By Scott A. Cupp
This is the 175th in my series of Forgotten, Obscure or Neglected Films
During Spring Break and late March, my friends Ed and Sam came out to Alpine to visit. During the four days (unlike dead fish, they did not stink after three) they were here, we watched a large number of films and TV shows.
Fortunately, I had lots of things they had not seen. In one of the periods when a full-length movie was too much, I pulled the first season of Reaper off the shelf and said, “I’ll bet you’ve never seen anything quite like this.” Forty-five minutes later, they agreed. It was odd and irreverent and wonderful.
Reaper’s pilot episode concerns Sam Oliver (Brett Oliver), who’s about to turn 21. He still lives at home with his folks (Andrew Airlie and Allison Hossack) with his younger brother Kyle (Kyle Switzer). Younger brother is an overachiever while Sam is not. He works at a Home depot clone and dropped out of college after two weeks. The dictionary definition of “Loser” has his picture.
On his birthday, his parents are acting weird. His mother starts to cry; his father hugs him. Odd behavior. His best friend Bert “Sock” Wysocki (Tyler Labine) comes over for breakfast as he does every day. Sock is one of those for whom the position of Loser is a monumental promotion. Burnt-out slacker with no plans for anything past tonight’s activities. He also works at the hardware store, where his goal is to make it through his shift without actually doing anything.
On the way to work, vicious dogs seem to want to attack Sam’s car. At work, he is attracted to Andi (Missy Peregrym) a college student who works alongside him. During the day, a pile of air conditioners starts to fall toward her and Sam is, somehow, able to deflect them away. But Sam says he never touched them.
Suddenly evil dogs appear in the store, along with a mysterious white-haired man (the amazing Ray Wise). The man introduced himself as Satan. Confused, Sam goes home, where he learns that as a young couple his father had been really ill. To the point that his parents made a deal with the Devil. In exchange for a cure, the Olivers had to promise that Satan could have their first son on his 21st birthday.
No problem. They had no kids, and Mr. Oliver got a vasectomy. But then Mom showed up pregnant. Seems the doctor had some gambling debts he needed gone, so the Devil asked for one ineffective surgery.
Here’s the twist in Sam’s dilemma: the Devil doesn’t want his soul. He’s got plenty of those. What he needs is someone to help capture the souls that have escaped Hell. It’s a simple deal. Sam is shown the soul in its current manifestation. He is given a specialized tool to capture the soul, which he then has to deliver to a portal that is literally Hell on Earth. For this mission, the soul collector is a dust buster hand vac. And the portal is the local DMV, where a minion is disguised as a clerk, though she does have tiny horns hidden under her bangs.
Oh, and the soul is an arsonist working as a local firefighter who looks like a MMA champion who could smash Sam with this eyelashes. Needless to say, the first mission does not go well. Sam and Sock go after the firefighter and miss, expending the energy in the dust buster.
They need to find a way to recharge their special tool and a plan to figure out where the soul will be.
They eventually succeed and the deal is done. Or so Sam thinks. Satan has other ideas. There are more souls to be captured. And the deal isn’t done until he says it is.
The ensemble works well together and the fun is clearly present. Life at the hardware store is certainly Hell and Sam and Sock still have to try and survive there. Ray Wise is so well cast as Satan, debonair and not be fooled with.
Reaper survived for two seasons on the CW. I missed it when it was on. The amazing Kimm Antell introduced me to the show later and I loved it. Just as K. D, Wentworth had introduced me to Wonderfalls and Point Pleasant, I have to try to pass the love on. Give it a try. The episodes vary in quality. The pilot was directed by Kevin Smith of Clerks and Comic Book Men fame, who knows quirky humor.
Series organizer Todd Mason host Tuesday Forgotten Film reviews at his own blog and posts a complete list of participating blogs.