Writer/director Chris Goodin begins Reel with a montage of clips from a YouTube show about found footage films hosted by Todd Smith (Mike Estes, Acid Head: The Buzzard Nuts County Slaughter). You can check out Todd’s YouTube channel, even though it hasn’t been updated in about seven years. Why hasn’t it? Reel will explain why.
Todd has a fan, the unseen SlasherVictim666. He has some experience making found footage films, very realistic ones. You might say it’s the family business. When he discovers that Todd is originally from the same small town as him, he knows they were meant to work together.
Reel is a film composed of two very different parts. For most of its length, it’s a hybrid found footage film. The kind where someone, in this case SlasherVictim666, has taken footage from various sources edited it together, added a score, etc. And that’s fairly easy for him to do because Todd tends to film just about everything he does and post it on YouTube. He even films himself breaking into his brother’s house to try and find evidence that his sister-in-law is having an affair.
This is edited together with footage of Todd being stalked by his number one fan, footage from Todd’s favourite films and SlasherVictim666’s own home movies. Since Todd is, to put it mildly, an asshole, this can get a bit irritating at times. It also means there’s a lot of shaky-cam footage which will be an issue for a lot of people, myself included. Thankfully there’s enough use of footage from webcams, security cameras, etc to break it up and keep it from being headache or nausea inducing.
Despite those issues, what emerges from the footage is an interesting portrait of two very troubled people, their issues going in different directions, but their paths destined to cross. Even before this, we knew Mr. 666 had issues just by the fact he’s stalking Todd, but once we see his family footage it becomes clear just how disturbed he is. And just how grim Todd’s future is looking.
That future is the last fifteen or so minutes of Reel, and they are an entirely different beast. It’s August Underground by way of Peter Walker’s Frightmare. Or maybe House of 1,000 Corpses if Rob Zombie had delivered what he promised. As I’ve said before I’m not a big fan of Hostel or films like it, but Goodin has the sense to keep the torture scenes just long enough to make an impact rather than drag on to the point they become dull.
Reel was obviously shot on a low budget, and much of that had to have gone to the effects we see in those last few minutes. This is some nasty stuff and I don’t recommend it to anyone with a weak stomach. It’s up there with eROTik and Trauma when it comes to overall effectiveness.
You can currently see Reel free on the director’s website. There’s also a director’s statement from SlasherVictim666, episodes of his web series and a trailer for Reel 2 which Goodin also hooked me up with a screener for. You can also order Reel on DVD, but I’m not sure that’s a good idea, SlasherVictim666 may deliver it personally.