5 out of 10

Release Date: 3rd August 2012 (DVD Premiere)

Director: Nick Cohen (Doctors (TV) / Eastenders (TV))

Cast: Anna Brewster, Daniel Caltagirone, Scarlett Alice Johnson, Will Mellor, O.T. Fagbenle with Emma Catherwood and Geoff Bell

Writer: Mark A. Galluzzo & Chris Baker

Trailer: THE REEDS 


images-7Here’s a great little supernatural thriller set on the Norfolk Broads.  The Reeds‘ plot is nice and tight and the acting is generally good.  Six friends from London head off to East England to hire a boat and spend the weekend in each others’ company. We have a good sample of uptight, relaxed, aggressive and dippy aboard.  No sooner have they hired the boat from a weird local with warnings that ‘the reeds can play tricks on yer’, our heroes are be-set with rain, thunder and lightning, never ending dykes and movement out there in the reeds. You’re left to guess the rest and although this is a fairly generic thriller, I’m sure you’ll find the outcome quite satisfying.  The cast, who are mainly TV actors acquit themselves with aplomb but sadly theres always one who lets the side down. Step forward O.T. Fagbenle (THE INTERCEPTOR). It would seem that the makers reserved all of the bad lines from the script and the dim-witted reactions for his character.  I don’t know how this dumb pretty boy seems to outlive most of his friends, in a situation like this, its just not feasible.  Maybe its not his fault, it would take a pretty expensive actor to be able to energise a role this pathologically vacant. It’s rare that a single performance can render a movie silly and if it wasn’t for the well thoughout story line and the rest of the cast he would have beached the whole thing.

Much is made of the spooky setting with it’s labyrinth of identical waterways and swaying reeds.  The film does well to convey the cut off nature of the region and also sprinkles the plot with drops of paganism and the occult.  As the cast are gradually despatched in imaginative ways we are rarely reminded that this is a no-budget independent movie.  The chases are well shot, the gore is effective, the sound effects are evocative.  The prowling camerawork is good. Only the prelude is shonky and could have been edited out without bothering anyone. The trailer is also rotten, hiding what a good little movie this is.

We’ve been here before of course with movies like Triangle and The Others but it’s not a bad thing to put a spin on other good pics in the genre.  This feels fresh, but its not a game changer.  Geoff Bell’s (ROUTE IRISH) boat yard owner is a great endorsement of the horror staple. You know, the creepy old man who non-chalantly sends the yuppies off to their collective doom with a crusty local accent and a wink.  Just brilliant.

5.5 out of 10 – A neat but generic supernatural thriller with a few fresh riffs on a very well trodden road.  It’s helped out immensely by its creepy Norfolk Broads setting and a ripe Geoff Bell cameo.  Above average DTV material. Not quite cinema-worthy though.



One thought on “THE REEDS


    This week at Britpic we see our standard anonymous bunch of slayable twentysomethings assemble on a boat and get slaughtered on the Norfolk Broads. Welcome to THE REEDS. Sadly, it’s not the reeds themselves that do the killing (though they do administer a few nasty papercut-type injuries). No, there’s a big anchor, some mysterious teens, and a caped killer (or crusader?) all merrily rampaging away. And then of course there are the underlying tensions amongst our diminishing band of heroes – actually there aren’t any really other than Will Mellor being annoying. But as the past catches glumly up with one of the ‘characters’, and their boat gets hopelessly lost in water that is literally inches deep, it is quite impossible to really care.

    This is one of those films which is competently done but seems to exist for no other reason than as proof that those involved can produce something mildly competent. No-one is going to put this on their top 10 list, no-one is going to remember it as a highlight of their movie-watching lives. It shouldn’t end any careers (unlike, say, PIMP) but it hardly suggests that great things are going to emerge either. As far as the plot is concerned, as outlined above, a bunch of friends head off for a boating weekend, encounter some odd characters, get into trouble, get into worse trouble, split up, mostly get killed, find out the truth, seek vengeance and pay the price.

