Loss and grief can do a lot to us. It can tear us down, forcing us to shut out the world, but it can also help us identify which relationships we hold dear are the strongest. In Thomas Dekker’s film JACK GOES HOME (available 10/14/2016 in select theaters and VOD from Momentum Pictures), we get to see how Rory Culkin’s Jack deals with loss and grief when tragedy strikes.
Jack is a writer in Los Angeles, with his pregnant fiance out of the country, when he receives news that his parents were in a horrific car accident, killing his father. He heads home to wrap things up, console his mother, and in the process finds out a lot more about his past than he bargained for.
First off, the score is immediately effective. It heightens the mood at the perfect time, as well as setting you off guard for some scares. It is moody, atmospheric, and ties in well with piano and violin work between Jack and his mother. I could have sworn that it was done by Joseph Bishara (THE CONJURING, INSIDIOUS) and was extremely shocked when I learned otherwise during the credits.
This film is unhinged. While it adds to the psychological aspects to the story, it also adds a lot of dissonance in the acting from all involved. I only include it in the What Doesn’t portion as a warning, as it may be off putting for a more casual viewer. But then again, this isn’t a normal casual film.
Why should you see JACK GOES HOME?:
Having spent a good portion of my life as a skeptic, I enjoy a good ghost story, but am always drawn into horror more when it steers more towards the psychological. I don’t fear a lot of things in my life besides losing control of my mental faculties. And seeing someone pushed to that edge is all the more frightening when adding in elements that could be legitimately there, but might not be.
In horror, we are given a lot of movies from the viewpoint of the characters, so if they are scared, it is likely that we’ll get scared. In other formats, we’re shown the perspective from the outside in. We know what’s going and the dread comes from watching the characters blindly walk into the horrors that we’ve already witnessed waiting for them. JACK GOES HOME skirts the fine line between the two. It gives us just enough of the viewpoint from Jack’s perspective, but also lets us see things from outside, but keeps things vague enough that we aren’t fully aware of what’s happening until the end.
That unsettling skirting of viewpoints, combined with the unhinged acting styles, particularly from Rory Culkin and Lin Shaye, add so many layers of tension and obfuscation, that the film sits with you afterword. You don’t feel dirty, like you can with some films, but you do feel put through the ringer.
This film deals with some really difficult subjects besides grief, including physical and sexual abuse. It can be triggering for someone that has experienced these things in the past, as it is shot so effectively. These things are not used in the typical exploitative fashion, so they ring even more true, and aren’t just random things added in to check off ways to offend. They were crucial parts to the story, and are handled respectfully by Dekker.
In my personal opinion, horror films should affect you, they make you jump, laugh, cringe, scream. JACK GOES HOME didn’t make me jump, but I did laugh, then I winced from some of the emotional turns that occurred. I felt deeply his fiance, Cleo, and felt for Jack as well, as he descended further and further into darkness. It is a difficult viewing, but one that I think will cause you to think about how you process things in your own life.
Jack Thurlowe: Rory Culkin (SIGNS, MEAN CREEK)
Teresa: Lin Shaye (THERE’S SOMETHING ABOUT MARY, INSIDIOUS)
Shanda: Daveigh Chase (THE RING, DONNIE DARKO)
Cleo: Britt Robertson (Under The Dome, TOMORROWLAND)
Duncan: Louis Hunter (The Fosters)
Writer/Director: Thomas Dekker (WHORE, acted in THE NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 2010, Heroes)
Composer: Ceiri Torjussen (THE CANAL, BIG ASS SPIDER)