Jackals Movie Review
Written by Robert Gold
Released by Scream Factory
Directed by Kevin Greutert
Written by Jared Rivet
2017, 86 minutes, Not Rated
Released on September 1st, 2017
Deborah Kara Unger as Kathy Powell
Stephen Dorff as Jimmy Levine
Jonathan Schaech as Andrew Powell
Ben Sullivan as Justin Powell
Nick Roux as Campbell Powell
Chelsea Ricketts as Samantha
The Powell family is staging an intervention for their son Justin, who has gotten involved with the wrong crowd. They bring in a Marine named Jimmy Levine to lead the program and he promises that Justin can be brought back with tough love and determination. Unfortunately, the “wrong crowd” crashes the party and soon the Powells are up to their necks in danger.
Jackals is a high-concept picture that falls into the home-invasion subgenre of horror. I have deliberately left my plot synopsis vague, since to reveal more would be unfair to both the movie and the audience. There is a lot to like in this movie, starting with the streamlined plot. There’s not a lot of time wasted on back stories or over explaining the antagonists; we simply receive information as the family gets it. The third act is particularly intense as the situation comes to a head, but this is also where the film goes off the rails. Characters frequently make poor choices simply because the script requires it. The villains are also frustrating with their choice to approach the cabin one at a time rather than rushing the front door or setting the place on fire.
The film is derivative, as it generously borrows elements from titles, including Straw Dogs, Psycho, Assault on Precinct 13 and Halloween. Contemporary siege pictures like The Strangers, The Purge andYou’re Next are also clear sources of inspiration for Jared Rivet’s script. I commend him for keeping things moving at a decent clip, but honestly, he makes me want to go back and watch any of these other films instead. Editor- turned-director, Kevin Greutert (Saw VI) makes the most of the material and plays with audience expectations from the very first scene. Working closely with cinematographer Andrew Russo, Greutert creates tension as he continues to tighten the screws on our protagonists. The majority of the picture is set in a single isolated location and there is a growing sense of claustrophobia as the characters meet their fate.
Deborah Kara Unger (Crash) leads the cast as Kathy Powell, a mother hoping to rescue her son from a terrible situation. She holds much of the picture together before being relegated to the previously mentioned poor choices. Stephen Dorff (Cecil B. DeMented) co-stars as Jimmy, the man leading the intervention. He brings a welcome energy to the performance that has viewers wanting him to successfully rescue Justin and save the family. Pushed to the side at his son’s intervention is Andrew Powell, a relatively weak man who appears more than happy to follow Jimmy’s lead. Played by Jonathan Schaech (The Doom Generation), Andrew is a sympathetic man trying to set things right with his family while hopelessly out of his element. Ben Sullivan (Stonewall) carries a lot of the picture’s opening act as the troubled teen, Justin. He is very convincing in the role and manages to be both threatening and intimidating without ever leaving his chair. The villains are terrifying by remaining faceless, silent strangers wanting to take back their friend Justin. My biggest complaint against the film is that it ends abruptly at the point where things could get more interesting. The ending is not bad, but I was left wanting more--not a sequel, just closure.
Five years ago, Scream Factory made a name for itself by focusing on giving classic horror films of the 1970s and ‘80s some love by releasing deluxe special editions of many overlooked titles. The need to release contemporary material led to partnerships with Chiller TV and IFC Midnight Films. Now, Scream Factory is producing its own line of original pictures, starting with last year’s slasher homage Fender Bender. Jackals is a nice follow-up that horror fans will likely enjoy. It may not be the most original tale, but it is told with an eye toward pleasing audiences by keeping things moving. There are a lot of nice shots and cool images to satisfy casual viewers, but diehard cinephiles will find a lot that is familiar.
Video and Audio:
Jackals receives an impressive transfer full of rich blacks and deep contrast levels. Colors and flesh tones appear natural throughout and there is plenty of small-object detail. The picture is presented in the original 2.35:1 aspect ratio and looks every bit as good as a contemporary film shot with digital cameras should.
A DTS-HD MA 5.1 track is primarily front-heavy, as this is mostly a dialogue-driven film. Music cues bring the rest of the channels to life and there is some nice rumble during key sequences. A DTS-HD MA 2.0 stereo track is also available but lacks the punch of the 5.1 mix.
English subtitles are provided for anyone in need.
Director Kevin Greutert and screenwriter Jared Rivet host an audio commentary in which the two share a lively discussion on the making of this film. Rivet dominates the track, but in a good way, as he brings an enthusiasm to the conversation when reflecting on his time spent on set. Greutert holds his own with interesting information and is gracious enough to allow the writer to lead the dialogue.
They Have Come for Me (20 minutes) is a collection of on-set interviews featuring members of the cast and crew. Participants include Greutert, Rivet, producer Tommy Alastra, actors Stephen Dorff, Ben Sullivan, Deborah Kara Unger, Nick Roux, Johnathon Schaech and Chelsea Ricketts.
Two theatrical trailers (4 minutes) are also included.
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