Director: Kevin Greutert
Script: Jared Rivet
Cast: Johnathon Schaeh, Stephen Dorff, Deborah Kara Unger, Alyssa Julya Smith, Nick Roux, Chelsea Ricketts, Jason Scott Jenkins, Ben Sullivan
Running time: 82 minutes
Year: 2017
Certificate: 15

After a prologue set in 1983, which sees a young man in a mask break into his own parent’s house and murder them as they sleep, the film then moves forward a few years and we see another dodgy-looking young man being kidnapped by two masked men with a van. It turns out that one of the men is the kidnapped man’s father, accompanied by a cult deprogrammer (Stephen Dorff), there to take back his teenage son from a murderous cult.

They take him to the family’s holiday home which is situated in some woods in the middle of nowhere, where they won’t be disturbed, so they can ‘work on’ their errant son without disturbing any neighbours or passers-by. However, this decision turns out to be a bad one when the family soon find themselves under siege when the cultists turn up and surround their cabin, demanding the boy back.

Allegedly, the Jackals screenplay was written early on during ‘the torture porn’ craze, which was made popular by the likes of Saw, Hostel and Wolf Creek; although Jackals is much more closely related to the likes of ‘home invasion’ films such as The Strangers, The Purge and Funny Games, rather than any torture porn movie. Some years later, the script was finally realised by Saw VI editor and director Kevin Greutart. Greutert was also the editor for home invasion flick The Strangers (2008), which was, itself, a copy of the far superior French film Them (2006). It’s a small world!

I digress! Coming back to this film, the director starts the film well with a disturbing home invasion murder set piece, somewhat reminiscent of the original Halloween. The setting then changes to two cultists (one the son) driving along listening to aggressive heavy metal music to demonstrate they’re bad apples, obviously! I suspect that if the film had been set today it would have been gangsta rap music they’d be listening to!

Then, once we’re in the woods, the 80’s era allows for the handy plot mechanism of there being no mobile phones to call for help on; not that they’d have gotten much reception out in the sticks! The Jackal mask-wearing villains are actually quite creepy, and quickly surround the place and start maiming and killing off members of the family.

Director Greutart builds up the tension nicely and there’s some grim set pieces, particularly in the last third of the film. The music by Anton Sanko works well, and helps build up a sense of pervading menace, and Andrew Russo’s cinematography is decent, although some of the ‘action’ sequences are a little shaky.

The acting is good, for the most part, especially Ben Sullivan who plays Justin Powell, the brain-washed son. He delivers a sterling, and disturbing performance as someone who has become indoctrinated into the ways of a Charles Manson-like cult.

There’s nothing particularly original about Jackals, but what it does, it does with aplomb, and it holds the viewer gripped for the length of its short running time. I’d certainly recommend it to those who enjoy a good ‘home invasion’ kind of horror movie. It even has a satanic feel to it too, in my opinion. I hope that they do a follow up and we get to learn a bit more about this strange and violent cult who ‘look after’ their own with extreme prejudice!

101 Films are distributing Jackals on Blu-ray and DVD. There were no extras on my review disc.

Justin Richards reviews Kevin Greutert's cultists-on-the-rampage film, 'Jackals', featuring Stephen Dorff and Deborah Unger.
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About The Author

After a lengthy stint as a print journalist, Justin now works as a TV and film producer for Bazooka Bunny. He's always been interested in genre films and TV and has continued to work in that area in his new day-job. His written work has appeared in the darker recesses of the internet and in various niche publications, including ITNOW, The Darkside, Is it Uncut?, Impact and Deranged. When he’s not running around on set, or sat hunched over a sticky, crumb-laden keyboard, he’s paying good money to have people in pyjamas try and kick him repeatedly in the face.

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