Surprising, suspenseful, visceral, these are some of the words to describe Writer Jared Rivet and Director Kevin Greutert ‘s JACKALS! This is a film that looks and feels like a blast from the past without all the obvious tropes and eye winking. What makes this film work? A solid script that sets you off balance from the jump.
Justin Powell and a friend are taking a drive when they are run off the road by two men wearing ski masks. Armed, they take Justin hostage and leave the friend knocked out on the side of the road. At this same time, miles away, a family waits worriedly for someone as yet unnamed. Tension is high and so thick it can be cut with a knife. The family matriarch, Kathy (Deborah Kara Unger) seems exceptionally tense and verbally spars with son Campbell (Nick Roux). What’s great about the opening scenes is that NOTHING is as it seems. Kathy is actually waiting for the masked men to arrive with Justin because he is her son! The masked men are his father and deprogrammer Jimmy Levine. You see, Justin has left his family, including girlfriend and newborn baby, for a cult called the Jackals. The Powell family’s only hope is to take him by force and deprogram him. The problem is that this cult knows everything about Justin (kinda like Scientology) and they are coming for him!
JACKALS is EVERYTHING you’ve been waiting for horror to be again! Atmospheric, heart-stopping and edge of your seat fear inducing. Director Kevin Greutert pulls this off with visuals that paint a picture of horror. The Jackals are a terrifying group as a whole but even within their ranks, there are stand out characters like “Fox Girl”, female member that is both sexy and terrifying without a lot of screen time. The smart thing about the script by Jared Rivet is that we see what they do to people and the hold they have on their members long before they are introduced proper. By the time they’re introduced you have a very vivid picture, and it’s painted in blood red.
Of course no matter how great the writing is, it only works with a great cast and JACKALS pulls out all the stops. Deborah Kara Unger and Johnathon Schaech lead the cast as the parents of cult leader and devotee Justin Powell. As usual, both actors bring it when it comes to the drama and you never doubt that this is a couple (or ex couple) with a history. Stephen Dorff is also on hand as an ex military deprogrammer who is trying to save Justin. What could have been a throw away part for some actors, Dorff turns into a starring role that holds your attention every minute. But the rest of the cast is equally compelling. Nick Roux as brother Campbell and Chelsea Ricketts as Justin’s estranged young girlfriend Chelsea bring a sense of added realism to the family dynamic. Most terrifying though, is Ben Sullivan as Justin. He doesn’t play crazy and that is what sends the shiver down your spine. He is cool and calm…he is devoted, and once he speaks, you never doubt that this plan is gonna go off the rails in a disturbing and bloody way.
On the flipside, any good slasher film depends on its killers. Above all else, they need a unique look that helps create the icon. Though animal masks has been done often in recent years, JACKALS sets itself apart with its 1980’s costuming that actually plays in the masks favor rather than detracting from it.
JACKALS is a classic slasher tour de force that is a must for horror fans. It will remind you of why you fell in love with horror from the opening teaser (with a nod to HALLOWEEN) to the final terrifying second that will have you screaming as the film slams to black! JACKALS will be available on VOD and limited theatrical on September 1st. Mark your calendars and PREPARE TO BE HUNTED!