Goon Review: Jackals (2017)

(Submitted by Mr. Andrew Peters…Sincere thanks and hugs, Ho-rror Ho-mie! 🙂 xoxo)


I’ve always been a big fan of the ‘70s and ‘80s Satanic cult movies and home invasion flicks, so when Scream Factory (a company that I adore) began advertising their movie
Jackals, I was more than enthusiastic for it. Even though I’m not a fan of Saw VI or Saw 3D: The Final Chapter, I think director Kevin Greutert could bring elements of fright and gore to Jackals, especially considering he edited The Strangers. It seems like this would have been a homerun (if we are going to use sportsball analogies here), but unfortunately his filmmaking abilities were possibly hindered by working closely with studios and playing it safe that he didn’t know how to make a horror film that fans wanted or even what he wanted. Jackals is pretty cookie cutter as far as plot goes and the scares are predictably put in place by it and coming from the man who made two Saw movies, I expected more gore. I guess you could say my expectations were too high, but I would say that the film itself didn’t meet its expectations.

 

Jackals doesn’t exactly set the most promising tone with opening the film by literally mirroring the opening to John Carpenter’s Halloween. You’ve seen it, because it’s iconic and memorable. The camera acts as some malicious person’s POV moving through the house, putting on a mask of some kind and killing someone or in this case a few people. Now, I’m sure that in the eyes of the filmmakers’, this was paying homage to one of the most memorable horror movie scenes, but Jackals never revisits these characters. We never learn who they are, what their connection was, nothing. It could be removed entirely from the film and it wouldn’t have made a lick of difference in the story. This is like when horror films constantly tried to mimic the ending to Carrie, because, “hey, it worked with that movie, so it’ll work in ours!” without realizing there needs to be context behind it all. It feels so disingenuous. The film also takes place in the early ‘80s, not because it needs to, but I think the filmmakers wanted to give the film an “oldschool” vibe or possibly even remove any type of technology, like cellphones. Being a cult movie, I think it would have worked better set a decade earlier, but maybe that wasn’t in the budget.

What follows, however, is actually rather unique as the driver of a pretty sweet muscle car, a young man named Justin, is beaten and abducted by two hooded figures in a van who take him to a remote cabin in the woods, who can’t help but wonder why in the hell didn’t the movie open with this? Immediately, I was intrigued and inquisiting what it could all be about, especially when we soon learn what it was all about. Turns out, these hooded kidnappers ain’t the bad guys. One is the father of the kid he just kicked the shit out of and the other is an ex-marine turned professional cult deprogrammer named Jimmy played by Stephen Dorff. Jimmy is by far the most interesting character in the film and has also made me consider my career choices. Think of him as like an exorcist but for people that have been brainwashed by a cult. The fact that he’s a marine never really plays into the story though, other to give him a gun for a moment and to give you the idea that he’s a badass, which he is. Stephen Dorff puts in a solid performance as he interrogates Justin using different methods from the tough love sell to using Justin’s family in an intervention.

Let’s talk about the family for a moment. You later learn that the parents are divorced, which you get the feeling they were seeing as the family is estranged. Nobody seems to get along, but they don’t quite hate each other. Everyone wants to blame the other person for what happened to Justin, but in reality nobody is to blame. The family dynamic is quite good and nearly everyone is given a chance to shine. The father, Andrew (Johnathan Schaech), blames himself and yet wants to make amends and when things get rough, he steps up without question and takes control. His brother Campbell (Nick Roux) seems like a selfish dickweed at first, but also steps up when he has, even though at times he seems brash and thickheaded, he just wants his brother back. However, Justin’s mother Kathy (Deborah Kara Unger from Silent Hill) is the stereotype alcoholic-mother-because-my-family-is-falling-apart and there’s nothing else to her. Deborah Kara Unger is completely wasted (I mean that in both ways) in her role and isn’t given much to do other than just be there. Justin’s girlfriend Samantha (Chelsea Ricketts) isn’t given much to do either other than try to be sympathetic to the audience because she had his baby. It isn’t until the end when she tries to separate herself from the cast, but even then it’s pretty predictable. Maybe somebody didn’t know how to write actual female characters, methinks.

