26 June 2018



Wow-ee. This is one of the best home invasion movies I think I've ever seen. It involves a scary cult who are looking to get one of their members back after he's been snatched by his family and a kick-ass cult de-programmer, played by Stephen Dorff.

Earlier this year, I saw a chubby-cheeked Stephen Dorff's first ever movie, THE GATE (1987), and also one of his most recent films, the long-awaited prequel to THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE, LEATHERFACE, which was pretty decent as I remember.

In JACKALS, his cult de-programmer character is called Jimmy Levine. He's cute, blonde-ish, fashionably stubbly and as tough as old boots. Clearly, he's been doing this job for a while now and he's seen- or he thinks he's seen- all the tricks a wily cult can get up to when they're trying to get back an erstwhile member.

He's been hired by the Powell family to get back their college-age son Justin, who has a baby daughter with a girl called Samantha. Sam is just as desperate as Mom and Pop Powell to get Justin back. He's her Baby-Daddy, after all, and no doubt he filled her girlish head with all kinds of romantic ideas when he was persuading her to lie down with him, lol.

Anyway, the start of the movie is brilliant as we see two guys we don't know (but they're really Pop Powell and Jimmy the cult de-programmer) hijack a car with two other guys in it we don't know and abduct one of them, taking him (he turns out to be the son, Justin) back with them to the Powells' gorgeous big cabin-on-the-edge-of-the-deep-dark-woods.

There, they sit tight. They're expecting the cult to register some sort of protest but never in a million years could they have foreseen how violently the cult will react to their audacious act of kidnapping. In the meantime, tensions are already running high amongst the little group gathered in the fancy cabin before the evil culties even show their faces. Although they never do, haha. Show their faces, I mean. That's quite funny.

Mom and Dad are divorced, and it was most likely an acrimonious one as they find it hard to communicate with each other without resorting to bitchiness and being judgemental. Ma Powell uses a nice outsized glass of wine, even during the day, to help her to cope with her problems. You go, girl. There ain't no problem so big that a few glasses of wine can't help to minimise it slightly, lol.

Campbell Powell, the second college-age son of the Powell clan, seems to really hate his brother Justin, who's tied up in a chair upstairs for safe-keeping, and the feeling seems to be mutual. Theirs was not a happy childhood obviously, and the old childhood grievances haven't been forgotten about at all, far from it. They're still simmering away under the surface like, well, like something that's even slightly famous for simmering away under the surface of something.

Ma and Pa Powell are still not happy that their precious Justin went and knocked up a girl and now he's a father to a daughter at barely age twenty. Sam is desperately trying to get Justin to behave as a father to their child but, whatever he was like before the cult got their hands on him, he's virtually unreachable now.

Jimmy the de-programmer is doing his best to get through to Justin also but even he isn't having much luck, and he's supposed to be the qualified one here. Justin just keeps ranting and raving about how the cult are gonna come for him and how they're going to wreak a terrible revenge on the family while they're at it. The usual stuff, lol. Standard threats against life and limb and whatnot.

It's a little unsettling to say the least, this entire situation, when suddenly the family notice that there's a lone figure sitting silently and perfectly still on the rock down by the front gate. Jimmy cautions the family to be careful as he goes down the garden alone, in the dark, in the dead of night, to investigate. Well, nothing could possibly go wrong here, right? Wrong. Dead wrong.

When he gets down there, the figure is gone. But the family's nightmare isn't gone. That's only just beginning, and it looks like Jimmy's foolishly volunteered himself to be the first
human sacrifice. Leaving the house was his first- and maybe his last- mistake...

This film is just so well done. Not a minute is wasted in pointless palaver. And the things you assume the cult wouldn't dare to do, they do. I like that. They go there, unlike some films. The violence is shocking and it really makes you wonder why cults go to such trouble to get back absconding members.

Are the cult's secrets really so terrible that they can't afford to have them 'noised abroad' by a member who's broken free? Or is it just a possessive thing, as in, they just can't bear to let go of one of their own once they've gotten their claws into them? I haven't a clue and I'd really rather not find out, ta very much.

Those cults can be creepy, especially those polygamous ones where some ugly fat 'spiritual leader' guy has a dozen 'wives' and can have sex with a different wife every night if he chooses. Or he could have sex with the one wife five nights in a row and then alternate. The combinations and permutations are pretty much endless. He can do whatever he likes, in whatever order he chooses. They're all about the multiple sex partners and the control and the power, these boyos.

I saw a documentary about this type of thing once and there were all these lovely women bawling their eyes out because some jerk- the husband- was telling them collectively that they were all coming up short in the wifey department. Then he made them pray for their own improvement. Bloody cheek. He was lucky that they were even bothering at all about a nobody like him. And all the sex he was getting...! 'Twas shocking altogether for such a pipsqueak of a nonentity.

If I were one of the wives of a polygamous male, I'd be terrible at having to wait my turn for the sex as I've no patience. Also I have an awful jealousy problem so I definitely wouldn't get on with the other wives, especially the good-looking ones. I'd feel threatened by them, see, even if they weren't any better-looking than myself. I do not like to be upstaged, overlooked or put on the long finger, as we say here in Ireland. That husband would surely be in for a world of trouble, lol.

Anyway, JACKALS reminds me of two things, both of which I love. Firstly, the episode of THE SIMPSONS where Homer Simpson and half of Springfield join the cult known as 'the Movementarians' and end up picking beans in the shape of their phoney 'leader' and trying to outrun THE PRISONER-style deadly orbs when attempting to leave the heavily-guarded cult compound.

Favourite lines from this episode? Cult members to Marge about Homer:'He's OUR husband now...!' I also like when the phoney 'leader' has been exposed as the charlatan he is and he's legging it out of Springfield with all his loot. He winds up crash-landing on Cletus Spuckler's farm:

The Leader: 'Do you have any use for a messiah?'

Cletus Spuckler, pointing his shotgun: 'Naw-aw, but I'll take them sacks-a money from yeh...!'

JACKALS also puts me in mind of John Carpenter's THE FOG, generally regarded as one of the best horror films ever made. The silent, sinister figures in black appearing out of the titular mist as if by magic, their faces obscured and all of them poised to strike and kill when they need to is something both films have in common. The way they do this in THE FOG is tremendously effective and I must say that JACKALS isn't lagging too far behind at all.

JACKALS is a terrific home-invasion film with a twist, the twist being that the barmy cult are the invaders instead of yet more boring burglars or desperado drug-dealers, and I'd highly recommend it to you fans of good horror out there. Ta-ra for now, and make sure you lock up properly when you go to bed. Better safe than sorry...

JACKALS is available now on DVD and DIGITAL DOWNLOAD from 101 FILMS.


Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger, poet and book-and-movie reviewer. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, womens' fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra's books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:


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