These last couple of years there's been a constant stream of British quality horror films. On my blog alone I've written reviews for The Children, Mum and Dad, Eden Lake and The Broken. The Reeds is the latest to join that list, sporting some very familiar characteristics and matching the same quality standards as its peers.
The Reeds belongs to the current batch of After Dark Horror Fest releases, who keep a healthy release schedule of 8 films per year. As always, there's some potential-wrecking fodder in there, but one or two of these films usually rise above the level of the rest. The Reeds is this year's prize winner, slaying the competition with relative ease.
Grim, that's the keyword most British horror films seem to thrive on. And The Reeds isn't any different. Set in some deserted area in Great-Britain, the film features ominous figures, kids with hoodies, rainy landscapes draped in washed-out colors, a dawning feeling of emptiness and a fair amount of nastiness.
The setup is pretty simple. Three couples rent a boat and go sailing. A seriously outdated map makes sure they get lost in nowhereland, with no outside help possible (why do we even have cellphones). Then some strange things start happening and events start their inevitable downward spiral. As you can see, The Reeds is a true genre film, embracing all the regular clichés with pride, feeling no shame at serving something we've seen countless times before.
Visually the film is very pleasant. That is, if you like that grim and grey British look. Somewhat grainy, devoid of bright colors, a minor hand-held look and a camera that stays close to the main characters. It's a tried and tested look, but one that works wonders for British horror films. Probably something to do with the setting.
The soundtrack is equally nice. Low humming noises, slight ambient soundscapes and some lifted sound effects. It's never in your face but almost always present, creating a moody atmosphere that lingers throughout the film. The acting too deserves some credit. No award-winning performances, but for horror fodder the characters are pretty enjoyable. Even the irritating ones are more than merely bad actors doing a worse job at being irritating on screen.
The true strength of The Reeds lies with the blurry boundaries of its realm. There is definitely some strange stuff going on, but the audience is just as unaware of what is happening as is the crew of the ship. A silent group of kids, a guy with a shotgun and some strange apparitions haunt our main characters, but context is scarce. All we know is they are lost among the reeds, and so is the audience.
The climax is pretty basic, but works. Apparently the ending is advertised as shockingly surprising, though I never expected much of it besides a simple explanation. When it comes it is a little far-fetched but fair enough. Another one of those typical horror cliches.
The Reeds is a film that convinces through execution. When it comes to concept, ideas, or creativity there isn't much exciting to find here. But it is all so damn well executed that it doesn't really matter in the end. There's a tangible tension running through the film absent in most other horror films, which beats all the previous negative points. Recommended for fans.