This interesting family dynamic is brought to a halt and anything vaguely interesting is tossed out the window when Justin’s new “family” comes back to reclaim him. The usual stuff happens, like the power goes out and suddenly they are surrounded by a number of masked goons in the dark and this is when the movie decides to do exactly what other home invasion horror films before it have done. Stay tride and true to that formula! You wouldn’t want to do your own thing and make something that would stick out, now would you? Jimmy grabs his gun and runs outside chasing a masked figure only to be caught and never seem from again and this the point when I tell people exactly where Jackals went off the rails; the moment Stephen Dorff exits the movie. Of course the most useful character has to do something completely idiotic, otherwise he would have saved the day, although I do give some credit to the writing when Jimmy claims he underestimated them, making me think he let his macho male bravado get the best of him.

Rather than give this cult some personality, maybe some kind of background or even what the hell they worship, they are deduced down to the stock horror cliche of the masked mute villains that spend the majority of the time standing still, staring forward at a tired attempt of being scary. Sure, the cinematography is pretty, what with the cult members constantly being backlit by moonlight and surrounded by fog near the woods, but it’s not enough to sell them as menacing, especially since they get their asses kicked. A lot. There’s nothing to them. No substance, no real motivation outside of wanting a member back. The movie really could have benefited from a little bit of dialogue from them, perhaps with what they are a cult of or even some mindless, lunatic-esque mad rantings, but nothing. They are literally faceless, voiceless killers without motivation which can work in a Halloween type of movie, but the fact that they are a cult and out to reclaim one of their own, you almost need to have something behind these maniacs to make them appear as this all imposing force that are to be feared. For all we know it could be a My Little Pony cult. I’m sure those exist and are probably far more scary.

Andrew takes charge of his family for possibly the last time and they all begin to craft makeshift weapons (there’s that Saw influence) and defend their home. Knowing that they couldn’t make this the entire movie, there is some more turmoil within the family about whether or not they should give Justin back to the cult in exchange for their safety. I gotta say, that’s pretty realistic if you put yourself in that situation. Wouldn’t you consider, even if briefly, handing a loved one back over to a crazy cult if that meant they wouldn’t kill you?


Within Jackals, there was something special, but unfortunately it was never given a chance to shine. Rather than do its own thing, it decided to ape Halloween, The Purge and The Strangers, probably thinking that it would be an interesting mix. Director Kevin Greutert seemed to be too comfortable with what he knew instead of leaving his comfort zone, even briefly. I’m sure the intention from the filmmakers was to pay homage, but when you’re being derivative rather than paying respects, you kinda dropped the ball. Unfortunately, this wasn’t case, so what you get is a pretty predictable paint by numbers horror film. What are we coming to when even indie films are beginning to play it safe? There is enough potential here for a sequel, perhaps delving into the persona of the cult that was not even touched on in this movie. However, the parts of the movie that work actually work really well and draw you in as a viewer, but once the invasion happens it spoils any chance of developing those interesting ideas it started with.

Movie Review: Jeepers Creepers 3

(Full length review submitted by Mr. Anton Phibes…Thanks, Ho-rror Ho-mie. I wasn’t gonna touch this one!! 😉 xoxo)

It’s quite difficult to discuss Jeepers Creepers 3 without mentioning director Victor Salva’s sordid past in some capacity. His actions have divided horror fans and cast a grim shadow on the popular franchise. However, For this review, I will separate the art from the artist. In no way do I condone Salva’s crime, but my opinion will be based solely on the film itself and not on its director. So, when divorced from its creator, is this film any good?

No. Not at all.

Jeepers Creepers 3 takes place after the final moments of the first film.  Brandon Smith reprises the role of Sgt. Tubbs, who joins forces with Sheriff Tashtego  (Stan Shaw) to hunt The Creeper (Jonathan Breck), a winged creature who feeds on human flesh every 23rd day of every 23rd Spring. The two cops eventually team up with Gaylen Brandon (Meg Foster), a half-mad woman who has a history with the creature. Will they succeed in killing the beast or will he feed again in another 23 years? Considering the recent talk of a potential fourth installment, I think you can guess the answer.

Stripped of its controversy, Jeepers Creepers 3 has very little to offer, save for a few unintentional chuckles.  There’s nothing clever, intriguing, frightening, or even weird about it. I’m generally not the kind to be overly critical of a creature feature, but there’s just nothing here. I wasn’t a huge fan of previous entries, but they weren’t quite this bad. And not a fun sort of bad, either. Jeepers Creepers 3 is awful in the most ordinary way. It borrows ideas and frights from other scare fare, but without any life or joy. It’s rare for me not to enjoy a monster-on-the-loose picture, but I’m afraid that this film wasn’t all that frightful.

