Imagine, if you can, that you were trying to watch the very enjoyable You're Next. But nobody will give you any peace. You have to try to engage in conversations, someone has decided to visit and show you their new (crying) baby, and your bladder has decided to play up for the day, deciding that the last coffee you had was enough to take you over the edge, meaning that you have to nip to the loo every 10 minutes. The pause button on your player is broken so you end up just dipping in and out of the film, getting random bits of information without making sense of the whole plot.
Then you decide to make your own horror movie, one that you feel will be an excellent little horror film in the same vein as You're Next. That movie would be Jackals, a disappointingly pointless mess that never truly engages the viewer and draws them in. But at least you included home invasion horror, people wearing animal masks, and a plot point about someone who used to be in a cult.
The plot is all about a family unit trying to deprogram one of their own, having stolen him away from the cult he now considers his true family. While he resists their attempts to return him to his precious state, the cult members gather outside and start terrorising the family.
It makes sense that this is the first feature script from Jared Rivet, who doesn't create good enough characters, doesn't effectively build tension, and ruins any potential the premise could have with every main story beat, all the way to the tediously predictable final scenes.
What doesn't make sense is the fact that this is far from director Kevin Greutert's first rodeo. He previously directed Jessabelle AND the sixth and seventh instalments in the Saw franchise (two instalments I really enjoyed). So it makes me think that he initially saw something in the script that was then lost during the transition from page to screen.
The cast don't help either. They're not awful, and you get lead roles for people like Johnathon Schaech and Deborah Kara Unger, but a couple of them (Ben Sullivan and Nick Roux, playing the brothers, the former being the brainwashed cult member) aren't as good as they should be. Stephen Dorff is wasted in his small role, and Chelsea Ricketts tries her best but is given the worst parts of the script to deal with, in terms of her reactions to events and characterisation.
If you're desperate for something to watch, and it's streaming somewhere for free, then you may enjoy Jackals. I mean . . . I'm sure someone could enjoy it. But I would implore you to search for something, anything, different. Because the only thing this has going for it is a degree of competence on the tech side of things. No fun, no thrills, no tension, just technical competence.
You can, if you wish, buy Jackals here.
Americans can buy it here.