A group of teens have failed to complete their high school assignment on the industrial revolution. Their punishment is to go on a field trip (on a Saturday!) to a rail museum. There they are greeted by their guide Mr Steele (Tony Todd), who tells them the legend of "Railroad Jack", a malevolent presence who guides the dead to their final fate, and haunts a particularly accident prone stretch of road known as "Death's Door". When the school bus has a mishap on this very stretch of road on the return trip, and the students awaken next to a deserted fairground, they soon learn that "Railroad Jack" isn't just a legend...
After a flashback opening, we are introduced to the students as they gather for their outing, kind of like The Breakfast Club on a road trip. Introductions dealt with, we're soon into the action proper as the museum visit sets up the premise quite nicely before the teens make their appointment with Death's Door...
Part Final Destination, part Carnival Of Souls, Jack The Reaper (retitled simply The Reaper for the UK) is basically a good old fashioned dice-and-slicer at heart. The teens are mostly the usual bunch: The group of jocks (one of whom is naturally obnoxious), the outcast, the self-loving airhead, the girl with troubles at home, the overweight kid, the bad boy... Having a deaf student who can only communicate through sign language is quite novel, though. Despite top billing, Tony Todd doesn't actually get much screen time, but he gives good value to what he does have, adding presence and generally putting the frighteners on the school party. Sally Kirkland (who also co-produces) makes a brief appearance.
As "Railroad Jack", Douglas Tait (also co-producing) is effective, but then he has previous form at this kind of thing as "Stunt" Jason in Freddy Vs. Jason. He is suitably menacing as he stalks the hapless group one by one. First time director Kimberly Seilhamer makes good use of the fairground location (deserted funfairs are always good for a chill), and generally keeps things moving on at a cracking pace. She also keeps the gore count to a fairly economical level, enhancing the killings with some grisly sound effects and mostly allowing the viewer to paint their own visuals.
In conclusion, Jack The Reaper is good, unpretentious fun, an enjoyable ride which wears its influences loudly on its sleeve. What it lacks in originality is compensated for with some enjoyable set pieces and visual flouishes. If you're planning a double bill, it's the kind of film which makes an ideal entrée.
Available in the UK from September 23rd 2013 through Safecracker Pictures.
PURPLE RATING: 6.8/10
USA 2011 - American World/Mad Crapper Films
Certificate - 18 (UK), Not Rated (USA)
DVD: Safecracker Pictures (UK), Phase 4 Films (USA)