Thursday, October 6, 2011

The Reeds (2009)

A muddy cloud of who's who, what's what, where's where

Three couples go out on what's supposed to be a leisurely boating retreat in a stretch of canal away from civilization in England. That's the easy explanation of it. The rest is a doozy to describe and try to make it cohesive sounding especially in the right order of things. Essentially the story unfolds like a loosely laid out series of events that eventually leads to a survival horror film with some elements of the supernatural.

Right from the getgo they get haggled when hiring a boat as if the trip is to be called off, but then get directed to a boat out back that has some teens already on it. Tempers almost flare until one of the women recognizes a red headed woman from earlier who ran out in front of their car abruptly and the too-cool-for-words youngsters stride away. Off the couples go with a map that takes them no where and with nothing but reeds standing in their way to the promised pub they're headed to. Did I mention cell phones don't work? A guy named Chris is the resident loud mouth and party guy who skinny dips, yells at the youngsters again and becomes a belligerent drunk when playing cards. Maybe it's for the best the pub destination fizzled. Soon enough they hear and see something unexplainable in the reeds and then crash from a protrusion that sticks through the bottom of the boat and injures one of the crew.

They're stuck and one of them is slowly bleeding to death. The most capable guy attempts to swim back while the others bide their time on the boat. They come into more circumstances with the teens who are now slaughtering animals, a man who might be friend or foe with a shotgun, under water cages with skeletons, some strange visions of themselves, along with nature and darkness standing in their way to safety...and who could forget "The Reeds," which aren't always capitalized on--might as well be "The Shrubs," "The Fences," "The Palm Trees" (I know, I know). The boat goes through more trouble and trying to scramble away all at once leads to a share of injuries among the crew, which seems both convenient towards the storyline for getting people out of the way to concentrate on the hero, but then anticlimactic towards generating the nuances of danger and desperation in a horror film. At this point people hallucinate with no explanation as to why and it makes the experience and relevance confusing as to what is actually going on even more so.

The issue with "The Reeds" is it fails to set up a premise, what that place in particular means, why it encloses a legend, or even if it's capable of drawing people in from some force towards it. It eventually gets there but you're not watching the film from back to front and would need some valid clues in the meantime. I have a feeling that this was written that way and it shows. The bread crumbs it lures you with don't feel satiating enough to entice your hunger to go on. Basically you get a share of forced melodrama with six people you could care less if they live or even die. The general tone feels confusing and tedious rather than mysterious or intriguing. You're left standing with no subtext or steady direction towards a focal point. Instead you get a share of general characters with attributes that are neither capable of bringing about a sense of the dramatic or in the way of entertainment. One of the women named Laura is an exception by showing some strength and a knowledgeable medical background to help her friends and get help. You have to sell your audience and this feels more mundane than delivering cinematic material that would be in the way of gripping or alluring. On top of that, the editing and camera angles are all over the place when the action heats up and can give one a headache with what's shown and for what reason. At times, certain events happen out of the blue and instead of being shocking or thrilling, it makes your throbbing brain work that much harder to figuring out what they're trying to portray and how it was relevant to the shot before it since it's not always framed up or hinted at beforehand, such as people appearing and disappearing without context.

Part of the outline is eventually explained towards the end through the "resident legend guy" yelling it back and forth with snippets of information that's supposed to make it sound more natural. Its twist seems too far fetched without more foreshadowing beforehand that would make it truly rewarding or fascinating. There's some atmosphere generated towards the latter portion when there are less characters in the way and it's nice that the film tries to go for something that isn't a straightforward template like some other horror films, as well as changes around the survival format somewhat. The performances were of decent caliber for what they're given and they seem to have some chemistry together as a group. Though its convoluted ideas and unsteady execution have little backing power in the greater scheme of things and really bog this down.

Rating: 2/10

Director: Nick Cohen (Voodoo Lagoon)
Link: IMDB

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