Jackals (FrightFest 2017)

Starring Ben Sullivan, Stephen Dorff, Deborah Kara Unger, Johnathon Schaech

Directed by Kevin Greutert

Warning: This review contains a slight spoiler.

If you’ve seen any home invasion movie ever, then you’ve pretty much already seen Jackals. Whilst I’m hesitant to say that it was terrible, it felt like a film completely devoid of any original ideas. This is lazy filmmaking at its most lifeless. Director Kevin Greutert has proven himself to be competent and talented with his work on Saw 3D and Jessabelle, but this isn’t his finest moment.

Ben Sullivan plays Justin, a young man who was kidnapped and literally brainwashed by a murderous cult into believing he’s one of them. His family reclaim him, keeping him restrained while they attempt to restore him to his senses, and from there it’s Home Invasion 101. You know the setup: A punch of people trapped in a secluded house. No working phone lines. A violent group of antagonists attempting to force their way in. Everything plays out as you would expect it to. That really is the long and short of it.

How did the cult brainwash Justin? Never explained. What are the cult’s core beliefs and values? Never explained. Why do they want Justin back so badly? Never explained. The script for Jackals was one of the laziest I’ve seen put to screen in a while.

Stephen Dorff plays a hardened military veteran recruited to protect the family. Arguably the most interesting character in the film because of his no-nonsense attitude and hardened demeanor, the writers did the “smart” thing and had him killed off during the first act. If they’d actually done the smart thing and kept him alive until the end, I’m pretty sure I would have been at least somewhat more engaged.

Despite its many flaws, I will say that I wasn’t exactly bored whilst watching Jackals. Although it is severely lacking in some areas, we were still presented with a passable, albeit largely forgettable cultist horror movie. If there’s nothing else available, then Jackals will prove to be a tolerable enough way to spend 85 minutes. Just don’t expect to remember too much of the film afterwards.

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David Gelmini

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