Movie Review: JACK GOES HOME (2016)

I love when a film pushes me to a place of discomfort and stays with me for weeks after viewing.  It’s rare for movies to have such a profound effect nowadays and I’m always grateful for when one does.  The latest film to leave me reeling after viewing it is Thomas Dekker’s JACK GOES HOME. On the surface, this film seems to be your standard horror/suspense film, but ultimately it’s so much more than that.  It’s a film that deals with some very dark subject matter and addresses it in all of its rawness without apologizing.  It’s a film that hit me right in the gut because it brought up a part of my childhood that I would soon rather forget.  In the end, it’s a film that uncovers the demons that sometimes we don’t even realize exist.

JACK GOES HOME is the latest film from director/writer/actor Thomas Dekker and stars Rory Culkin (INTRUDERS), Britt Robertson (TOMORROWLAND), Daveigh Chase (THE RING), Louis Hunter (“The Fosters”) and Lin Shaye (INSIDIOUS) who gives one of her best performances.  The story centers around Jack (Culkin), who returns home to take care of his mom (Shaye) after being notified that his father has died in a car accident.  While at home, he begins to uncover secrets that have long been buried by his family that make him question his identity, his friendships, and even his sanity.  What makes this film so effective is the acting of everyone involved, most notably Rory Culkin and Lin Shaye. Their chemistry, as mother and son, is palpable and believable to the point where I found myself easily being intertwined within their story.  There is heartache, sadness, hate, regret, and hurt but yet an underlying sense of loyalty, devotion, and love. That’s a lot of emotions for a film that runs 100 minutes but without those two, this film wouldn’t have had such an incredible effect on the viewer.

What impressed me the most about JACK GOES HOME is how Dekker handled the topic of sexual abuse.  He does so in a way that makes the film incredibly chilling but he’s also respectful.  The subject matter isn’t added as a shock tactic but as an integral part of the story.  We watch as Jack comes to term with his past in such a soul shattering way that it makes you want to hug him and promise him he will be okay.  As someone who is a survivor, I have to say Dekker did a phenomenal job of bringing such a difficult topic to the forefront.  Going into this film, I wasn’t sure what to expect and I’m glad that I was going in essentially blind as it made for a much more powerful experience. Since the moment the film ended it has stayed with me and I haven’t been able to shake off that intensity.

Another aspect of the film that I really enjoyed was the artistic direction that was taken.  I liked how some of the scenes had a dream-like and almost abstract feel to them.  It made you wonder if you were still grounded in reality or if Jack had finally come unhinged.  Though it could have added a lot of confusion to the storyline, I think because it was so carefully pieced together it made the story come together as a whole at the end. Along with the art direction, the cinematography was beautiful and precise and I was impressed with how it seemed to fuse perfectly with what was going on in the story.  As for jump scares, there were a few here and there but they lent themselves to what was going on with the film that they didn’t seem out of place.  This movie isn’t about cheap thrills and scares, it’s about the slow burn horror that creeps up when you least expect it.  It’s a smart thriller that gets under your skin and refuses to let go.  These type of films are what I need in my life and yet they are few and far between.

Overall, JACK GOES HOME is a force to be reckon with.  I will say that if you do have triggers that deal with sexual abuse/assault, this may not be the film for you as it dives headlong into these topics and really uncovers how horrifying and damaging they can be.  As a film, it’s incredibly effective in sending chills down your spine while making you guess what is real and what is fabricated.  The acting is superb and as I mentioned earlier in this review it’s some of Lin Shaye’s best work.  If you enjoy suspenseful thrillers and psychological horror films then this is going to be right up your alley.

JACK GOES HOME will be available in select US theaters and VOD on Oct. 14

Shannon McGrew
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