Here’s a film I’ve been waiting to see since I first heard about it at the 2011 Texas Frightmare Weekend. So when I saw JACOB made the line-up of screeners at this year’s TFW, it pretty much shot to the top of my “must-see” list. JACOB is written, directed, and stars Larry Wade Carrell, a Texas indie horror filmmaker who is part of what I like to call the Dallas-Austin horror connection. This is a group of really talented horror filmmakers, actors, f/x artists, etc … who all help each other out and work on each other’s films. There’s no competitiveness or pettiness; it’s a bunch of talented people who love horror and who love making horror films, helping each other out. This time they all came together to support Larry Wade Carrell and JACOB.
JACOB is told from the present-day perspective of the sheriff, Billy (Carrell). The story that unfolds from his flashback is one of tragedy, domestic violence, murder, and bloody carnage. Jacob is the oldest son of Edith and Lawrence Kell (Krystn Caldwell and Michael Biehn, respectively). Even at a young age there was something obviously wrong with Jacob. Autism, a form of retardation, or something along those lines afflicted little Jacob. We first meet Jacob, though, in his early twenties and he’s a menacing looking guy who has pretty much retreated inside himself and only responds to his sister, Sissy (Grace Powell). Jacob loves his little sister and would never do her any harm … and god forbid if anyone else were to harm her!! We learn through flashbacks within the flashback that Jacob’s dad (Biehn) died in a very dramatic and violent fashion and now Otis (also played by Carrell) has stepped in as step dad to these kids. Only problem is Otis is a violent drunk who gets rather punchy after a few drinks. One night after a day-long binge, Otis kills Sissy and sets Jacob off on a long night of bloody, savage vengeance. Throw in a subplot about a cursed book that adds in an interesting supernatural element, and you’ve got yourself a story!!
JACOB is, for sure, a slow burn movie. Carrell takes his time setting up the characters and setting the stage for the bloody and violent final act. Otis couldn’t be a more disgusting, despicable, and deplorable human being, beating his wife and always ready to raise a hand at his step kids. He’s out every day getting shit-faced, trying to pick up anything with two legs, a hole, and a heartbeat while his wife is busting her ass at the local diner. Carrell does a pretty nice job in the role of Otis. He plays Otis with a certain level of restraint and only occasionally lets the role get away from him. There’s a few times where Carrell’s Otis overacts, but in all he does a nice job.
Unfortunately some of the other cast members don’t fare as well. The mother, Edith (Caldwell), overacts most of her time on camera and comes across as one of the lesser experienced in the cast. She doesn’t always look comfortable on film and this comes through in her performance. On the other hand, Grace Powell (Sissy) does a nice job in her role as the younger sister of Jacob. This is her first feature-length film and she pulls off her role like a seasoned pro. Powell has an inherent innocence that shines through but also manages to convey a sense of strength beyond her years, not having led an easy life with an abusive step father and mentally crippled older brother.
Carrell really shines with the way he developed the tension in JACOB. You know from the opening scenes that the story is going to end in violence and blood, and Carrell takes his time creating a tension-rich tone to get us there. The tension begins with the actions of one asshole step father and Carrell manipulates and increases the intensity of the tension as the film unfolds. The addition of the mysterious book, which ends up playing more than a marginal part in the motivations of some of the actors, could have come off gimmicky, but Carrell expertly handled this element. He didn’t over-explain it or drive it in the ground, but left it as one of the mysterious aspects in the film. This worked for me.
No doubt, though, the film gets really fun once Jacob goes on his killing spree. Carrell doesn’t leave too much to the imagination as we watch Jacob literally tear people apart, bury sharp objects in them, and in general go ‘medieval on their asses.’ The special f/x are really well done and will satisfy your blood lust that you’ve come to expect from the indie horror scene here in Texas.
JACOB is another film made by a collaborative of Texas filmmakers and actors who love horror films. Texas filmmakers like Stacy Davidson (director of SWEATSHOP, my review) and Jeremy Sumrall (director of POSSUM WALK) came together to help Carrell put his vision on film, and the passion Carrell has for filmmaking shines through. JACOB is a solid full-length feature debut that only suffers from a few pacing problems and some inconsistent acting. But people who love slow burn flicks with explosive endings will appreciate what Carrell does with the story here … and gore hounds will be rewarded as well. JACOB is worth checking out.
Director: Larry Wade Carrell (& writer & actor)
Plot: 3 out of 5 stars
Gore: 7.5 out of 10 skulls
Zombie Mayhem: 0 out of 5 brains
Reviewed by Scott Shoyer from the Texas Frightmare Weekend 2012