Taut and tension-filled with exceptional performances, Jackals is a gripping and harrowing home invasion horror/psychological thriller
Director: Kevin Greutert
Writer: Jared Rivet
Producer: Tommy Alastra, Pamela Monroe and J.E. Moore
Special Effects: Robert Hensley, Amber Mari and James Ojala
Cast: Deborah Kara Unger, Stephen Dorff, Johnathon Schaech, Nick Roux, Alyssa Julya Smith, Chelsea Ricketts, Jason Scott Jenkins, Ben Sullivan, Alex Kingi, Cassie Hernandez, Alex Castillo, Carol Abney and Nick Feld
Released By: Scream/Shout! Factory
Release Date: September 1, 2017 (VOD and Limited Theatrical Run)
Set in the 1980’s, an estranged family hires a cult deprogrammer to take back their teenage son from a murderous cult, but find themselves under siege when the cultists surround their cabin, demanding the boy back.
Directed by Kevin Greutert (Saw VI (2009), Saw 3D: The Final Chapter (2010), Jessabelle (2014) and Visions (2015)) and written by Jared Rivet, Jackals is a dark and gritty film that combines equal elements of religous/cult, home invasion and psychological horror in a way that does not insult genre fans and manages to tell a gripping story that does not have to lead you by the hand to a satisfying conclusion.
While many films try to over explain the character motivations and paints them with broad strokes that tend to make a film drag, Jackals keeps the focus squarely on the plight of a family simply trying to bring their son back from the clutches of a mysterious cult.
Helping to lend the the claustrophobic feel of the film is the excellent use of one primary location in an isolated area. While remote in the daylight, it appears even more desolate once night hits and almost becomes a character itself. Add to that crisp camera work that makes the film feel like the 80s as well as a score that plucks at the nerves in your spine and you have the perfect storm of events that make for a chilling tale.
The fantastic choices in cast members, in particular the role of the alcoholic mother (Deborah Kara Unger) and the remorseful father (Johnathon Schaech), really strikes a chord of divorced parents that wish they could have done something different with their pasts to do better by their lost son.
The rivalry aspects between the two brothers (played aggressively and with fervor by Nick Roux and Ben Sullivan) is displayed well and with a raw emotion that you would expect from real life brothers. Chelsea Ricketts is haunting and fragile as the girlfriend who wants nothing more than to have her boyfriend back to help raise their newborn child, and Stephen Dorff nails his role as the tough as nails, ex-marine “cult extractor” willing to use any means necessary to complete his mission.
While you only see one other cult member unmasked, the physical presence of the other members in costume is eerie and will cause goosebumps to rise on your arms. The “faceless” aspect of the tormentors as well as the physical presence of the leader never leaves you questioning the motivations.
Many people will draw a direct line to films like The Strangers (2008, which Greutert was an editor on) and even Rosemary’s Baby (1968) while watching Jackals, but while they may have had an influence in the making of this film, it certainly stands on its own.
Again, the film tells a straight and to the point narrative that gets the point across without spelling it all out for you. You do not need to know or see who the other cult members are to know that they will do anything to get their kidnapped member back, nor do you need to know their backstory. The true story of the film is the struggle of the family trying to bring their son back and the horrific lengths that both sides will resort to in order to achieve their goals.
Not a film with copious amounts of blood and gore, the film instead scares you with psychological aspects with physicality spread evenly through. If you are looking for a film that will make you think a bit and question the motivations of what we do as individuals, this is the film for you!
Once again, Scream Factory is to be commended for finding this gem amongst all the releases that are put out today. It is a rarity to find a modern day film that blends these aspects together so well.
The film never feels like it drags, and you do not find yourself hating the cast and wishing for their painful deaths. The empathy you feel for them would be on par for how you would feel for your own friends and family if you ever found yourself in a similar situation.
It is nice to see that the film will be getting a limited theatrical release as well as being available for streaming and On-Demand. When further details of release of DVD/Blu-Ray are announced, we will share them here.
I am very much looking forward to its release to the general public and would highly recommend seeing this in theaters if you get the chance!
The Final Verdict: 4 out of 5