The horror side of filmmaking can be intriguing. When you pay attention, you see names continue to rise in the ranks of the credits until they become directors, this happens in general with proteges of sorts (look at James Wan and David F. Sandberg) or even famously with Rachel Talalay who worked as a producer on the Nightmare on Elm Street series before directing one herself. The same goes with Saw editor Kevin Greutert, who edited every Saw film except the last two of the original series (excluding Jigsaw). He raised the ranks in the family of the franchise since he directed both Saw VI and Saw: The Last Chapter. Kevin also edited his most recent film, Jackals and I mildly wish that was all he did.
In regards to family, his most recent film is all about family. The film begins with a scene that is reminiscent of the opening for Halloween, the homage is done well enough but the problem is that it sort of defeats the effect that Halloween had attempted to do. The reveal at the end of the opening is simply that it’s a child who’s capable of such evil, but in Jackals, it’s built up to a reveal of the masks a cult wears. The scene feels like a completely stand-alone scene that in retrospect, doesn’t affect the plot in any way.
Soon after, we find ourselves at a lovely secluded cabin in the woods where a family is anxiously waiting for the arrival of someone. At some point, their son Justin (Ben Sullivan) had found himself joining a vicious cult. He is taken by his father Andrew (Johnathan Schaech) and a hired hand Jimmy (Stephen Dorff), who happens to be a cult deprogrammer. The person they were waiting on was for Justin, who has his parents, his brother, his girlfriend, and his newborn daughter to answer questions for.
At one point during an interrogation by Jimmy, Justin mentions that he goes by Thanatos, which happens to be the Greek personification of death. Which, the film does nothing else with. It happens to be a common occurrence. The film’s script seems to follow a basic three-act structure and doesn’t do a great job at handling exposition. We see characters together explaining their relationships to one another and how they haven’t been good for a while.
As the film continues, the cult (known as The Jackals) arrive and terrify the family, but from afar, and from outside their home while very slowly move their way inside. There is never any real tension, or fear as every member of the cult, never says a word or really reacts in any way. The first initial attack happens far too early, and the film feels like it sputters to a halt quickly as it attempts to find a way to postpone its finale. The film also becomes predictable, which isn’t always a problem as when working within a sub-genre like home invasion, you’re going to brush against your basic tropes, it’s second nature. The problem becomes when there isn’t anything else going for it in the other hand.
The film bears too much resemblance to You’re Next with using masks for a home invasion film, and also other home invasion film that Greutert also edited, The Strangers. The film is very well edited, Greutert understands rhythm in that sense, but in terms of the story that should have had a few more edits before ending up in front of the screen.
You can buy and find Jackals on Amazon, iTunes, and in stores today.