The main characters in “The Raking” set out to disprove an urban legend for a college credit. The Rake is a monstrous creature that comes out once a year to kill, and is infamous enough to have locals steer clear of his territory (the middle of the desert conveniently where no one wants to live anyway). What seemed like a fun, somewhat edgy nighttime road trip quickly turns into a night of survival horror for the young(ish) heroes when the Rake not only proves to be real, but unrelenting in his pursuit to kill them.
I like that this film is intentionally a throwback to the pre-CGI era of low budget monster movies. This is a classic “man in suit” creature feature, which I have a soft spot for. The creature design is not trying to reinvent the wheel, but is high quality for such a bare bones budget. It’s clear that the filmmakers realize that the suit is their strongest asset, which leads to them perhaps showing it too often. That said, the suit is simply shown too much for it to remain scary through the entire running time; I found myself looking for the zipper in the suit. Likewise, the sounds the creature makes are quite effective the first few times the creature makes an appearance, but as the film moves along, becomes redundant and eye roll inducing.
After what seems like an endless number of attacks from the creature, the film looks to pick up when grizzled loner James is introduced to the story (Marshal Hilton, bringing gravitas to an under written role). Hilton gives the most affective bit of dialogue about a previous encounter with the Rake, and I found myself wishing the film had centered around his character rather then the college kids.
This is a story that could have sustained a short subject video for YouTube, or as a segment in an anthology horror film, but has no business being full length on its own. The script is threadbare; the actors simply aren’t given much to do. Late in the film, pair of back-to-back monologues are given that are designed to make us care for these characters leading into the final confrontation with the Rake, but these monologues are too clumsy, forced and awkward to do anything but bring any momentum to a halt.
Verdict: Just watch the trailer. It’s fun and short, like the actual film should've been.
Craig is a co host of the Half Assed Horrorcast. His writing about horror has appeared on Bloody Good Horror, Fanboy Report and other places. Find him on twitter @4colorcraig.