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Five Must See Horror Films That Inspired or Influenced Jared Rivet’s Harrowing Horror Movie Jackals

Editor’s Note: Our very talented new writer, Alli Hartley, recently had the opportunity to sit down with screenwriter Jared Rivet and interview him about his upcoming 80s inspired home invasion horror film, ‘Jackals’. Click here to read this incredible interview. After asking him several questions about his love of the genre and what he thinks the future of horror is, she asked Jared to share the top five movies that had the biggest influence on him when writing his film Jackals. As you get ready to check out Jackals (in theaters and on demand September 1st), here are five other influential horror films Jared recommends you add to your must watch list. 

JackalsI wrote the first draft of the screenplay in 2006 and the true inspiration came from my desire to write a horror screenplay about the Satanic Ritual Abuse hysteria of the 1980’s. The chance discovery of a transcript about the outmoded practice of “cult deprogramming”, another very specific 80’s concept, gave me my way in: what if a cult deprogrammer kidnapped someone out of a Satanic cult? And then, what if the cult showed up outside and wanted him back?

Once I had the idea, one of the bigger influences was undeniably Jack Ketchum’s highly controversial 1980 novel “Off Season.” It was also the torture porn era and unrelenting movies with extreme torture violence were all the rage. It seemed like the right time for the script, and it was to the extent that it got a lot of attention, but getting it sold and made? That was another story altogether.

All of that being said, there were probably a dozen movies that heavily influenced the original script (initially called SACRILEGE), and I had to think really hard to boil it down to the five most influential. Without further ado, here are the movies I think were the strongest influences.


1. NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD (1968)

Night of the Living Dead

What more can possibly be said about George A. Romero’s seminal horror classic? It is one of my absolute favorite horror films of all-time and undeniably a movie that changed the landscape of the genre.

The influences on JACKALS are pretty cut and dried: a small group of people barricade themselves in an isolated house while hordes of silent, murderous figures gather outside. The tense drama between the characters holed up inside becomes as much of a danger as the aggressive zombies outside, with conflicting differences of opinion about survival tactics threatening to doom them all.

The early drafts of JACKALS contained a bigger emphasis on boarding up the windows and doors, constructing makeshift barricades against the threat outside. This element had to be dropped once the low budget realities of our location became clear (the interiors and exteriors for JACKALS were shot in a real cabin in Thousand Oaks, California), our solution was to make the danger outside more psychological. But I had always envisioned JACKALS having a healthy amount of hammering boards over windows as an homage to NIGHT. Luckily the “arguing ensemble under siege” trope remained intact.

On the day that George Romero sadly passed away this summer, I wrote that the man’s work was consciously (and sometimes unconsciously) a part of the DNA of every screenplay I have ever written. If there is one filmmaker’s influence that should be evident while watching JACKALS, it’s George Romero.

2. ASSAULT ON PRECINCT 13 (1976)

Assault on Precinct 13

ASSAULT is easily one of the most badass movies ever made. It was writer-director John Carpenter’s second feature film and he took elements from Howard Hawks’ RIO BRAVO and Romero’s NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD and molded them into an urban-action-siege movie that became the prototype for other films Carpenter would make over the rest of his career (PRINCE OF DARKNESS, GHOSTS OF MARS, and some elements even surface in THE FOG and THE THING).

An isolated police station in one of the worst neighborhoods in L.A. comes under siege by a deadly street gang. The motivation for the attack is twofold: the gang has declared a blood oath/kamikaze-style revenge against the LAPD, and the skeleton crew at the precinct house has given shelter to one of their victims, a father whose little girl was killed on the street while buying an ice cream cone.

Add into the mix a busload of transported prisoners making an unplanned stopover at the station and you have one of the greatest “cops teaming up with criminals” scenarios ever.

ASSAULT does an amazing job of defining the modern siege film by taking inspiration from elements of RIO BRAVO and NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD (there’s even a NOTLD-inspired argument about whether or not the basement is a safe place to hide), but what really makes it work are the characters. The earned respect between them, the heightened moments of cowardice and bravery, the tough-guy dialogue, the unexpected camaraderie. ASSAULT might be the purest John Carpenter film that ever was.

In terms of its influence on JACKALS, if you’re making a siege movie in the modern era and you don’t study ASSAULT ON PRECINCT 13, you’re doing it wrong.

