Directed by Tim Ritter [Other horror films: Twisted Illusions (1985), Truth or Dare?: A Critical Madness (1986), Killing Spree (1987), Wicked Games (1994), Creep (1995), Alien Agenda: Endangered Species (1998), Screaming for Sanity: Truth or Dare 3 (1998), Twisted Illusions 2 (2004), Deadly Dares: Truth or Dare Part IV (2011), Hi-8 (Horror Independent 8) (2013, segment ‘Switchblade Insane’), I Dared You! Truth or Dare Part 5 (2017), Trashsploitation (2018, segment ‘Truth or Dare’), Hi-Death (2018, segment ‘Dealers of Death’), Zombarella’s House of Whorrors (2019, segment ‘Cosmic Desires’), Sharks of the Corn (2021)]
Tim Ritter’s first film (made when he was a teenager), this is one that I’ve literally wanted to see ever since I first heard about it many years back. It went pretty much as expected, for better or for worse.
Firstly, the story was rather lacking. Part of this was because both the video and audio quality of the copy I managed to see were atrocious, but those technical aspects aside, the story doesn’t have a lot to offer, and toward the end, when things take sort of a supernatural turn (which didn’t seem explained all that well, and felt shoehorned in there), I didn’t care for it.
It’s the gore that would probably interest most people, though, and it’s generally pretty good. A pencil in the eye, a throat-slitting, multiple dismemberments. All decent stuff. I just wish that the camera and lighting had been better, so we could have gotten a fuller effect of the mayhem.
Acting throughout was all pretty stale, though the individual who played the detective was hilariously over-active. I don’t know the actor’s name (he’s not listed on IMDb, and the credits of the film only list the actors, not the roles they play), but the way that man delivered his dialogue, in a long, rambling, “I don’t need books anyway, who needs books?” was beautiful to behold. No one else stands out, but for an extraordinarily amateurish film, that’s not really a negative.
And amateurish it was. Even stripping away the problems with the audio and video, the story wasn’t great, and more so, felt moderately hollow at times. Plenty of lower-budget films possess more feeling than much of this one did, but I mostly chalk that up to this being Ritter’s first film. On a slight side-note, I’ve only seen one other Ritter movie, being the somewhat enjoyable Killing Spree from 1987. I certainly wouldn’t judge his output on this one, as it’s his first outing.
Day of the Reaper certainly has a place in the genre, especially among SOV fans. It’s never quite as gory as some of Schiff’s work (such as They Don’t Cut the Grass Anymore, which came out in 1985), or really as gory as H.G. Lewis’ material, but it still shows promise, despite all it’s shortcomings. Truthfully, though, I wouldn’t say I enjoyed it, but if you’re a fan of early SOV horror flicks, or a major Ritter fan, I’d check it out if you’re able to find it.