Jackals opens in 1983 with a chilling murder of a family in the middle of the night. The film then switches to the kidnaping of a young man, Justin (Ben Sullivan) by two masked individuals. We find out they are actually Ben’s father, Andrew (Johnathon Schaech) and ex-Marine, Jimmy (Stephen Dorff). We also learn that Justin is involved with a cult and his family has abducted him to a remote cabin for Jimmy to deprogram him. But as horror fans we know remote cabins in the woods are never a safe place and soon they are surrounded by masked cultists who want Justin back and his family all dead.
Flick is written by Jared Rivet and directed effectively by Kevin Greutert (Jessabelle). The plot may be a mix of things we’ve seen before like The Strangers, Faults and You’re Next, but it works well enough. There are some chilling scenes and some intensity, especially when the cultists surround the cabin and begin their efforts to get in. There is also some brutal violence and director Greutert does give it some atmospheric visuals to support the night-set story. The film falters a bit in a few aspects. First off, the Powell Family remain far too calm and organized when the cultists make their presence known. They quickly arm themselves, make weapons and seem quite ready to defend the cabin as if they’ve done this before. Have they? Did we miss something? Did Jimmy conduct a family boot camp just in case? Also, the cultists seem like they are a large group, yet constantly attack the cabin one or two at a time, instead of rushing the cabin all at once and overrunning it…which would end the movie very quickly. That and the whole animal masked killers thing is starting to get old and is far less effective since many films have used this trope in recent years. Still the film does entertain and there are some effective moments alongside the familiar ones.
The cast are all fine enough. The vets like Schaech, Dorff and Deborah Kara Unger take the material seriously and try their best to add some dramatic intensity. Ben Sullivan is creepy as Justin and the dynamic of being a brainwashed cultist is conveyed well enough to make the story work. We also have Nick Roux and Chelsea Ricketts as Justin’s jerk brother and girlfriend/baby momma, respectively and as the cultists are masked and silent, we never really get to know any of them. Cultist “Fox Girl” (Alyssa Julya Smith) had nice abs, but that’s as far as the character development went with her.
Overall, this was a decent enough horror/thriller to pass the time and there were some effective and brutally violent scenes to punctuate the story. There visual style of director Greutert added some atmosphere and the veteran cast took the material seriously. There were some story flaws, questions and a lot of familiarity which kept this from being a real nail-biter or more original, but you could do far worse for a night on the couch with a brew or two.
3 hatchets, a common weapon for jackal masked cultists.