'Jackals': Film Review

Scream Factory/TAP Inc.
A competent but completely forgettable cult-versus-family flick.
9/1/2017

Kevin Greutert follows up some 'Saw' films with a family-under-siege thriller.

Rescuing a wayward son from the empowering nihilism of blood-cult life is easier said than done in Jackals, Kevin Greutert's under-siege thriller. Greutert, director of two late installments in the Saw franchise, offers little in the way of high-concept hooks here, simply pitting nonverbal, masked assailants against a terrified family who tries to keep them at bay. Its run-of-the-mill standoff may appease some hardcore horror buffs, but it offers nothing to the rest of us and will likely be forgotten before the blood on the ground dries.

After a home-invasion/slaughter prelude that is never explicitly tied to the rest of the pic, the movie starts with a kidnapping: Black-sheep son Justin (Ben Sullivan) is captured by his father, Andrew (Johnathon Schaech), and a former Marine (Stephen Dorff's Jimmy), then taken to the family's vacation home and strapped to a chair. Jimmy specializes in deprogramming kids who've been brainwashed and has no doubt that, though this menacing twenty-something spouts threats and insults at them, the family can win him back if they stick to his script.

Before things can get very far, though, backup arrives. After dusk, a crew of Justin's "family" members surrounds the house, wearing animal masks and saying nothing. They make no demands, but it's not hard to guess what they want. And when members of the family go out to reason with them, they don't all come back in one piece.

The hunker-down siege sequences that follow contain nothing to surprise us: Justin's brother, Campbell (Nick Roux), drives the shrill "give them what they want!" bickering; Justin's girlfriend, Samantha (Chelsea Ricketts), worries tearfully about the fate of their infant; his mother, Kathy (Deborah Kara Unger), who divorced Andrew and left the family long ago, laments her choices — all while Justin (who calls himself Thanatos now) sneers and promises that his friends will have their way.

Jared Rivet's script gives Dad the most presence of mind, but that's not the same as making him, or anyone else here, an interesting character. And despite some sketching in of broken-family backstory, little attempt is made to find any psychodrama that would make the standoff compelling. Though not shy about bloodshed, Greutert doesn't play to the gorehounds with death scenes worth remembering. In fact, the only thing a viewer may remember by the time he gets to his car is that the psycho-gang's masks were sort of cool.

Production company: Tap Inc.
Distributor: Shout! Factory
Cast: Deborah Kara Unger, Johnathon Schaech, Ben Sullivan, Chelsea Ricketts, Nick Roux, Stephen Dorff
Director: Kevin Greutert
Screenwriter: Jared Rivet
Producer: Tommy Alastra
Director of photography: Andrew Russo
Production designer: Celine Diano
Costume designer: Kris Deskins
Editors: John Coniglio, Kevin Greutert
Composer: Anton Sanko
Casting director: Richard Valentino

85 minutes

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