3. SPLIT IMAGE (1982)

Split Image

This is probably the most obscure movie on the list, which is interesting considering the talent involved. It’s a cult-deprogramming drama directed by Ted Kotcheff, released the same year as FIRST BLOOD, which he also directed. James Woods plays a tough-as-nails deprogrammer who is hired by Brian Dennehy to kidnap his college gymnast son (Michael O’Keefe) out of a fanatical religious cult led by Peter Fonda. The arduous deprogramming sessions play almost like an exorcism, although it is O’Keefe who sees his captors as the malevolent demons.

Karen Allen, Elizabeth Ashley, Peter Horton and Lee Montgomery all turn up in supporting roles and Bill Conti composed the score.

I wouldn’t call SPLIT IMAGE a “lost” film but it is definitely a forgotten one. It has never been released on DVD or Blu-ray and I have not stumbled across it on television in recent years (though it does appear to be available to rent in HD on Amazon Prime streaming as of this writing). I originally saw it on cable when I was young and it definitely stuck with me. While researching the original script back in 2006, I had to rent a copy on VHS from Eddie Brandt’s Saturday Matinee in North Hollywood just to re-watch it.

An A-list cast in a first-rate production directed by an absolute pro at the top of his game. Pair it with 1981’s TICKET TO HEAVEN and you’ll have the definitive, 80’s cult deprogramming double feature.

4. RACE WITH THE DEVIL (1975)

Race With the Devil

This movie is probably the most obvious entry on the list. And it just dawned on me that, like SPLIT IMAGE, RACE also stars Peter Fonda and has a connection to FIRST BLOOD (Jack Starrett, the director of RACE, played the sadistic-asshole cop “Galt” in FIRST BLOOD). RACE WITH THE DEVIL is probably the definitive 1970’s satanic cult movie. I know that an argument could be made about THE DEVIL’S RAIN holding that mantle, but I’m personally a bigger fan of RACE. (P.S. If the internet is to be believed, RACE WITH THE DEVIL and THE DEVIL’S RAIN literally came out theatrically within one week of each other in June 1975.)

It’s also a road movie, which I think makes it the first in a very underserved genre mashup.

After witnessing a satanic ritual in which a young girl is sacrificed, two married couples in a Winnebago drive for their lives through rural Texas as they are relentlessly chased by a murderous cult, whose influence may be farther reaching than they could have ever imagined.

This action-horror hybrid of ROSEMARY’S BABY, VANISHING POINT and BROTHERHOOD OF SATAN is an absolute must-see. Fonda and Oates have an easy chemistry, the stunt-filled action sequences are jaw-dropping, and the ending is unapologetically bleak. Throw in R.G. Armstrong, Loretta Swit, Lara Parker and a spine-chilling mid-point rattlesnake sequence and you have one of the unmitigated classics of the satanic cult subgenre. Did I mention the bleak ending?

5. THE ISLAND (1980)

The Island

This is probably the biggest “huh?” on the list, not just for anyone that has seen the movie but also for me. I saw Michael Ritchie’s film adaptation of Peter Benchley’s novel about modern-day buccaneers on cable when I was in elementary school, and it must’ve burrowed its way deep into my subconscious because I didn’t realize how many core elements wound up in the original screenplay for JACKALS until I saw the Scream Factory Blu-ray just a few years ago.

Michael Caine plays a journalist who takes his 12-year-old son with him to investigate mysterious boat disappearances in the Bermuda Triangle. Caine and his son are then captured by a bizarre tribe of old-world, sea-faring pirates led by David Warner and taken to an uncharted island. The son is brainwashed into joining the pirates, leaving Caine no choice but to try and take on the deranged buccaneers and rescue his indoctrinated boy from their clutches.

As I said, I forgot virtually all of the details of THE ISLAND (it’s not exactly what you would call “a good movie”) until I rediscovered it thanks to Scream Factory in 2013. Caine’s character is divorced and irresponsible to say the least. His son is named Justin, and like the Justin in JACKALS he is brainwashed into joining a bizarre and murderous cult. He is programmed to turn against his father and takes on a new identity (“Two Barb”), becoming the cult leader’s golden boy. (In fact, Justin’s final test of loyalty to the cult leader is that he must reject and kill his father.)

Ironically enough, the kicker is a scene that didn’t wind up in the final, filmed version of JACKALS: Caine finally defeats the pirates in an explosive sequence of unbridled machine gun rage rivaling the end of RAMBO 4. While there is no such scene in the final version of JACKALS, the earliest drafts of the screenplay contained a very similar finale.

Sometimes, even the forgettable movies you saw as a kid can leave their mark on you.

Written by guest contributor Jared Rivet

JACKALS, written by Jared Rivet, will be in theaters and On Demand September 1st.

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