Jackals

I will bath in your blood, the whole fucking lot of you!

Year Released : 2017

Director : Kevin Greutert

Cast : Ben Sullivan, Stephen Dorff, Johnathon Schaech, Nick Roux, Alyssa Julyaa Smith, Deborah Unger and Chelsea Ricketts

So two years ago I did a full month of reviewing horror films, one per day, leading up to Halloween. It was exhausting, but it gave me comfortably the longest run of consistent days posting that I’ve ever had on this site, and as I haven’t reviewed a lot of movies this year I thought it might be worth doing it again.

Those who have read my site for a while will know that I am not a big fan of horror films. Whilst two of my top five films of all time are from that genre, I’d be lying if I said I liked horror films as they’re often the most predictable. One such example came in what I rated as the second worst film of 2015 in “Gallows” in which I was able to correctly predict five things that would happen in the movie. That’s never a good thing.

Plot

Jimmy (Dorff) is hired by the Powell family to retake Justin (Sullivan) from a local cult, but he refuses to accept that they are his real family anymore, not even his newly born child. He subsequently tries to talk sense into Justin but it turns out that he has bitten his own tongue and he spits his blood into Jimmy’s face. His girlfiend Samantha (Ricketts) is the next to try and connect, but she also fails. As that conversation is taking place, the rest of the family notices a figure standing outside.

When he goes out to investigate Jimmy is heavily wounded by a woman in an animal mask as another distracts him. Some of the cultists start breaking into the house as they try and reclaim Justin, who has made it clear that he doesn’t wish to return to life outside of the cult. Campbell (Roux) says that they should hand Justin back over, but the rest of the family refuse.

Will the cultists get Justin back?

So a good start to the month?

In many ways this film sort of reminded me of a decent horror film called “You’re Next” due to it being about people trying to invade a house whilst wearing animal masks, but that is realistically about as similar as the films get.

“Jackals” is definitely trying to be another “You’re Next” and it fails miserably as it doesn’t have anywhere near the same atmosphere, feel or even generally good film-making that the aforementioned had. “You’re Next” built it’s characters excellently and to the point where you personally felt like there was a genuine reason to get behind them, but the characters in “Jackals” are only built (to a very minor degree) through many exposition scenes with other characters discussing the histories of people who aren’t in that scene. It’s such an ineffectual way to build characters.

When the cultists do eventually turn up the film is almost half way through it’s short run time of 86 minutes. Don’t get me wrong, sometimes it doesn’t matter how late the antagonists turn up into a film, but at the very minimum they need to spend the time before hand building the characters up to ones that you care about. There is just no genuine tension there for the majority, and a horror film without any semblance of scares or tension for half of it is doomed to be a failure.

One dimensional characters are one problem, but a lack of an atmosphere is arguably even worse. The lack of an atmosphere isn’t helped with a consistent use of what I would wager is generic stock music. Nothing sounds like it has been made specifically for this movie and was just found on a movie studio’s computer system. For me music goes a long way to help create an excellent atmosphere for a movie, such as the recently released “Ghost Story” and classic horrors such as “The Thing” and Halloween”. Having generic stock music that doesn’t go with what is happening on screen is such a basic no-no that it makes it ridiculously hard to like this film.

Possibly the only positive that I can think of is that Ben Sullivan does a good job as Justin. He is often creepy, unnerving and believable as a cultist. Granted, when you’re surrounded by an otherwise poor cast, it’s not hard to stand out, but he is decent, especially in a scene in which he threatens to allow the cultists to rape his mother and girlfriend unless they let him go.

In a scene full of nonsense, he is the one bright spot.

Summary

A poor man’s version of “You’re Next’, “Jackals” is boring, predictable and completely unoriginal. Other than the performance of Ben Sullivan, there is little to write about in a positive sense about a movie that offers precisely nothing new to any genre, let alone horror.

This is a film that at the time of writing (please remember that this is being written nearly a full month before being posted) has a 4.9/10 rating on IMDB and that rating is far, far too high. This is close on a 3.5/10, but certainly not much more than that.

Just don’t bother.

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