Today’s Prayer Focus


also known as “The Reaper,” “Backwater”
MPA Rating: R-Rating (MPA) for strong horror violence/gore, and language.

Reviewed by: Brett Willis

Moral Rating: Extremely Offensive
Moviemaking Quality:
Primary Audience: Adults
Genre: Horror Thriller
Length: 1 hr. 25 min.
Year of Release: 2005
USA Release: September 16, 2005 (wide)
Copyright, Dimension Films Copyright, Dimension Films
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Copyright, Dimension Films

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death and final judgment

Featuring Agnes Bruckner, Method Man, Bijou Phillips, D.J. Cotrona, Jonathan Jackson
Director Jim Gillespie
Producer Kevin Williamson, Scott Faye, Rick Jacobs
Distributor: Dimension Films. Trademark logo.
Dimension Films, a division of The Weinstein Company

He never hurt a soul until the day he died.

Here’s what the distributor says about their film: “Set in the Louisiana Bayou, Mr Jangles is a man possessed by 13 evil souls killed by a voodoo priestess. Mr. Jangles becomes evil and collects keys as trophies from his victims. From the creator of SCREAM and the director of I KNOW WHAT YOU DID LAST SUMMER.”

In addition to being a bad stereotype of Louisiana Bayou culture, this film is a bad stereotype of its own genre.

We open on a nighttime scene of an old black woman digging up a suitcase from an ancient cemetery, while she protects herself with Voodoo charms and incantations.

Cut to a scene of a bunch of teenagers at a drive-in diner, clowning around, drinking alcohol, talking suggestively, and making fun of Ray, the town weirdo who runs a garage and towing business. One of the teen girls pulls down her top and shows off a bra that she just shoplifted. Her friend tells her not to do that in front of Ray (who’s sitting in his tow truck, eating his food and minding his own business). Half-drunk, she decides to walk over and do it TO Ray. He makes no response.

Ray, who is muscular and has a scar and tattoos, is presented as a loner who is avoided by most people, but is really harmless. But all of that is soon to change.

The Priestess we saw in the opening scene was retrieving a suitcase full of snakes that she’d previously used to purge the evil from people. (Apparently the snakes are now supernatural and can live indefinitely without food or air.) She needed to move the suitcase before a construction project wiped out the cemetery and possibly discovered the suitcase or accidently broke it open. If anyone were to be bitten by these snakes, he’d be infused with all the evil that was removed from the murderers and other lowlifes that the Priestess had treated. Well, no big surprise here. Through a traffic accident, the suitcase will be opened.

Positive content: Ray, who’s really a nice guy, is seen risking his life for someone else. (Unfortunately, his reward is to be transformed into the film’s villain.) Later, another person sacrifices his own life to save someone else. In fact, when the teens are facing death, they commit many heroic acts, although most of them are in vain.

Sex/Nudity: In addition to the girl showing off her bra in the opening, there’s a scene of teens in skimpy swimsuits, actually swimming. The regular clothing of the teen girls is a little immodest at times, but true to life. There’s reference to the fact that one of the teen boys is Ray’s illegitimate son.

Profanity: There’s a good helping of foul language, especially once the danger factor sets in and the main characters fear for their lives. A lot of f-words, and all the other normal language. Abuses of God and Jesus, which could not reasonably be viewed as prayers in disguise.

Violence: This is a slasher film. We’re talking about buckets of blood, impaling, dismembering. And it’s in a supernatural context. The villain is not really Ray, but a walking-dead personification of evil that’s using Ray’s body.

Spiritual Content: Real Christianity is not seen anywhere. When the teens try to fight the villain supernaturally, they use “good Voodoo” against the bad Voodoo. And the bad triumphs over the good. Even attacking Ray by using a dead body as a Voodoo doll has only limited effect.

In terms of negative outcome of the story, this film is just barely above the level of “Jeepers Creepers.” Too few “good guys” are left standing at the end, and the evil isn’t really defeated with finality.

An additional unsettling aspect is that the film (set in Louisiana, in a town literally named Backwater, with scenes of heavy rain) is being released in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Of course the producers couldn’t anticipate that. But after Sept. 11, 2001, an Arnold Schwarzenegger film about a firefighter and terrorists was pulled from its Sept. 21 release date and held until the following year. The same thing could have been done here. It should have been. It wasn’t.

Regardless of the release date, this is a horrible piece of work, not worth anyone’s time or money.

Violence: Extreme / Profanity: Heavy / Sex/nudity: Mild

Viewer CommentsSend your comments
Movie Critics
…It’s just not the right time for “Venom”, a voodoo zombie massacre flick set in the Louisiana bayou. Not in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina…
Arizona Daily Star, Phil Villarreal
…a laughably bad example of teen-scream movies…
Chicago Tribune, Jessica Reaves
…Straight-on blood-and-exposed-guts horror film that’s a serviceable, if humorless, meat grinder…
Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Bob Longino
…abhorrent… one of the most visually disgusting and spiritually reprehensible movies to be released in a year already packed with such fare…
Movieguide, Dr. Ted Baehr

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