DVD Review: The Reeds / Cert: 18 / Director: Nick Cohen / Screenplay: Chris Baker / Starring: Anna Brewster, Geoff Bell, Daniel, Caltagirone, Emma Catherwood / Release Date: June 25th
Winner of the Toronto After Dark horror film festival 2009, low-budget British horror The Reeds is only now making its DVD debut in the UK. This is, to say the least, a bit of a puzzler because this is a competent, dark and largely-effective little chiller which echoes recent fare like Eden Lake and The Children in execution if not necessarily in subject matter.
Once again we have a group of lively youngsters - this time a bunch of twenty-something Londoners - whose weekend boating trip on the bleak and desolate Norfolk Broads turns into something unpleasant and distinctly grisly. After a day of fun and frolics they decide to take a shortcut through some thicker reeds so they can reach their overnight mooring place by nightfall. Before long the novice sailors are lost in the dark and soon one of them is injured in a bloody (and wince-inducing) accident, strange shapes loom out of the darkness and something nasty from the past is lurking beneath the surface.
For the first forty-five or so minutes The Reeds is engrossing, unnerving stuff. Trapped and lost with one of their number in danger of bleeding to death, the little group slowly starts to fall apart - and terrifying (and initially confusing) hallucinations and visions only make the situation worse. Eventually the boat is lost, the casualty list gets longer and those who survive find themselves tormented by eerie ghostly figures and a mysterious man with a gun.
It’s probably to The Reeds’ credit that it isn’t just another runaround with a bunch of isolated holidaymakers terrorised by grotesque locals but its supernatural stylings, which become more and more evident as the film progresses, unfortunately just muddy the (brackish) waters and the sense of threat seems to diminish a bit when we realise the true nature of the apparently-feral kids who roam the marshes. Explanations, when they come, are muddled and, at one point, absurdly coincidental and ultimately the combination of ghost story and the more routine creepy they-all-get-picked-off-one-by-one story doesn’t really work as both elements work against one another so that neither of them is as effective as they could be. The denouement is particularly perplexing as we’re left asking ourselves if anything we’ve seen in the last seventy minutes or so is supposed to have happened at all.
It’s a shame that The Reeds fumbles the ball because it’s an interesting piece with a lot of potential which is squandered because it’s never quite sure what it’s supposed to be and what it wants to be. The cast of predominantly new faces (including Will Mellor… yep, him off perennial BBC3 sitcom favourite Two Pints) are all good value and the script, when it’s not wandering back and forth between genres, is naturalistic and dynamic. But in the end The Reeds lets itself down and throws away too much of its early good work in a jumbled, messy final reel and a climax which leaves the audience unsatisfied and asking too many unanswered questions.
Special Features: None