• Jackals



    Released by: Shout! Factory
    Released on: October 3rd, 2017.
    Director: Kevin Greutert
    Cast: Deborah Kara Unger, Stephen Dorff, Johnathon Schaech, Nick Roux, Alyssa Julya Smith
    Year: 2017
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    The Movie:

    It wasn’t long ago when Andrew Powell (Johnathon Schaech) and his wife Kathy (Deborah Kara Unger) want lost their son Justin (Ben Sullivan) to the clutches of a strange cult to which he was indoctrinated. During this time, Justin was estranged from his family, even going so far as to leave his wife Samantha (Chelsea Ricketts), who was expecting their first child, so that he could be with the people he now considered to be his true family.

    The Powells hired a deprogrammer named Jimmy Levine (Stephen Dorff) who specializes in helping people in situations like this. He, along with Justin’s older brother Campbell (Nick Roux) and Samantha manage to sneak into the compound and basically kidnap him. Once that’s done, the family takes him to their remote cabin out in the woods where the plan is to let Jimmy do this thing and hopefully get him back to the man he once was. What no one in the group counted on, was Justin’s ‘new family’ fighting back and launching a siege against them to retrieve him.

    It’d be easy – and fairly appropriate – to compare this one to recent horror hits like The Strangers and You’re Next, because Jackals has a lot in common with those two home invasion films. Most of the action takes place at a singular location, the bad guys wear creepy masks and are after ‘something’ in the house, and they terrorize the good guys in similar ways. As such, Jackals never feels particularly original, though like the films that clearly inspired it, the movie is at least pretty entertaining. The script is smart enough to get past the ways that modern technology would help in a situation like this by placing the events in the 1980s.

    Kevin Greutert, who directed Saw VI and Saw 3-D, knows how to control his picture’s pacing and how to build suspense. The cinematography from Andrew Russo also helps. Lots of shadowy shoots of eerie cult members sporting strange masks and skulking in the shadows provides the movie with its most memorable scenes. Good use of shadow and light enhances this, while the score from Anton Sako, who previously collaborated with Greutert on his 2014 picture Jessabelle, is also quite strong. The technical merits of Jackals are impressive across the board.

    Performances are strong across the board. Stephen Dorff works quite well as the deprogrammer and both Johnathon Schaech and Deborah Kara Unger do a fine job as the concerned parents. Chelsea Ricketts as the put upon wife does fine in her part and Ben Sullivan is quite convincing as the catalyst for all of this. A bit more creativity would have gone a long way towards making this one stand out from the pack a bit more, but as it stands Jackals is a decent horror picture with some good scares.

    Video/Audio/Extras:

    Jackals looks really good in this 2.39.1 1080p AVC encoded widescreen transfer on a 50GB disc. The color scheme used in the movie makes heavy use of earth tones and is frequently pretty dark. As such, this isn’t a particularly colorful film but the shades and hues used to create the film’s atmosphere are nicely replicated though this HD transfer. Black levels are nice and strong throughout and detail is generally nice and sharp even if some of those scenes that take place outdoors towards the end are intentionally shadowy. No noticeable issues with compression artifacts to note, nor are there any problems with edge enhancement or noise reduction. Shot digitally, there are obviously no problems with print damage to note.

    The only audio mix on the disc is an English DTS-HD Master Audio 5. Optional subtitles are included English only. The audio on this release is pretty impressive. Certain scenes really benefit from the uncompressed mix’s range, and the 5.1 mix really does a great job of enhancing the jump scares that the movie occasionally throws into the mix. This is a really enveloping mix that succeeds in sucking you into the film by clever use of the rear channels and some nice, powerful moments where the bass kicks in quite nicely. Dialogue stays clean and clear and there aren’t any problems at all with hiss or distortion.

    Extras on this release start off with an audio Commentary featuring director Kevin Greutert and writer Jared Rivet. They talk about where some of the story ideas came from, influences that worked their way into the movie, the various contributions of the cast and crew members, location work and more. It pretty much covers all the standard ground you’d expect it to. The disc also includes twenty minutes of interviews with the cast and crew. All the main players are here and while it’s fairly promotional in nature with everyone talking about how great it was to work on the picture, there are some amusing anecdotes scattered throughout. Outside of that we get a trailer for the feature, menus and chapter selection. Shout! Factory has also packaged this release with a cardboard slipcover.

    The Final Word:

    Jackals isn’t really all that original but it is pretty effective. The movie is tightly paced, nicely shot and it benefits from some strong performances. There is good atmosphere and tension here and the film turns out to be pretty entertaining stuff. The Blu-ray debut from Shout! Factory is a good one, providing a few decent extra features to compliment a strong technical presentation of the feature itself.

    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!