Review: Jackals (2017)

Jackals -2017

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.

About David Jeffery 16 Articles
About me in Horror: My love for horror can be attributed to one man, my Father. I was maybe 5 years old when he showed me some of his favorites such as Halloween, The Thing (Carpenter), Night of the Living Dead, and Jaws. While some parents would shelter their kids from such violent films, my father saw no problem in taking the family out to the Hillside Theatre in Hillside, Illinois for a horror movie. We saw films such as Hellraiser, Aliens, and Pet Semetery when I was but a wee, little lad. I love my father for doing this, and to this day these films and many more stay with me as some of my favorites. My favorite sub genre of horror would be the zombie genre. There’s something about the way zombie films reflect society as a dwindling, mindless horde of sheep that I believe appealed to me on a subconscious level as a kid. This look at society hits me at a more conscious level as an adult. Romero, is of course, the god of these films. However, I will watch pretty much any piece of crap Hollywood churns out simply because I cannot refuse an old fashioned zombie story. I would hate to rank all the other sub genre’s because I enjoy them all. Slasher’s, creature feature’s, creepy, killer doll movie’s, whatever. It’s all good to me as long as it’s well done, and sometimes not so well done. I’m not nearly as well versed as other Syndicate writers with horror before 1970. The 70’s, 80’s and 90’s are my favorite decades for horror, but I have seen and loved classics like The Creature from the Black Lagoon, The Wolfman, King Kong, and Pyscho. Recently, thanks to The Horror Syndicate, and a good friend of mine, I’ve also been getting more familiar with the Italian horror films that so many seem to love, and that I missed out on as a kid. About me personally: Im the youngest of two boys, born in Mel Rose Park, Illinois, an originally Italian populated suburb West of Chicago. My father, full blooded Polish, and my Mother, full blooded Italian, gave me a wicked temper, and a love for sausage. I grew up playing tons of sports. Baseball is however my favorite. I started playing guitar at age 12. I had my first metal band at age 17, and to this day I still write and record music for fun in my little home studio aka my living room. I’ve never been married, nor have I ever had children, but I’ve been close twice. I graduated from the Joliet Junior College Culinary School in 2011, and have been working as a chef or cook at various levels, and positions in the food industry ever since. In closing, I’ve seen the Exorcist about 167 times, and it keeps getting better every single time I see it!! Not to mention that you’re talking to a dead guy!! My top 10 Favorite Horror in order (subject to change) Jaws Aliens The Texas Chainsaw Massacre The Exorcist Halloween Alien Night of the Living Dead A Nightmare on Elm Street The Thing (Carpenter) The Lost Boys