Kino Lorber // 2011 // 90 Minutes // Unrated
Reviewed by Appellate Judge Daryl Loomis // May 3rd, 2013
Where innocence ends...vengeance begins.
Jacob (Dylan Horne) is not your average boy. A massive figure, mute and disturbed, he's prone to fits of violence against both man and beast. The only one who can control him is his tiny little sister, Sissy (Grace Powell), whose gentle touch can bring him down from the heights of his rage. When Sissy meets a tragic end, there is no longer anybody to save him, so he goes on a vengeful rampage, slaughtering anyone and everyone who gets in his way.
Jacob is a clear labor of love, but it has far too many problems that keep it from reaching its potential. The main thing going for it is its fairly intense violence, which director Larry Wade Carrell (who also wrote the film and stars as both the deputy sheriff and his wife-beating twin brother) toned down in the final cut. That it's still so uncomfortable is a testament to how brutal the film is. Even with that, though, the film still manages to stay campy and fun, but it goes a little too far in that direction for my taste.
It's the performances that really mar the experience. The actors are clearly having fun, but the lack of experience is readily apparent at every turn. Grace Powell is the one exception to this; she puts in a mature, precocious turn, showing a great deal of potential in her first role that I hope serves her well in the future. Everyone else, however, is stilted to a distracting level, drawing attention to it and keeping me from enjoying the story. Even Dylan Horne, whose Jacob is a silent character, just doesn't have any personality. Worst of all, the great Michael Biehn (The Divide) makes an appearance in flashbacks as the kids' biological father, and he does a poor a job as the rest. Something's definitely wrong when you can make Biehn look bad.
Jacob arrives on Blu-ray from Horizon in a strong release that represents the film very well. The 2.40:1/1080p image looks great or something with this budget, with very sharp lines and clarity throughout the frame. Colors are sometimes uneven, but black levels are always quite deep. For a film of this level, there isn't much more one could ask. The sound mixing is strange, though, and brings down the overall package a little bit. There are two mixes, 5.1 and 2.0 tracks, and I believe this is the first time I've ever felt this way for a new film, but the stereo mix is the only acceptable one. It sounds fine, with clear dialog and music. The wider mix, though, is quite poorly done. The dialog is present in all speakers at all times, which is disorienting, but not in the good horror way. It sounds terrible and I really hope it was just a mistake and not intentional.
The extras bring the back to par, though, as they are numerous and show the clear love the filmmakers have for their work. Two commentaries start it off, the first with the director and cinematographer, who go into detail about the finer points of the production, and the second with the director, Grace Powell, and Dylan Horne, which is a little lighter but still interesting, especially in the maturity that young Miss Powell displays when talking about her work. A making-of featurette runs over an hour and goes is exhaustive, but really not all that compelling. A few deleted scenes are presented with optional director's commentary, while some screen tests, a short interview, some storyboards close out the disc.
I really did want to like Jacob; it's the kind of independent horror that I love to support. The story isn't anything special, but it's not bad. The trouble is that, when by far the best performance comes from a 10-year-old, it shows both her personal potential and the wasted potential of the rest of the film. When even Michael Biehn comes off looking bad, you know you have a problem. Still, I can see some viewers enjoying the campy, over-the-top violence; it just didn't work for me.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Kino Lorber
* 2.40:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio (English)
* DTS HD 2.0 Master Audio (English)
Running Time: 90 Minutes
Release Year: 2011
MPAA Rating: Unrated
* Deleted Scenes