The incoherency of The Reeds actually compelled me to watch it a second time. I thought that maybe – just maybe – I would like and understand it after another viewing. That didn’t turn out so well. It’s not a complete failure, though; it has some cool ideas and good execution in parts, but a lot of the details don’t make sense to me. The visuals, atmosphere, and characters are fine, but the sloppy handling of key plot points undo all the enjoyment to be had in the first two acts.
The story follows a group of people who go to a marshland to rent a boat for the weekend. When they get to the sales counter, the weird guy who owns the boats says there aren’t any available. After some prodding, the owner reluctantly gives them the keys to one at another location, so the group heads there. Upon getting to the boat, however, they find a bunch of teenagers hanging out on it. They eventually leave with no incident, but something about them seems off. Everyone soon forgets about it and embarks on what they think will be a glorious weekend getaway. What they get instead is a day of death and destruction as they’re introduced to the supernatural forces hidden in the reeds.
It’s difficult for me to lodge the complaints I have without discussing as vaguely as I can specific scenarios. If you want to go into the experience without knowing more than what the trailer shows, I’ll begrudgingly recommend you skip most of this review.
With that said, I can’t wrap my head around the logic of this movie. I’ll try to set up the convoluted situation that epitomizes the problem, so bear with me. The first real encounter the characters have with what haunts them occurs while they’re stuck inside the boat. Scary sounds and people have surrounded them, and they don’t know what’s going on. They’re menaced by the goings-on outside the boat, and what happens physically affects them. Fast-forward to a later part in the movie, and it shows the same situation from the perspective outside the boat. That’s not the weird part. It gets confusing when you realize that, from a chronological standpoint, the events on the outside of the boat take place later than the events on the inside. The present and the future are interacting with each other as if they’re taking place at the same time, only they’re not. Then again, they are.
As if that wasn’t confusing enough, brace yourself for more muddled stupidity: the future event that is inexplicably interacting with the present is also a version of something that happened years before any of the characters came to the area. Yes, you read that correctly. A future version of the past is part of the present. Whatever, it’s a bunch of unexplained garbage.
I have no idea how that’s possible, but I also can’t see it being a lapse on the part of the filmmakers. It seems to have been done on purpose, but whatever they were trying to convey is lost on me. It comes across as sloppy and ill-advised. It’s not even worth getting into the believable characters or how good the cinematography is when it’s all wasted on a story that ultimately sinks itself by half-assing themes that hinge on suspension of disbelief. Just to be clear, all supernatural horror hinges on that; it’s just a matter of creative talent to make it succeed.
To briefly piggyback off of that notion, I’m a firm believer that form should follow function. A movie can be the most well-constructed, artistic endeavor ever put to celluloid, but if I don’t see a purpose for what I’m looking at, I just don’t care. There are probably exceptions to that rule, but in the case of The Reeds, it falls firmly against that principle. I don’t care how well-constructed it is if I can’t get past the fact that it stumbles along in explaining why anything happens.
To give some perspective, The Abandoned is a perfect example of a movie that gets it right. The story has the past intruding on the present, but everything is presented in such a manner that it makes logical sense, and the resolution is satisfactory. Sure, one could argue that it’s a bleak representation of reality, but that doesn’t make it feel any less genuine. The Reeds tries to present a hodgepodge of realities as a singular entity, and it flat-out fails.
It irritates me when a movie has technically good direction but can’t seem to put all the story elements together in a good way. I’m struggling to find good things to say, because while I was into the movie for the first 45 minutes or so, it just hits a wall of confusion after a certain point. While researching the director, I came across another Cohen film, Voodoo Lagoon, that might satiate my horror sensibilities. Of course, if it takes the same path of The Reeds, I’ll end up disappointed. It remains to be seen if Nick Cohen can create both a believable set of characters and a premise that doesn’t collapse on itself with the weight of its own narrative. In other words, it’s a hot mess. Oh, well. There are plenty of hot messes that tend to get more play than they deserve. I hope The Reeds isn’t one of them.