June 25, 2019 Soul Reaper (Movie Review)
Ah, the cabin in the woods. When will we learn to avoid you and your promise of death? Clearly not just yet, as blood is poised to splash the forest in another new Horror flick, Soul Reaper, which arrives to DVD on Tuesday, July 2nd, 2019, thanks to 4Digital Media.
Infamous, somewhat beloved prankster Charlie (Asher Green in his acting debut) has called his friends together for a bachelor party weekend in the English woods. However, unlike most stag weekends, invitations to this romp have also gone out to some of his female friends, including Charlie’s ex-girlfriend Tina (Kezia Burrows: Alien: Isolation video game 2014, Doctor Foster series) and designated driver Mona (Katrin Larissa Kasper: Deep Slumber 2016, Britain’s Deadliest Lovers mini-series). Accompanying the ladies are Mike (Alexander Tol: De 12 van Oldenheim series, Ashens and the Polybius Heist 2019), Alex (Thomas Nelstrop: Chemical Wedding 2008, Class Dismissed series), and Steve (James Groom: Elizabeth I mini-series, The Lost Viking 2018).
Upon arrival at the tiny, disheveled cabin in the woods, the group meet up with more of their crew—Delbert (Michael Geary: Tulip Fever 2017, Viking Siege 2017) and Maria (Marny Godden: Devil’s Playground 2010, The Man You’re Not 2017), but Will (Chris Rogers: Dumbo 2019, Angel Has Fallen 2019) and Poppy (Samantha Thornton-Rice in her acting debut) are suspiciously absent. For that matter, so is the guest of honor himself.
While taking bets on what prank the groom-to-be is playing on them, the group discover a freaky painting and some other items that are immediately assumed to suggest the occult. It certainly doesn’t help that earlier, in a lovely little roadside pub called The Jolly Hangman, they were warned to avoid the haunted, evil, and unholy cabin. Ignoring all warnings, the friends begin to settle in, go for a dip in the lake, and then gather around the campfire. Unfortunately, nearly from the outset it’s very obvious that they are being watched and that someone or something is lurking in the woods—and it’s not just the crazy dude in the funky tracksuit (Ezra Godden: Dagon 2001, Future Self short 2013).
Clocking in at 87 minutes, Soul Reaper was directed by Bob Pipe (The Day They Came to Suck Out Our Brains! mini-series, The Monster short 2015), who co-wrote the screenplay with Richard Sandling (Comedian Richard Sandling and Ashens Explore the World of Videodrome TV short 2015, A Fistful of Lead 2018). Additionally, the film features the acting talents of Lizzie Roper (Angus, Thongs, and Perfect Snogging 2008, Boy Meets Girl series).
Oh, where to begin! The issues with Soul Reaper are many, but they all basically stem from its inherently flawed screenplay. Until its third act, the film fumbles through the motions with cliché tropes used to suggest a story that has not been fully developed, and is therefore lacking a cohesive plot. Sure, there are hints of trouble in the woods—paranormal and otherwise—but this is hardly intriguing or unique in the Horror genre. Meanwhile, the characters suffer from such poor development that they too are merely stand-ins for stereotypes—and barely believable as long-time friends. So while the film has a fairly succinct run-time, its script does little to intrigue or entice its viewers to stay the course.
This is not entirely the fault of its cast, as they are all fairly solid in their flat roles. Unfortunately, they suffer from an overall lack of organic chemistry that makes them believable as long-time friends. In fact, in certain scenes, the group can appear overly-scripted and posed; going through the motions of playing their roles alongside their cast-mates rather than working as a cohesive, flawless unit. Which, again, is not to fault any individual actor, as they all do their best with the minimal amounts they are given.
That said, as Charlie, Green is unfortunately doomed to be unlikable, but that’s merely the downside to his character. A prankster who has punked his friends one too many times, it seems that no one genuinely adores him—though no one entirely dislikes him, either. As Tina, Burrows is given next to nothing to work with until the film’s third act—her sole backstory is that she is the ex-girlfriend—while poor Kasper (Mona) and Marny Godden (Maria) are merely present for the sake of numbers.
Tol’s Mike, Nelstrop’s Alex, Groom’s Steve, and Geary’s Delbert fair slightly better. While Mike and Alex are never properly developed, they are at least given enough screen-time to prove their ability to tread water in their roles. Groom’s Steve spends the duration of the film suffering from a migraine, sitting in the cabin, and effectively avoiding much of the developing action. Though his character is likable, Steve’s sole defining trait is that he is gay.
Somewhat conversely, Geary’s Delbert is the sword-wielding, gregarious friend who makes a lot of noise but is still somehow likeable. Ezra Godden’s portrayal of the eccentric Ian, however, is by far the best acting in the film. Suitably ridiculous in his virginal formal attire near the story’s conclusion, Godden delivers a quirky and amusing performance in his bizarre role.
Aside from its flawed script, Soul Reaper suffers from a myriad of other issues that, given a more impactful and unique tale, might be more easily overlooked. There are some problems with the audio volume fluctuating throughout, though it is the few visual and audio effects that dip into borderline cheesy territory. Also, the filmmakers utilize transition scenes of the woods that are often tinted red, which detracts from and often cheapens the atmosphere of the film.
Truthfully, Soul Reaper never feels as though it has fully decided what kind of Horror flick it wants to be. Whereas some films that are tragically flawed devolve into a humorous self-defeat and amp up their Velveeta qualities to the extreme to embrace a Horror-Comedy billing, this film has enough integrity to attempt to maintain its facade—which is commendable. Unfortunately, mired with far too many holes born from poor decisions, Soul Reaper is a dingy that barely treads water. For this, Cryptic Rock give Soul Reaper 2.5 of 5 stars.