Michael Scott

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Apr 4, 2017
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Fulllightbox1last edit date1507357208

Movie: :2stars:
Video: :4stars:
Audio: :4stars:
Extras: :2.5stars:
Final Score: :3stars:

Fulllightbox1last edit date1507358210

There are two types of enjoyable horror movies out there. Really good ones that are fully of intensity and good plot, and movies that are just plain awful or cheesy, but end up being a blast to watch. The one movie that just doesn’t survive in a market full of both sides of the spectrum is a MEDIOCRE horror flick. Those just end up being generic and dull, with very little to actually attract the viewer. I should have known when I saw the tag line “from the director of Saw: The Final Chapter” (one of the worst entries to the Saw franchise) that we weren’t in for a top tier movie. Unfortunately Jackals doesn’t even drop into that “so bad its actually good” category either, instead just wallowing in mediocrity hovering just above the bad category, but never really rising to something interesting either.

When Justin Powell (Ben Sullivan) is kidnapped by two men in masks you’re expecting something bad to be in store for him, but this is not your average kidnapping. The two men happen to be Justin’s father Andrew (Johnathon Schaech) and a man by the name of Jimmy Levine (Stephen Dorff). You see, Justin has been brainwashed by some form of cult, and his parents want their son back. So they decided to kidnap him from his mental captors and bring him out to the woods to their summer cabin to try and undo the brainwashing. Jimmy is a touch ex commando who seems to be skilled in these tactics, but there’s a slight problem. Justin isn’t just brainwashed. He’s fully immersed into the psychopathic realm of his sinister leader’s teachings and wants nothing to do with them.

Unfortunately, there’s more to the conundrum than Justin’s resistance to his family’s pleas. The cult has found the cabin in the woods, and has surrounded it with only one intention. Get Justin back no matter the cost. Now Andrew, his wife Kathy (Deborah Kara Unger), Justin’s brother Campbell (Nick Roux) and his girlfriend Samantha (Chelsea Ricketts) are in for a rough night as they try and survive the onslaught of cultists with murder and mayhem on their mind.
The first thing that came to mind when I was watching Jackals is the resemblance to another indie horror flick from a few years back, You’re Next. A band of people inside a house, killers with animal masks trying to get in and hack everyone up, and lots of blood. The only thing is, You’re Next was a great reverse slasher film. Jackals just mirrors some of the plot points of the movie without much intensity or feeling to it. The masked Jackal cultists don’t really have any personality or weight behind them (you only see one or two at a time), and the relationship between Justin and his family feels ridiculously forced. I really liked Stephen Dorff as Jimmy, but his role is short and sweet, and his being there is oddly just glossed over. I mean, I get that he’s some sort of “specialist”, but director Kevin Greutert does little to actually explains WHY he’s a specialist. They just throw him in the mix, and let him die out within a short period of time.

One of the big things about bloody slashers is the kills. You’re not there to care about the stupid teenagers who get axed one by one. You just cheer as the monster hack and slash things with bloody results. Sadly Jackals has only a couple of kill scenes, with only ONE really good kill in the film (which happens late in the game). Past that you see a few glimpses of some ooey gooey bits, but most of them are cut down and intimated more than actually shown. There’s also a large problem with predictability to the extreme. Every beat in the film is openly obvious from the get go and you can almost predict what is going to happen in each and every scene. The ending is also horribly rushed and weird, with Justin seeming to actually care for once, only to go right back to where he was, and the last few moments of the film are so cliched that you don’t even jump when the actual twist happens.


Not Rated by the MPAA

Video: :4stars:
Jackals appears to be taken from a digital source, as it has all the earmarks of a digital film, complete with hints of noise in the darkness and a distinct lack of film grain. The movie starts out bright and cheerful, with daylight everywhere and clean colors, but soon dips into the night time where it spends the rest of the movie dwelling. Blacks are good, with solid shadow detail, but the golden overtones of the fake lighting and soft shooting style make them slightly murky. Fine details can be excellent, with sharp facial intricacies and intimate details like clothing are distinctly visible. The shooting style IS slightly soft, but not overly so, and the resulting image is quite pleasing, despite the dark surroundings.

Audio: :4stars:
I was actually surprised that we didn’t get the typical 2.0 DTS-HD MA track that usually accompanies every Shout/Scream factory 5.1 mix, but that’s neither here nor there. The 5.1 mix for
Jackals is very competent and actually quite immersive for the low budget film that it is. The film’s LFE is fairly mild for the most part, but there are several portions of the film where I was literally floored by the intense wall of low end that comes up out of nowhere (first scene with the Jackal clan). Vocals are usually quite good, but I did notice a few times where Justin’s whispering gets caught up in the surrounding action, but otherwise it’s all crisp and clean up in the front of the room. The surrounds come and go, with the track maintaining forward heavy mix for much of the dialog intense shots, but getting pretty kinetic when the cultists start their assault on the cabin.

Extras: :2.5stars:
• Commentary with Director Kevin Greutert and Writer Jared Rivet
• Interviews with Cast and Crew
• Trailers

Final Score: :3stars:

Jackals makes the fatal flaw of being neither great now really bad, but rather just hovers somewhere in between. The family seems woefully under prepared for the assault considering they KNOW that he’s part of a cult, and stupid decisions and huge leaps of logic and suspension of disbelief galore are spotted throughout the short movie. I have a really big weakness for these slasher style horror films, but I just couldn’t get into the movie or shake the sensation that this is something that I would wake up at 2:00 in the morning and catch on the SyFy channel. Audio and video are solid enough, and extras mildly decent, but the film itself is just middle of the road leaving me with the sad choice of having to give it a “skip it” rating.

Technical Specifications:

Starring: Stephen Dorff, Deborah Kara Unger, Johnathon Schaesch
Directed by: Kevin Greutert
Written by: Jared Rivet
Aspect Ratio: 2.39.1 AVC
Audio: English: DTS-HD MA 5.1
Studio: Scream Factory
Rated: NR
Runtime: 86 Minutes
Blu-ray Release Date: October 3rd, 2017

Recommendation: Meh, Skip It

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Thanks for the review. Will skip it.
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