With an creepy opening ripped straight from John Carpenter’s Halloween (with a touch of Michael Mann’s Manhunter), Jackals gets off to a good start. This home invasion/siege movie gives you everything you could want from a genre film – with a little more added for good measure. It’s quality should help it stand apart from the gazillion other horror movies released and that means it’s worth seeking out if you’re a fan of genre.
Director Kevin Greutert’s film sees divorced couple Andrew (Johnathon Schaech) and Kathy (Deborah Kara Unger) attempt to rescue their wayward son, Justin (Ben Sullivan) from the clutches of an evil satanic cult (is their any other kind of satanic cult?). Things get off to a good start with a little help from Stephen Dorff‘s professional cult rescuer (a noble profession, I’m sure). However, nobody expects the cult to turn up on their doorstep looking for Justin. When you thrown-in Justin’s girlfriend (Chelsea Ricketts), their baby and his estranged brother (Nick Roux) you get the feeling that they all probably regretted the whole scenario and should have just decided to Netflix and chill.
Jackals keeps its plot and character development tight and while some might argue that this is poor filmmaking, the truth of the matter is that horror film’s like this rely on tension – and Greutert delivers it in spades. The cast might be playing stock characters for this type of movie, but they do what they need to – all except Dorff, who manages to deliver a pretty well-rounded performance despite relatively short screen-time (hopefully True Detective Season 3 brings him a resurgence).
Kevin Greutert is a man steeped in horror movies, having worked as director and editor on multiple Saw moves. he knows what he’s doing and he also pays quite a bit of homage to Movies In Focus favourite (and Master Of Horror) John Carpenter. There’s the aforementioned opening sequence, as well as a few nice riffs on Assault On Precinct 13. I didn’t quite know what to expect when Jackals arrived on my door step, but the concept was solid and the cast was good. I wasn’t disappointed. This might be a modest little film but it packs enough thrills and jump scares to keep you entertained throughout.
A hugely entertaining genre film, Jackals is never going to convert the uninitiated but if you like your movies tense, dark and bloody then this is right down up your street.