The Reaper’s Image Movie Review
Written by Michel Sabourin
DVD released by Rotting Corpse Productions
Directed by Sammy Bates
Written by Sammy Bates, based on a story by Stephen King
2013, 31 minutes, Not Rated
Matt Mooningham as Johnson Spangler
Dave Haney as Mr. Carlin
Sonny Burnette as Samuel Claggert
I was curious to watch The Reaper’s Image, as it’s a take on a Stephen King short story of the same name from Skeleton Crew. I am a huge King fan, and this tale, about a supposedly cursed mirror that shows select people the image of the reaper, seems rife for low-budget filmmaking; limited cast (two characters in the book), limited locations (one stuffy storage space), and a tight tense narrative.
At first, when I was done watching this short, I assumed it to be a first-time student film and applauded the guts to take on a Stephen King adaptation. It has what you would expect from an amateur film: bad acting, poor camera work, and REALLY bad audio and scoring. But I did a little bit of research, and it turns out to be from an ostensibly professional production studio, which makes me less forgiving of its flaws. Let’s take the storyline. The adapted screenplay breaks a tad from the original, which is fine if you’re planning to flesh it out some, i.e. making a full-length movie. But this is a short that could’ve stuck to the original story and involved fewer set pieces, characters, set-ups, etc. It seems unnecessary to add a back-story that could have easily been done through the exposition given in the short story. There are only a handful of directors who have made good King adaptations, and those are the ones that skew the closest to the source material, like Rob Reiner. And, let’s face it; you’re probably not going to improve on King’s words. Leave that to Frank Darabont, the only person to consistently prove himself able.
As far as acting goes, I’m much more forgiving of amateurs. It takes time and practice to hone those skills; but, having said that, the main character is played as such an officious prick that you have absolutely no way in to care about him one iota. It’s an odd choice, because while the character is described in the book as a “supercilious bastard”, he’s not specifically an insufferable jerkwad either. For that matter, there really is only one sympathetic character to be had here, the custodian/tour guide, and he doesn’t even have a first name.
The score mix is not mixed at all. The background music cuts completely any time someone has something to say, which is a shame because it’s moody and atmospheric, and if properly faded into the scene it would add more depth to the project. The actors’ mic volumes waver from distant whisper to loudspeaker and doesn’t have a consistent quality, which bespeaks to a lack of audio looping, something not uncommon in low-budget filmmaking, but jarring at times nonetheless. With the advent of home studio software, there’s not much excuse for that.
The Reaper’s Image is not a wholly bad effort, but not one that I would recommend seeking out. I hope the filmmakers continue to grow and produce more work, refining their skills, as I applaud anyone who makes movies; I just want them to be good.
Video, Audio and Special Features:
Video, audio and special features will not be graded as this was a screener.