If you’ve seen the other two films, this one offers nothing fresh or interesting. It teases an origin we never get to see and turns The Creeper’s truck into a Mario Kart-like abomination, but that’s about every new element it has to offer. Imagine a SyFy Channel reboot of the franchise and you’ll have a decent idea of what this film is like. There were a couple of shots I thought were wonderfully moody, but that’s hardly enough to recommend an entire movie. Even the acting, with the exceptional of the great Meg Foster, is blandly poor. Almost everything about this film is uninspired.

The Creeper, once a fairly intimidating force of supernatural evil, is played in a ridiculous manner that suggests camp, but feels out of place in a film that is otherwise pretty straight. Now, I don’t mind a cheeky monster, but it simply doesn’t work here. Even in his first big scene in the film, The Creeper kills all potential menace he might of had by literally wagging a finger at a victim. Apparently, The Creeper enjoys Twilight Zone: The Movie….

If you’re a die-hard fan of this franchise, you may get some amusement out of this film. There are those who’ve been clamoring for this film for over decade now. I’m not one of them, I sincerely hope that this film lives up to their expectations. But for those simply looking for a good monster movie about a man-eating creature that comes every 20-plus years, I suggest you see IT.  Heck, see IT again, if you’ve already seen it. You’ll probably get more out of a repeat viewing of that film than single viewing of this forgettable fright flick.

Goon Review: Antibirth (2016)

(Submitted by Mr. Andrew Peters…Thanks, Ho-rror Ho-meboy!! 😉 xoxo)


Very few movies will leave me feeling left in the middle of the road, meaning I’m not entirely sure if I liked it or disliked it or the film just happened to have a really good scene or two that I thoroughly enjoyed. Welcome to that short list, Antibirth, a film released in the conjunction of IFC Midnight and Scream Factory, who I both love, but between this and The Devil’s Dolls I am seriously considering their judgement of the films they are releasing. Alright, maybe I’m being a little hard on Antibirth, I mean, it’s not like I hate the movie, but I was incredibly disappointed by it. After saying that, I should point out that it’s not ineptly made or stupid, it just wasn’t what I was expecting and seemed to move at a snail’s pace and I found it hard to keep my interest.

I know I talk about slow burns, movies that take their time setting up a plot, a lot of times, but Antibirth takes its sweet time getting there. I seriously think it was about halfway through the movie before I noticed any resemblance of a plot. Not that the film was confusing, mind you, but at multiple times I asked myself, “what the hell am I watching?” Not in a confused kind of way, but why I’m supposed to take long scenes of nothing but a stoner getting wasted interesting. It’s not all interesting as there are a few scenes that are noteworthy, but they are so far and few inbetween that it’s hard to recommend a movie just for a scene or two.

Natasha Lyonne plays the trashy, party monster Lou, and on a side note, it took me several moments to realize that this was the disco chick from Detroit Rock City. I gotta say, it does not look like she has aged a day in nearly twenty years. She kinda plays the same character (or maybe it’s just the Jersey accent throwing me off), except dirtier and trashier which is somehow more sexy. Then again, I’ve always had a thing for Natasha Lyonne. Anyway, Lou spends her days drinking, doing drugs, whatever it takes to get high. She occasionally refers to her father who apparently lost it during the Vietnam War and it’s alluded to that he killed himself, but this or what effect it had on Lou is never really explored. It’s brought up and dropped a few times, but nothing comes of it other than maybe this is why she is constantly in an altered state. Lou is not by far a likable character. When she isn’t doing drugs, she’s a foul mouthed chain smoker who eats pizza out of the garbage and lives in a hoarders dream trailer. It’s like she’s trying to be a cartoon version of a Rob Zombie character and honestly speaking, I didn’t want to spend a whole movie with this character, as she has no redeemable qualities and from what you will see in the movie, you have to wonder why she was chosen to be the center. To be fair, it does fit into the plot. There is a reason given to why we are following her, but at no point do I really want to. Lou wakes up one day with no recollection of what happened the previous night, which is what we see in flashy quick cuts wherein a shifty looking bearded man is leading her away from the party, where we can only think the unimaginable will happen.

