Wednesday, September 27, 2017

JACKALS (2017) (Scream Factory Blu-ray Review)

JACKALS (2017) 

Label: Scream Factory
Release Date: October 3rd, 2017 
Duration: 87 Minutes
Region Code: A
Rating: Unrated
Audio: 1080p HD Widescreen (2.39:1) 
Video: English DTS-HD MA 5.1 with Optional English Subtitles 
Director: Kevin Greutert
Cast: Deborah Kara Unger, Ben Sullivan, Chelsea Ricketts, Nick Roux, Johnathon Schaech, Stephen Dorff

Jackals (2017) opens with a scene of an intruder stalking around the outside of a suburban home in the dark of night, he makes his way inside and kills the family - the whole scene is a nod to John Carpenter's Halloween (1978), complete with a scene of the killer donning a mask with some very familiar POV shots. The scene is disconnected from the rest of the movie, it's a cool looking and savage, but is sort of pointless, and that pretty much sets the pace and expectations for the remaining seventy-five minutes of this nihilistic siege film. 

After this we witness a man named Jimmy (Stephen Dorff, Blade) kidnap a young man named Justin (Ben Sullivan, TV's The 100) off the side of the road, forcing him into an unmarked black van and taking him away to a secluded cabin-in-the-woods. This is a nice bit of role reversal, because Jimmy is no kidnapper of the usual variety, he's a cult-deprogrammer who has been hired by Justin's family to abduct and deprogram their estranged son who has joined up with a powerful satanic cult.  The family consists of his divorced parents Andrew (Johnathon Schaech, Laid to Rest) and Kathy (Deborah Kara Unger, Crash), douchey brother Campbell (Nick Roux, Lemonade Mouth), and his ex-girlfriend Samantha (Chelsea Ricketts, TV's Scream Queens), who has also brought along their infant daughter Zoe.

With Justin restrained and tied to a chair Jimmy attempts to break him of the satanic cult's powerful brainwashing, it's almost like a psychological exorcism crossed with an intervention, with Justin reaffirming his allegiance to the cult in the face of his family's pleas for him to return to them, but Justin seems quite content with his new cult-family. The family's divisions are exposed as the intervention wears on, this is not a solid family unit, mom and dad are divorced, an unflattering indiscretion is exposed, and Campbell is ready to throw in the towel on the whole things from the very beginning, they begin to bicker amongst themselves as to what the best course of action to take would be.

The deproramming is interrupted when a legion of cult members show up at the cabin as darkness falls, animal-masked cult members stand menacingly silhouetted against the headlights of their cars, laying siege to the home in a Straw Dogs sort of way. The cult's sole motivation seems to be to have Thanatos - Justin's cult-name - back in their fold, and other than that we learn absolutely nothing about this cult, which I think is a misstep. The family attempt to hold their ground and keep their wayward son close to them, problem is he doesn't seem to care if they live or not, they are no longer his family. As the night wears on there's bloodshed on both sides, as the family fashions an unrealistic arsenal of homemade weapons. However, the masked cult members are relentless, and what ensues is a cat and mouse game with the family being toyed with by the cult; the usual array of poor decision making on the part of the besieged family certainly doesn't help. 

At a cursory glance  Jackals has she makings of a decent cabin-in-the-woods siege film, but a few things keep this from being something more than just an ordinary retread of better films. It's pointlessly set it in the 80's, I'm assuming for the sole reasons that the 80's were a prime era for slashers and it's a convenient way to dispose of the cell phones, otherwise it serves no purpose whatsoever - there's not even an cool retro 80's synth score or soundtrack selections. Also, the movie smacks of The Strangers to a rather large degree, masked killers surround a remote cabin and kill with no defined motives, and while The Strangers certainly was not the first film to do it, the resemblance and imagery is a bit too familiar. 

Visually the movie is well-shot, the suspense and violence are well executed, though this is not particularly gory movie, and the cult members are an imposing sight, but this is all very 'been there and watched that several times over already', it's a tasty but protein-starved reheat of last week's very fine dinner, and one with no desert either, the movie is so nihilistic that it broadcasts the dour ending long before the you can ever hope for a proper reversal of fortune.  

Special Features:
- Commentary with director Kevin Greutert and writer Jared Rivet
- Interviews with the cast and crew
- Original theatrical trailers

Jackals (2017) is too familiar, which is too bad because I think everyone onscreen gives it their best, no one is slacking, but the movie seems like the initial pitch session must have began and ended with 'The Strangers but with a Satanic by way of Race with the Devil' and then no one put any more thought into it than that. They just went with a first draft script and hoped it get by on some keen visuals and atmosphere, which admittedly it does to a degree, but the end result is a standard one and done watch, it's not bad, but it ain't great, a fairly forgettable siege-thriller. 

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