Reviewed by Patrick Cooper
Sometimes the sincerity and DIY spirit of an indie horror film can make you like it more than you should. Case in point: Texas filmmaker Larry Wade Carrell’s 2011 shocker Jacob, which just dropped on Blu-ray. I can’t help but admire Carrell’s ambition and his obvious passion for the genre. His southern gothic bloodbath was clearly a work of love and for that reason alone, I think a lot of horror fans will enjoy it. However, the film does buckle under some of the trappings of a DIY production – namely poor acting, an unbalanced tone, and languid pacing.
The titular character is a six-foot tall, 400lb bald-headed behemoth who’s a cross between Lenny from Of Mice and Men and Frankenstein’s monster. In saggy overalls and a blank expression, he sulks around town, listening to the voices in his head that tell him to kill cats or whatever’s handy. He’s a horror cliché in OshKosh B’gosh. His stepdad, Otis (Carrell), is the local rabble-rouser. He gets loaded during the day then beats his wife at night. The only family member who connects with Jacob is his little Sissy, who throws tea parties for him and helps cool his growing hatred of Otis. One night, in a drunken whirlwind, Otis kills Sissy, setting off Jacob’s homicidal berserker rage.
Carrell (who, besides Otis, also plays a bumbling police officer) spends a gross amount of time developing characters and presenting trashy small town stereotypes. He seriously overdoes it in these departments. We don’t need a 10-minute scene of Otis getting trashed in a dive bar with his buddy to know he’s a rowdy alcoholic. During all of these lengthy scenes of character “development,” Carrell’s unable to balance the serious and comedic tones. This lack of focus disallows any actual attachment on the audience’s part, so by the time Jacob’s hillbilly slaughter begins (around the 50 minute mark) all there is to care about is how entertaining the kills are.
The film definitely brings the heat in this department. Once Sissy is killed, Jacob transforms into a battering ram – tearing off limbs and gutting redneck shitkickers with superhuman strength and zero regard for finesse. The townsfolk literally take up torches and pitchforks against Jacob. It’s never clearly explained where he got his abnormal strength, but it’s inferred through a series of flashbacks that Jacob’s real father, played by OG Kyle Reese (Michael Biehn), messed around with some Necronomicon book that infused him with an ancient power. See, this film’s all over the goddamn place. There’s even an old crone with cataracts who’s shown later in the film cackling and stroking the book with her bony fingers. Because why the hell not at this point.
Jacob is a mixed bag of comedy, drama, and gore, but it only pulls off the bloody bits successfully. There’s zero focus and too much time is needlessly spent beating us over the head with unwarranted character development. I admire Carrell’s enthusiasm, but his next films will definitely benefit from more clarity.
Jacob is presented in 1080p in 2.35:1 widescreen with a DTS Master Audio 5.1 surround track and a 2.0 stereo mix. Detail is very fine in, although it does reveal facial makeup imperfections at times – particularly in close-ups on the older officer Carrell plays. You can clearly see where the wrinkly makeup ends and his natural skin begins. It’s awfully distracting. The 5.1 mix sounds terrible because dialogue comes out of every speaker, so when a character is in the front of the screen, his dialogue can be heard behind you. Stick with the 2.0.
Two Audio Commentary Tracks: One track features Carrell and the film’s cinematographer, the other features some of the actors.
Deleted and Extended Scenes: Seven minutes of deleted scenes with optional commentary by Carrell.
“The Journey of Jacob: Behind the Scenes”: this ONE HOUR long feature looks at all of the aspects of the production. Features cast and crew interviews and on-set footage.
From Storyboard to Screen: Montage of storyboard to screen comparisons.
Interview at Montreal Comic Con: An interview with the director and some of the cast members at the Canadian premiere.
Screen Test Featurette: Cast members practice one of their scenes.