Along with her friend Sadie (Chloe Sevigny), they try to get to the root of the problem, which is seemingly a pregnancy only there is one minor little problem; Lou claims that she hasn’t had sex in a really long time, after an abortion about a year ago and if you were worrying that the film wouldn’t show it, well let me ease your doubts. It’s a pretty disgusting scene, which I am sure some of you will get a kick out of. Figuring out with Lou is just a stop in this sideshow. It’s mentioned here and there, but the film would rather show you more scenes of her getting drunk and Sadie bitching at her for it. Along the way, Lou happens upon a mysterious woman, Lorna, played by Meg Tilly who looks like a combination of Winona Ryder and Charlie Heaton’s characters from Stranger Things. Lorna seems to have some answers, but Lou is resistant and goes about her debauchery lifestyle until further in the film when she tracks Lou down in her trailer and talks about her past with the Army and how she became a clairvoyant. Finally during the final act, things pick up and Lorna and Lou are on the path to realization that what may by inside Lou may not be human, especially seeing as she is growing in size rapidly. They track down Lou’s friends and Sadie’s ex-Marine drug dealing boyfriend to solve this riddle, which I won’t spoil just incase you want to check out the movie. I will say that it’s quite interesting, but unfortunately getting there takes a lot of patience and sitting through various subplots that barely tie together.

Antibirth is as if writer/director Danny Perez wanted to mimic the drug fueled, nightmare inducing style of Terry Gilliam with hints of a grungy David Fincher mystery and the trailer trash characters and dialogue of Rob Zombie while trying to make the birthing scene from Xtro, but got lost in just letting the camera run about a girl getting stoned and talking about nothing and the shift in tone between performances and tone make the movie feel confused. It’s not sure what it wants to be, so it’s hoping to use the drug fueled theme as a mask and play it off to be cool. At times it feels like it’s supposed to be body horror, other times it feels a bit sci-fi and then there is a mix of a stoner drama. There’s nothing wrong with mixing genres, Antibirth just feels muddled while it’s trying to decide what it’s trying to do and this shows with the actor’s performance. Natasha Lyonne seems to be in a comedy, while the supporting cast is in some kind of serious drama, then Meg Tilly steps in and almost crosses the line into campy territory.

As I’ve stated, I don’t think it’s a poorly made film. In fact, Danny Perez does seem to have an eye to tell the story, but I don’t think he quite understood how to tell it. There are several subplots to the overall story, none of which tie together really well and some seemingly drop out altogether only to be brought up again later, far after the point where I forgot about it. I could also mention the special effects that are done really well, minus the notable CG parts and offer up a pretty tripping viewing, especially when they are watching commercials or at a Chucky Cheeze style pizza place where people in furry animal-esque costumes dance around, mostly in front of lava lamp looking backgrounds. Another good thing about the film is the pop and punk rock soundtrack that I’m sure the targeted audience will get a kick out of.

As I mentioned in the beginning of the review, the film was released by Scream Factory in conjunction with IFC Midnight, who up until recently, I’ve been questioning their decisions. Possibly looking for new and different films for their audience, to which I can’t begrudge them for. The Blu-ray has a few special features, like shorts, storyboards and a trailer. Not much to really justify a $20 price tag, but some people may dig the film for what it is. Unfortunately, I can’t say I’m that target audience, as much as I do love seeing Natasha Lyonne. Surprised there’s not even a commentary track, as I think director Danny Perez really could have shed some light on the movie.
If I were to sum up Antibirth, it’s an 80 minute set up to a ten minute joke. I don’t mean the film itself is a joke, but rather the film takes a long, long time drawn out time getting to the punchline that does pay off, but doesn’t make the journey worth the trip. To make a more accurate comparison, the movie is like that really immature friend you had in highschool and you don’t see them for ten years and then out of the blue, they call you to hang out. You go over there and they are still the same. Living in a mess, getting wasted and just acting like they don’t care. It’s no longer cool and you feel uncomfortable, so you are just waiting for the appropriate time to leave.

Goon Review: The Devil’s Dolls (2016)

(Submitted by Mr. Andrew Peters…Thanks for the warning on this one, Ho-rror Ho-mie! 😉 xoxo)

I’ve talked about cliches before and that sometimes they work, sometimes they don’t. Sometimes it can make a film seem like it’s been photocopied from several other things that did the same thing, giving it a very stale taste. It can make a film so bland and uninspired that you barely notice the film and only see the things you’ve seen several dozen times before. That’s what The Devil’s Dolls is. Even though the core concept of the film is interesting, it’s the same film you’ve seen from major studios time and time again and considering this is an independent feature, I’m kinda surprised the film didn’t take any liberties and just played it safe.

