Amber's work at her site and make sure to follow Amber on Twitter HERE and like her Facebook Page HERE

*I have to give credit to the screenwriters of Jack the Reaper: Thank you for not using the worn-out Hollywood, "My grandmother/favorite aunt/little sister/cousin was deaf so I know sign language" trope for Shawn and Maya a connection scene.

Overall: Dispite the clunky setup, his film has an interesting, if disjointed, concept and a decent twist ending, though it's one that's telegraphed mid-film. Cut this film some slack for the lack of graphic kills due to budget constraints and I consider Jack the Reaper as more of a sci-fi than a horror film anyway. Railroad Jack is a fairly scary villain, though the kills aren't novel. There is no nudity in the film (sorry fellas) which is curious since it has some graphic violence and language. The characters are a bit thin but it's forgivable as there's no main character. Though the dialog is a tad on the hokey side and the acting is hit or miss, the sci-fi angle is enough to keep you interested in the film for 86 minutes. While I wouldn't consider Jack the Reaper an instant classic or a must see,if you are fan of the b-rate horror/sci-fi, it's a nice little indie film and worth a rental at Redbox 6.5/10

Final Verdict: I'd rent that for a dollar!

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  1. Great job of warning me about the movie.... I think I remember the jewelry commercial...

  2. I saw the film on Showtime and I also thought Amber was super sexy, and played her role great. I didn't know she was actually deaf, still she was great. it was kinda hokey in parts, but overall I did enjoy the film. I would have liked to have seen more of Tony Todd, I thought he was great and powerful in his scenes. Douglas Tait also played the Reaper super scary, my only issue with it was the lack of brutal kills. They kept cutting away to Tait swinging his axe and didn't show any blood, although his smile was creepy. It was a fun flick!

  3. I saw this on Showtime also. I noticed the school was Charon, thought it was an odd name so I looked it up. Turns out Charon is the ferryman of Hades. Steven's jersey said "Charon Ferriers" (sp). I also noticed that the bus was on it's side at the end of the movie, but upright when the kids exited. I'll have to watch it again to see if there are more clues to what's going on. Overall I enjoyed the film. It doesn't settle for gore a nudity (although I wish it had some).

    Loved the fat guy. He was hilarious. I agree about Amber, supper hot. And too bad hopes best assets went to waste.

  4. why cant i hear the people talk

  5. Are we not suppose to hear ppl talk in this movie. Rented this movie 3 times at red box and don't hear ppl talking.

    1. Also, Darrenburggess, why the hell would you rent this THREE times, man?

  6. This comment has been removed by the author.

  7. I rented this disc from Redbox and had no problems with the sound. Also, Darrenburggess, why the hell would you rent this THREE times, man?

  8. Replies
    1. As to my understanding: everybody was dead; killed in the bus accident. It was just their Souls that were walking about the place that 'Rail-Road Jack' was Reaping, except inside the School Bus. When each person got out of the bus their Soul was up-for-grabs for Rail-Road Jack as a Reaper to take their Souls. Mr. Steele, the leader of the weakest museum there ever was, foreshadowed the only rule when he told some character, some guy (but really it was for the audience to know, since the character never told it to anybody) that there were places Jack couldn't go. So, as long as you stayed in the School Bus, it just so happened, was one of those places...although between death and living in a school bus, that is a really tough staying in the dirty school bus, you couldn't be taken by RR Jack, and when they find the last girl alive, Jesse, who'd stayed on the bus the whole time and did the right thing, with police and EMT all around, she is shown now bloodied-badly from the Bus accident but alive; when she gets stabilized and is taken out of the bus in a gurney, she is taken from the protection of the Bus into an ambulance transit to a hospital, she is told by Ambulance Jack "You're finally out of the Bus! And I'll take you where YOU need to go! Muhahaha!" Where the nice, smart, girl that did everything right...she is taken into Death's Ambulance and sent to the Afterworld. And when she flips up from the gurney that she'd been tied down to--amazingly she has now has no blood on her, just as she isn't restricted on the gurney any longer, nor heard or seen through the 1950s Ambulance Windows--to the entire crowd of EMT, Police, etc., that are milling all around the accident place and nobody sees her. She's in Death's Ambulance now and she's being driven by 'Ambulance Jack the Reaper' while the others all got a face full of pickaxe steel. What a Twist!!! (written sarcastically).
      Unfortunately, according to that movie-logic, to stay alive, Jesse then has to stay in the overturned Bus for the rest of her life, staying out in the middle of the desert, although at least she won't be molested repeatedly by her really creepy 'father' any longer. Not quite sure what the Director was going for with that one--Be nice, do the right thing, help others...get molested, go on the dumbest field trip out to the middle of nowhere, get killed with morons that kinda deserved it. That's a good moral, there! She might've well just done a pound of blow and shot up her neighborhood and molesting dad with an AK and the result would remain the same. Since she'll be staying for all those years and decades going by slowly in that bus in the desert, as the only way she can stay alive--someone must go to bring her one bucket for water and some food and one bucket for 'other' fluids once a week, seeing her out in the middle of nowhere--until she'd grow old and die 80yrs later.
      For the cute, nice girl who was being molested by her dad...that a pretty messed up ending when nothing bad happens to the quiet, wicked beasts that are unknown to the world that get away with inflicted misery and here's "Jessie", the cute, smart girl, that did the smart thing, yet she dies. You have to think "Worst Field Trip Ever!"

      (Although perhaps Mass-Transit Jack would've been a better name for ole Jack? Unless the Rail-Road is how Jack gets to and from work to go about Reaping Souls, it's a bad misnomer, as it has nothing to do with any of the characters of the film or any part of the legend of Jack. School Field Trip Jack would've even been a better name than Railroad Jack...perhaps "Reaper Jack" was taken?)


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