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No Man's Land: The Rise of Reeker

Lionsgate Home Entertainment // R // October 14, 2008
List Price: $19.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Justin Felix | posted October 19, 2008 | E-mail the Author
The Movie:

On October 14, 2008, Lionsgate, the home video distributor of quite a lot of low budget horror films, released a series of eight movies under the banner Ghost House Underground. These eight films can be purchased separately or collectively in a boxed set. The packaging of each disc includes a clear plastic slipcover with the Ghost House Underground logo emblazoned on the right and a screaming skull underneath. It looks garish but admittedly kind of cool too. To be honest, these flicks seem a lot like another round of After Dark Horrorfest movies (which Lionsgate also distributes). All eight of these movies will be reviewed here at DVD Talk. If you're interested in the series, you can find a list of the titles in this collection in the Extras section of this review.

Obviously, No Man's Land: The Rise of Reeker is one of the Ghost House Underground titles. Writer and director Dave Payne returns to the world he created in the cult film Reeker of a few years back. However, you don't need to have seen that movie to enjoy No Man's Land: The Rise of Reeker. In one of the DVD's extras, producer Tina Payne comments that "it's not quite a sequel and it's not quite a prequel, and we wanted it to work as a standalone movie." And work as a standalone movie it does. As a matter of fact, rather ironically this movie may be more enjoyable for those who haven't seen Reeker, as I suspect the film's surprises may seem more novel than for those who have seen Reeker and know what to expect.

In any case, No Man's Land: The Rise of Reeker opens with a well-crafted 15 or so minute sequence set in 1978 where a young police officer almost by happenstance discovers and apprehends a serial killer christened the Death Valley Drifter. This Drifter claims that voices have been urging him to kill the dozens that he has. He winds up in the gas chamber, as the officer is congratulated for being promoted to sheriff.

Flash-forward about 30 years and said sheriff is one day away from retirement. His replacement is his son, with whom he has a very strained relationship. They're eating breakfast at a diner in the middle of desert nowhere, with a foul-mouthed waitress and a cook serving them, when some casino robbers show up. All of a sudden, very strange things begin happening. People who should be dead aren't. All contact with the outside world is lost. And, everyone seems to be trapped in a concentric area enforced by invisible walls. Oh, and they're all being menaced by a ghost-like version of the Death Valley Drifter (who is now the Reeker because of his stench).

No Man's Land: The Rise of Reeker does have its faults. For instance, the mystery behind what's happening to these characters has a fairly obvious answer - even for those who haven't seen Reeker. A little too much time is devoted to developing secondary characters that aren't especially important to the overall storyline. Still, the premise is engaging enough to keep one's interest. A few nice scares are thrown in here and there. I also appreciated the touches of dark comedy. One character, for instance, has half his head blown off and still walks around cracking humorous dialogue. It's a little reminiscent of David's friend Jack in the classic An American Werewolf in London.

No Man's Land: The Rise of Reeker might disappoint fans of Reeker since it is largely a rehash. This didn't bother me per se since it's still entertaining. Viewers interested in the Ghost House Underground series will find this a fun entry on its own merits. Recommended.



On the back of the cover art, Lionsgate describes their video presentation of No Man's Land: The Rise of Reeker as "16x9 Widescreen 1.78:1 DVD Screen Format." And that's exactly what you get. The image is anamorphic (and so too is the main menu). In general, the film quality is quite good. There are some nice shots of the desert landscape, and details are okay. Colors favor brown hues, but that's not unusual for contemporary horror movies. A little video noise pops up from time to time, but it isn't too bad.


Only one audio option exists for the film: an English language Dolby Digital 5.1. It's a pretty good mix with dialogue always clear. However, action sequences, especially gunfire and explosions, and cues from the musical score both seem unnecessarily louder than they need to be. I understand using sound for "jump scares," but this movie uses it excessively.

English and Spanish subtitles are also provided.


There are several noteworthy extras on Lionsgate's release of No Man's Land: The Rise of Reeker. Before we get to these, though, there are the standard trailers.

A somewhat excessive seven trailers precede the main menu. They are for the other seven Ghost House Underground titles: Dance of the Dead, The Substitute, Dark Floors, Trackman, Room 205, The Last House in the Woods, and Brotherhood of Blood. They're also available collectively through an Also From Lionsgate link in the disc's menu system. A separate link provides access to the trailer for No Man's Land: The Rise of Reeker. It's nice to have trailers to all eight films in the Ghost House Underground collection, but it would have been even nicer to have a trailer menu with individual links to each film's trailer rather than having them lumped together like this.

Three featurettes are made available here. First up is the non-anamorphic Behind the Scenes of No Man's Land: The Rise of Reeker (11:47), which given its runtime is little more than fluff with the cast and crew making sound byte comments about the movie. Storyboard to Screen Comparison (2:39) offers what you'd expect. Surprisingly, this featurette is anamorphic. Production Team (5:23) has several members of the production team commenting on their work for the movie. This one's back to non-anamorphic, so too is the following featurette. What Scares the Cast and Crew? (1:52) has various cast and crew list their fears. Yawn.

Perhaps more important is the commentary track, which features the writer and director Dave Payne, as well as various lead actors, producers, stunt coordinators, and visual FX personnel. They're not all in the studio together, so their comments are spliced together. A random sampling suggests it's an informative track, but I know some DVD fans aren't all that crazy about this approach to commentary.

Final Thoughts:

No Man's Land: The Rise of Reeker is one of those sequels where you don't need to have seen the original to follow what's going on. Like Reeker, this followup feels like a slasher film version of a Twilight Zone episode. It's inventive with some darkly comic moments - but fans of the cult original may feel like it's too much of a rehash. Still, I'm going with a "Recommended" rating. No Man's Land: The Rise of Reeker, despite its faults, is still much better than the majority of direct-to-video horror flooding the markets these days.


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