Right from the very first moment, you get the feeling you’ve seen this all before. I mean, how many times have you seen a skinny white girl in a tank top tied up and tortured? Far too many. I actually let out an audible groan and rolled my eyes and the only reason I kept watching was because it’s my job. Then I thought, “Well, maybe it’ll get better. Maybe something different will happen,” but nope. Not really. The film then cuts to a serial killer named Henry as he mumbles to some worry dolls and places them inside a wooden box as his captive girl struggles to get free, just in time as he picks up a large gas powered drill and chases her. Aren’t these scenes usually at the end of the movie? It feels like we stepped into a generic modern slasher during the last fifteen minutes. She comes across a cop who of course doesn’t listen to her warnings about leaving immediately and continues on with what he’s saying. It’s like he’s having a conversation with himself and this trope is absolutely frustrating and the only reason this scene exists is to throw in the film’s only really gory moment as he gets drilled through the head. Just as Henry is about to drill this unnamed girl, he’s gunned down by hard boiled Detective Matt off screen that wasn’t there a moment ago and saves her. Already, I feel like I’ve sat through this entire movie. Without seeing the rest of the movie, I can tell you all about these characters.

 

Matt should be celebrating that he just gunned down the serial killer he’s been chasing for years, but he’s not. The job has cost him his marriage and he now drinks and sits in his office, staring at the wall looking lost. You know, typical cop movie stuff. Another thing he does is not really follow police procedures. Rather than have the crime scene investigators haul the wooden box of worry dolls into evidence, Matt just tosses that shit in the back seat of his car which his daughter Chloe ends up taking to her mother’s antique store. Chloe decides to make these worry dolls into her jewelry and wears one herself and instantly becomes pale skinned and seemingly sick. Conveniently for everyone else in the movie and the plot Chloe happens to suffer from epilepsy, so they just pass it off as that. Even after she stabs the family dog to death and winds up at the hospital when she becomes unresponsive, they blame it on her illness. I wasn’t aware that random acts of murder was a side effect of epilepsy.

A young adult whose girlfriend bought him one of Chloe’s worry doll necklaces also goes pale and randomly murders a gas station attendant. Matt is called to the scene, because this case bears a striking resemblance to the one he thought he just closed; a similar marking or drawing that Henry left behind during his crimes. During his investigation, Matt believes that the victim must have had contact with Henry, but his investigation leads him to an old voodoo woman who wants the box, but Henry must first find all the worry dolls and place them back inside the box before sundown. This timeframe is suddenly thrown on you, seeing as how one or two nights have already passed, but the story desperately feels the need to make this seem urgent.

I think I may have just narrowed down the plot a little too much, which has even surprised me, but the more I think about it, there isn’t anything much else to say about the film. I mean, think of most horror movie and cop movie cliches and there ya go. That’s this movie. As the film draws near the end and they are trying hard to making it seem more tense than it actually is, the twists and suspenseful moments that it throws at you can be seen coming a mile away, so it’s very uneffective. I feel like I’m going in circles here, struggling to find something to talk about, but it’s such an unmemorable film that nothing stuck with me… and I just watched it last night and even took notes. I guess I could mention the characters, since I haven’t really talked about them, but they have no chemistry together. They even try the nickname game, always calling each other “buddy,” “Chlo” or what have you, but it comes off as a group of people that just met and feel uncomfortable being around each other and awkwardly and forcefully trying to strike up a conversation.

If there are any positives to take away from The Devil’s Dolls it’s that the performances are actually pretty decent, especially considering there is a child actor who must be possessed and the special effects aren’t half bad. I say half bad because the majority of it is slashed throats and blood spraying, as if the special effects person was only talented at just that effect and didn’t want to step out of their comfort zone. It’s an unfortunate shame, since the head drilling scene at the beginning was pretty cool. I guess you get your big effect out of the way in the first several minutes, hook in the audience and they’ll keep watching thinking they’ll get more of that. Hey, Scanners did something similar, except that movie was phenomenal. It’s kind of a shocker that Scream Factory of all companies released this movie on Blu-ray. I can’t recall if there were any special features included or not, although I can’t imagine you would want to check them out and at a $20 price tag, it’s probably best to skip this one. However, it is on Netflix if you get curious and I noticed it had about a one star rating. Now I know why.

I can’t say that The Devil’s Dolls was a bad film, it’s just not that interesting. It’s not unwatchable, it’s just forgettable. Nothing sticks out and I found myself very bored and since the movie is incredibly predictable, it’s like jumping forward into the future and having seen it before you actually do. I didn’t hate the film. I just don’t care about it.