The slasher genre is packed to the brim with entries, it seems to be the most accessible genre and with simple ingredients. A small budget, one setting and a group of teenage mis-fits that can be easily dispatched. 'Jack The Reaper' sits right in the mix with the rest, nothing fresh as such but a few nice ideas....however not without fault.
A group of high school students are forced on a field trip by their teacher for not completing an essay, to the rail road museum. Woo! Of course they are the stereotypical pack of students, the jock, the slut, the emotionally challenged one, you get the picture. What is a slight annoyance is all of the characters do actually seem to have their own stories but are never exploited during the film...a missed opportunity in my opinion.
On arrival they are treated to Tony Todd, who, with the power to scare the pants off a nun, tells the students all about the rail road and the legend of Railroad Jack! Of course this is a Tony Todd cameo and once he's done his bit that's the last we see of him, however he does do the trick and let's be honest Tony Todd's voice is not something you can forget in a hurry.
Finally the students are free and on their way home, or so they thought. The bus is caught up in an accident leaving the unfortunate victims stranded in the desert. The lights of a nearby carnival being their only salvation. Some of the group venture over to try and find the missing teacher and driver, not knowing that Jack and his pick-axe awaits.
Now if like me at this point you are desperate for something to happen, whether its nudity, gore, or scares.......something. Unfortunately this is where Jack the reaper falls down, you know it's coming but when it does it just does not deliver. The deaths are 'ok' but nothing ground breaking, most of the time we are left with cut aways, showing the sever lack of funding. It's a bit of a shame as all of the elements are there! They really are. The setting is atmospheric, the abandoned carnival is as good as it's going to get. As for Railroad Jack, he's actually as sinister as you would of hoped, his eyes hollowed out, a soul-less evil predator simply looking for victims.
Gore levels are at a minimum, bizarre really considering the death toll is actually amazingly high. Would it of been a better idea to reduce the teens number but make each death unique and pour on the gore? Either way this ties in with another major fundamental element of slasher movies, nudity. Nothing to be seen, no sexiness, no shower scenes, nothing, not that it's a necessity, however it goes a long way, especially when the pacing for the first 40-50 minutes is slow to say the least.
Overall the best I can describe JTR is a warm-up slasher. It has a few redeeming features, Jack is a genuine threat, Tony Todd tells a nice story and the acting is fairly good for the budget. However the pacing, gore levels and plot aren't solid enough to make it amazing, more run of the mill.