Plot: Justin (Ben Sullivan) has been abducted by men in ski-masks, thrown into a van, and driven to a remote cabin in the woods. This locale isn’t one that is unknown to him however, as it happens to be his family’s property. Not just that, but it was indeed his own family who organized his kidnapping, with the assistance of the gruff Jimmy (Stephen Dorff). Jimmy is a an expert on cults and in this cabin, he has been tasked to deprogram Justin. He is so deep in the cult’s brainwashing however, that he hardly seems recognizable, even to his own parents. Jimmy gets to work, but he is met with fierce resistance, as Justin is clearly unwilling to let go of his cult mindset without an epic struggle. This concerns his family of course, but Jimmy is certain he can crack him if given enough time. But soon, figures draped in shadows appear around the cabin, as if mounting some kind of dark offensive. The cult lurks outside, anxious to recover their lost brother, but will Justin’s family give him up to save their own lives, or can they convince him to fight by their side?
Entertainment Value: A dark, slow burn thriller that is packed with creepy visuals, Jackals is a solid movie with some brutal violence. The film’s marketing focuses on the masked cultists and with good reason, as they strike a memorable visual, but in truth, they’re a lesser presence in the movie itself. The first half or so of the movie is all about Justin, his family’s desperate hope for his return, and Jimmy’s unusual methods to try to shake out the cult elements. The performances are fine, with Stephen Dorff as the rough and tumble cult expert, Johnathon Schaech as the concerned father, Chelsea Ricketts as the naive ex-girlfriend, and Ben Sullivan as the warped Justin as the main standouts. I do wish more was done with the cultists, though keeping them mysterious ensures they retain a certain mystique. The fox girl was especially memorable, with her odd dance moves and creepy presence. Even so, I would have liked more focus on the cultists, even keeping them an unknown, just because at a certain point, the writing doesn’t seem to know what to do with Justin. The tension is effective while it holds, but it holds back too long and favors exposition over action. I appreciated how dark and nihilistic the movie was however, as that isn’t all that common, even in this genre. So while a little on the inconsistent side, Jackals is a solid, dark ride through some tense material, so it is worth a look for genre fans.
No nakedness. As much as I would have loved some fox girl sex magic or ritualistic erotica, it simply doesn’t happen here. But we do have some good bloodshed, with most it packed into the frantic finale. I loved how sudden and brutal a lot of the violence was, with my personal favorite instance being an almost prison inspired shank session. A nice gaping throat slash also provides some wicked crimson, while we also have a torso slash, skull thumping, and good old fashioned knife work, among other methods. Most of the violence is shown as well, though the camera does shy away in some moments, such as when a guy’s head is being savagely caved in. The visuals of the cultists also stands out, as the group just milling about adds some intense atmosphere. The dialogue is all serious, so don’t expect much camp or over the top content. The writing is fine, though it never really finds a groove in terms of Justin, so we are left just wondering why even his family would bother with him. So while the score is zero, the writing is passable, just not the kind of craziness we reward here. Speaking of craziness, aside from the visual of the cultists and the offbeat fox girl, this one never gets that wild. A serious tone, slow burn approach, and nihilistic finale keep the insanity at bay. But fox girl is such an fun enigma, she deserves a point to herself, right?
Overall Insanity: 1/10