Synopsis: Set in the 1980’s, an estranged family hires a cult deprogrammer to take back their teenage son from a murderous cult, but find themselves under siege when the cultists surround their cabin, demanding the boy back.
Saw VI Director Kevin Greutert’s 2017 horror/thriller “Jackal” drops us in familiar territory as Hollywood struggles to deliver us original material once again. The story begins with a young, and deranged antagonist “Justin” played by Ben Sullivan. “Justin” is kidnapped by a masked duo on the side of the road and brought to a remote cabin. He then learns that his abductors are none other than his father “Andrew”, played by Jonathan Schaech, and former Marine, turned Cult Deprogrammer “Jimmy Levine”, played by horror veteran Stephen Dorff. “Justin” is then surrounded by his immediate family, as well as his girlfriend, and new born child. Deprogrammer, “Jimmy” plans to transform Justin’s possessed-like behavior and lifestyle with a series of family interventions. All of the stereotypical, movie tropes are present here. First we have the alcoholic, estranged wife, and mother “Kathy”, played by screen, and plastic surgery hardened, Deborah Kara Unger. Then there’s the overbearing and critical, asshole older brother, “Campbell”, played by Nick Roux. Next, we hear from the loving and over-forgiving girlfriend/baby momma “Samantha”, played by Chelsea Ricketts. Samantha will seemingly do anything to save her first love from being swallowed up by this treacherous sect. Add in the father, who was never around, and never paid any mind because he was too busy cheating on the mother, and we have the perfect recipe for teen angst. No wonder “Justin” ran off and joined a hellish cult.
As the story progress, much to the joy of our antagonist “Justin”, an evil, satanic-like group of mask toting psychopaths surround the cabin with the intentions of rescuing young “Justin” and picking off his family one-by-one in Manson like fashion. Visions and memories of past films like “The Strangers” 2008, and “Straw Dogs” 1971 resonate all over the screen. The slasher aspects of “Jackals” deliver at a relatively decent rate as the blood, and kills mount. However, the intended home invasion, and claustrophobic tension never seems to rise with the exception of a scene or two.
Greutert never realizes the fight or flight intense pacing that Peckinpaw does in “Straw Dogs”. And none of the actors present in “Jackals”, can hold a candle to the talent of a Liv Tyler in it’s contemporary “The Strangers”. As a result, “Jackals”, is destined to be another 2nd rate, retread of past Hollywood success. “Jackals” pays slight homage to both aforementioned films, but not enough of the same feelings of panic and fear are evoked. Another problem I had with this film is that you would never know that it is Based in 1983. Back dating a story gives the film makers an incredible opportunity to leave me with sweet, sweet, nostalgia tingling all over my body. But instead they seemed to brush over this fact almost entirely. Other than an old Yellow rotary, and no cell phones, you would never guess that this film wasn’t taking place in current times. Give me an old Poison or Motley Crue poster or something. A reference to Michael Jackson or Ronald Regan. Give me that wonderful nostalgia that is so eloquently effective in other modern pieces like “Stephen Kings, IT”, or “Stranger Things”. But I digress.
While brisk in viewing at about 80 minutes or so, “Jackals” will still leave you wanting less. You can certainly do a lot worse with “Jackals”, but I would hope that you would want to do a lot more. “Jackals” is a Monday night time killer while you’re waiting for your pizza to arrive, and gearing up for your main event on movie night. I rate “Jackals” a 4.5 out 10.