    Top-billed (on the DVD cover anyway) Scarlett Alice Johnson has little to do other than scream a lot, though she is involved in a scene which should have been poignant but succeeded only in being a bit funny and a reminder of the maxim ‘look before you leap’. This is not her fault. Not even the greatest actors in the world could save this from being a rather dull rehash of lots of half decent ideas. And, on this showing at least, Daniel Caltagirone (magnificently wooden) and O.T.Fagbenle (I’m not making these names up) are not amongst the world’s greatest actors. I suppose most of the ‘action’ is at night so maybe they’re all a bit sleepy if it’s past their bedtimes, but is it expecting too much for them to look interested or scared or angry? Meanwhile, Emma Catherwood wears a nice dress. Not really sure why.

    The bulk of the film falls on the shoulders of Anna Brewster, who looks a bit bored, and a bit irritated by everything. And who wouldn’t? She has a dark secret, which she blurts out very early on in a deeply unconvincing expositionary scene (though like a dull dullard I completely failed to spot its significance for ages, though I still worked it out before we were meant to – honest). This dark secret just happens to explain everything that later happens. Except it doesn’t really explain the cyclic nature of the story, unless it’s meant to be some sort of illustration of ‘what goes around, comes around before you know it and for no logical reason and then very confusingly causes a great deal of trouble for people who don’t really have anything to do with it and that great big anchor smashing through the hull was just a coincidence which just happens to set the ball rolling (a bit like the ball in MINORITY REPORT which makes no sense at all)’. If you’ve seen TRIANGLE, you’ll realise this is just a lesser variation on the same ideas. And if you haven’t seen TRIANGLE, see TRIANGLE.

    This week the Billy Murray role is taken by Geoff Bell, in a performance which is either utterly barkingly bad or some form of utterly baffling genius which I am unable to appreciate. Even if you ignore the accent (which you won’t be able to), this is a performance of old-school scenery-chewing relish. If THE REEDS had been a truly atrocious film then this would have saved it. But as it is a competent, dull film, Bell’s performance just overbalances it. It’s like having a pantomime villain turning up in THE BILL. So, yes, I am actually wishing that director Nick Cohen had done a worse job on this film. If Geoff Bell’s performance here could be grafted in some way into the abysmal BASEMENT, well, that would be grandiloquent. But THE REEDS is a safe, formulaic, bland and standard film lacking anything in novelty or panache. (Even the nods to paganism feel stuck on.) And it’s such a shame, as there are sufficient ingredients here for it to become a bit of a cult classic, with Geoff Bell gurgling away as all falls apart around him, like the great/awful barnstormer Tod Slaughter whose work (from the 30s and 40s) any dedicated Britpicker should be keen to investigate.

    For some, a jaunt on the Norfolk Broads would be most welcome. And a story about such a jaunt might well be interesting (I think Alan Ayckbourn’s play WAY UPSTREAM might be an example). But horror on the Norfolk Broads? It just doesn’t sound very promising (in spite of my postcards of The Phantom Coach of Potter Heigham and The Ghostly Drummer of Potter Heigham which used to scare me when I was a lad) (now a film of The Phantom Coach of Potter Heigham – that would be worth watching) and sadly THE REEDS proves me right. You’re much better off watching Melissa George running around with an axe in TRIANGLE. Same plot, and on a boat, and the cyclical narrative device works as it’s part of the story.

    So today’s moral is: a film needs to be a bit more (or a bit less) than utterly average to be of interest. Time-wasters are exactly that. Either excel, or fail fascinatingly! After all, it’s a lot easier to mock the truly abysmal than to decently appraise the abjectly mediocre. And don’t watch THE REEDS if you’re desperate for a horror story on a boat which plays tricks with time; watch TRIANGLE. Here endeth the lesson.

    3 OUT OF 10

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