The best thrillers are ones in which the characters do exactly what you’re supposed to do and only end up getting horrific results. This way the audience doesn’t spend the entire film wondering why didn’t they just do what the experts declare on TV. Instead they realize that your results may vary with extreme consequences. Jackals is exactly that kind of film. A father follows the rules for how to reunite their family and it turns into a night of terror.
Two guys traveling down the road have to pull over for a flat tire. Before they can break out the jack, a van pulls up and masked men attack and abduct. But this is not a case of kidnapping on a lost highway. Turns out the victim (Nick Roux from Lemonade Mouth) has been snagged by Jimmy Levine (Blade‘s Stephen Dorff) under orders of the parents (That Thing You Do‘s Johnathon Schaech & Crash‘s Deborah Kara Unger). They use their remote vacation cabin as the perfect place to deprogram. They bring along family members in the hopes of reconnecting with the son they knew. But little do they know that their son wasn’t just part of a goofy religious cult. The pack he was running with are a murdering bunch and sniff out where their lost member went. Things aren’t looking good for the family reconnecting in the cabin.
Jackals is set in the ’80s and has the feel of an ’80s horror film. The cult is properly menacing without over talking their roles. You do have to remember this is the ’80s so there is no cellphone action to warn anyone. Director Kevin Greutert got first noticed as an editor on the Saw series until he took the helm for Saw VI. He brings the tension of those movies into this deprogramming nightmare.
It’s interesting to see Johnathon Schaech play the protective dad after he was the hellion in The Doom Generation. Two decades ago, he would have been outside the house threatening the family with his unbridled desires. But now he must protect his wife and children and bring his son back. The cult is relentless and he has the make severe choices during their attack.
Jackals shows how bad consequences can happen when you make what are supposed to be the right choices for the sake of the family. The movie comes out from Scream Factory Films in select theaters and Video On Demand on Friday, September 1.
Joe Corey is the writer and director of "Danger! Health Films" currently streaming on Night Flight and Amazon Prime. He's the author of "The Seven Secrets of Great Walmart People Greeters." This is the last how to get a job book you'll ever need. He was Associate Producer of the documentary "Moving Midway." He's worked as local crew on several reality shows including Candid Camera, American's Most Wanted, Extreme Makeover Home Edition and ESPN's Gaters. He's been featured on The Today Show and CBS's 48 Hours. Dom DeLuise once said, "Joe, you look like an axe murderer." He was in charge of research and programming at the Moving Image Archive.