Horror movies are funny animals. The majority of them are either deliciously original and unique or monstrously and inescapably bad. There are a few are bland and fall flat as well. With Jackals, occasionally I felt as if I watching two different films. What starts of as more of a psychological thriller, quickly delved into a much more traditional blood-fest. Although both styles of film-making have their merits, I feel Jackals could have been more successful if it stuck to the former method for longer.
The plot sounds like it could be intriguing: A cult de-programmer is hired to return a teenage son to his family’s cabin – in the woods obviously – only for them to stalked and attacked by the cultists upon their return. The opening scene, while intriguing and filmed from the perspective of a killer, does not really fit in with the rest of the story and could be eliminated, though the film is an already brisk 78 minutes.
Like any good horror flick, the cast is filled with C-list stars and lower-tier celebrities who are competent actors, even if much of their screen time is devoted to melodramatic over acting. The standout among that group was the subtle and wise Johnathon Schaech, who played the often-stoic father. Plus, an appearance by the always-menacing Stephen Dorff as the cult de-programmer was a joy to watch. Additionally, the film is directed by the Saw Franchise’s Kevin Greutert, who is a capable director is nothing else.
Where the film didn’t do justice is with its two female characters. At several points throughout the film, they were actively prevented from helping in the same way as the men and were told to stay back. The character of Samantha – the girlfriend of the teenage cult victim, and mother to his child – had whiffs of being the heroine, but ended up a weeping willow towards the end. Her character’s fate was more due to luck than anything else. Jackals has its moments for sure, but could done so much more.
In addition to Dorff and Schaech, Jackals stars Deborah Kara Unger, Chelsea Ricketts, Ben Sullivan and Nick Roux. It was just released on DVD.