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With a quick pace, strong visual style, and potent subtext, “The Reaper Man” is a strong offering in the folk and revenge horror subgenres.

In Alabama, where voodoo and hoodoo are rooted deep within Southern life, lies different kind of retribution.

Voodoo is a religion, and hoodoo is magic; they are often mistaken for each other but not the same. In marginalized communities, hoodoo can be utilized to bring about retribution where justice fails (and has since its inception during the horrific times of slavery.)

Our story begins with a married couple’s happy hopes dashed, then coming home to a heist gone wrong that ends the husband Joseph’s life. To take revenge, then comes the literal embodiment of atonement through magic and brings the havoc his attackers wrought upon themselves.

The Reaper Man has the feeling of us looking in on the reality of others and witnessing the cycles of victimization criminality creates, which ultimately reinforces the poverty people try to escape.

The interplays of light and color communicate grief and the supernatural; blue is the chief color used, which is oft used in horror to communicate the uncanny liminality of the paranormal. I truly enjoyed the layered storytelling and felt the cast was expertly picked because of how natural the relationships seemed.

At first, I felt Jessica Jai Johnson’s (also named) Jessica wasn’t fearful enough as death circled her. But by the end of the movie, I understood this strength/stoicism was coded into her character. Still waters run deep within her.

Kenon Walker’s performance as the titular character chilled with a terrifying magnetism. He merely stands motionless at times, but the gravity of his presence is menacing as he repays the blood spilled onto his life.

For those who aren’t fans of gore, this is a great choice.

Blood is shed, though off camera, and done with a Hitchcockian subtlety. Though the sounds of the body alone could fill nightmares, very little blood is actually seen.

The supernatural is shown in the broad light of day, in varying levels of sunlight; it is not banished to the shadows of night. It’s coming for you, and there is no escaping the sins not yet atoned for. However, the Reaper Man is not senseless in his revenge. This is a tale of balancing the scales without hurting innocence. It’s only an eye for an eye.

In this way, the Reaper Man does not represent evil; he is a man whose world was ripped away from him.

We see the issues of a system designed to keep people incarcerated and not rehabilitated; the cycle simply repeats viciously. Even generosity and the sincere desire to help someone’s circumstances are met with betrayal because of greed, but I view this as a systemic failure. Though people are deeply flawed, maybe they’re taught this greed out of desperation because they’ve honestly had nothing. It is not from the point of view of plenty that people are perpetuating crimes.

The audience feels an incomprehensible sadness for everyone, especially the main couple.

The horror here is not their retribution (though that’s very impressively executed) but how these cycles continue on, seemingly infinitely.

The acting, camera work, and musical scoring build a believable world.

My only real issue is that hoodoo and voodoo are seemingly conjoined in this narrative, which exasperates a fundamental problem of understanding among most people. If you’re using a real religion/magical practice as a plot device, I think it should be as accurate as possible.

Even so, this was a powerful story told well with the mechanism of the supernatural as its catalyst.

The plot also moves quickly and never languishes, which can be a problem in other movies of the folk horror subgenre.

And this is, indeed, folk horror. It may not take place in the secluded forests of Sweden or the lonely isles of Scotland, but we still see modern life clashing with the old ways and the supernatural bringing death to the disbelievers.

Ultimately, Jaron Lockridge's revenge folk horror THE REAPER MAN is a haunting meditation on the division poverty creates and maintains. Click To Tweet

The message here is that it’s not the revenants of the paranormal we should fear but the darkness within our own fallible human hearts.

Overall Rating (Out of 5 Butterflies): 3.5
The Reaper Man is now available on demand/digital. 

Written by Demon Folklorist

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