Written by Shannon McGrew
“Jackals” is the latest film from director Kevin Greutert (Jessabelle, Saw 3D: The Final Chapter) and is an 80s throwback to the much beloved slasher genre. The film stars Deborah Kara Unger (Silent Hill), Stephen Dorff (Blade), Johnathon Schaech (Prom Night), and Ben Sullivan (“Hell on Wheels”).
The film, set in the 80s, centers around the Powell family, who have hired a cult deprogrammer to rescue their son from the grips of a murderous cult. However, not everything goes as planned, as the cult descends upon the Powell’s family cabin with horrific consequences. As the cult members start to infiltrate the cabin, the Powell’s learn that they must do whatever it takes to protect their family and their son before it’s too late.
There is a lot to love about this film, especially if you are a fan of 80s horror movies. Though the slasher genre has never really been a favorite of mine, I can still appreciate the fandom behind it; and in terms of “Jackals”, director Kevin Gruetert really hit the nail on the head. I really enjoyed the fact that there wasn’t just one killer, but many of them, as well as the fact that you never actually see their faces. Their anonymity made their actions that much more terrifying because who they are as a person is never revealed.
In terms of acting, there was definitely some standout performances as well as a few that fell flat. Though the majority of the actors showcased an immense talent, a felt that a few of the characters were miscast, which resulted in their mediocre performances. However, that did not take away from the stronger performances, most notably from new-comer Ben Sullivan. He is an actor that audiences are definitely going to want to keep an eye on as I feel like he has a long and successful career ahead of him. His portrayal of Justin Powell, the son who has been brainwashed by the savage and deranged cult, is raw and hypnotic.
I also want to make note the return of Stephen Dorff! He seems to be having a bit of resurgence as of late and I’ll be honest, I’m loving it. His portrayal of Jimmy Levine, the cult deprogrammer, is harsh yet understanding, as he tries to bring Justin back to his family without any harm. However, in a movie such as this, no one can truly get out unscathed, and it doesn’t take long before the blood begins to flow. The kills are inevitable, and how they are executed are brutal and unforgiving, with a touch of realism that makes each death uncomfortable to watch.
This year has been the year of the cults – whether it be through film, television, events, haunts, etc – they are all centering on this topic. Though I’m pretty much over that, I do applaud writer Jared Rivet for giving these cult members a unique spin. As I mentioned, we never see their faces, and for the most part they are unusually quiet, which is unsettling in and of itself. We aren’t privy to what type of cult they belong to, and though not knowing would typically annoy me, I was okay with it in this story. The horror isn’t about what they believe in, it’s about their power and their control over their “family”. They show no remorse for their actions and they aren’t interested in converting anyone. They have one singular focus in the film and that’s to get Justin back.
Overall, “Jackals” is a heart-pounding thriller that captures the 80s spirit of the horror genre. With solid performances and terrifying imagery, “Jackals” is sure to become a cult favorite within the slasher subgenre. Make sure to check out the film once it hits select theaters and On Demand September 1st, 2017.