Jacob is the oldest son of Edith and Lawrence Kell. Large and imposing but afflicted by a form of mental retardation, the twenty-year-old Jacob mostly keeps to himself and only responds to his sister, Sissy, whom he loves and fiercely protects. When Jacob's dad dies in dramatic and violent fashion, a man named Otis (brother of a local deputy, no doubt) steps in as stepdad to these kids. Unfortunately, Otis is a violent drunk who one night after having a bit too much to drink kills Sissy. Jacobs snaps and begins wreaking brutal vengeance on anyone who crosses his path.
It seems that whenever I get an independent horror film, I almost always assume that, depending on the type of film, the budget will play a factor in its quality. The other things that I think about are if the right people are there to help out with the production, and if the director does double or triple duty, just how disastrous will the results be? Pessimistic, I know. I had these things popping up in my head as I watched JACOB, writer/director/actor Larry Wade Carrell's feature-length debut. As the credits rolled, I think that I could stand to be more optimistic in the future.
What really set things off on the right foot for this film was its look and its mood. This does not look or feel like a $900k film. Rather, it feels far more polished. Part of the reason is the often beautiful cinematography by the film's cinematographer Stacy Davidson, putting a lot of indie films and even a lot of the low-budget films you'd get on Netflix or SyFy to shame. The other is the mood. Carrell takes his time introducing and developing the characters, as well as creating a tone that is wired tight with tension. The film revolves around Jacob (played by Dylan Horne) and no matter what, you end up feeling for the big lug. Hard to believe when he ends up going off on folks, I know. It's a sympathy thing, like Frankenstein's monster.
Fortunately, Jacob's not the only character to get attention. As I alluded to, Carrell gives everyone involved a piece to work with. Grace Powell plays Sissy with a sense of innocence but also strength. Not a simple thing to do when this is your first feature-length film, either. Carrell's not too bad in the acting department himself, as he plays Otis as the scumbag alcoholic stepdad you've only read about, beating his wife and his kids if they step out of line. Really great stuff. As for the big names involved, Michael Biehn and Jennifer Blanc-Biehn aren't central to the film, though Michael's role as Jacob's first dad does provide some much-appreciated background as to why Jacob is the way that he is. Both roles add a bit of polish to an already great cast.
It's at this point that I'd talk about the film's misfires, and unfortunately, there are a few. It sucks in this case because I understand how much effort and talent was involved in making this film. Despite the great performances, there were a few that were lacking, such as in Krystn Caldwell's role of Edith. True, it's the case of a hard-working mom trying her best to keep the family together while her dirtbag husband is out boozing, but overracting does show itself. The same can be said for Leo D. Wheeler's role as Sheriff Andy. As well, there are a few lulls in the narrative where scene-chewing occurs, but it's all minor when again you look at the overall effort of everyone involved.
JACOB impressed the hell out of me. There aren't that many independent films that have been able to do that, but this one did. Larry Wade Carrell was able to pull triple duty on this project and came through where others would have imploded. A great story with great characters combined with great performances and technical prowess that rivals bigger productions, JACOB is definitely one that fans of independent horror should check out.
Video: A screener, but in Blu-Ray. That's a first for me!
Again, just a screener disc, but I'd love to have some goodies for this film.
Following in the footsteps of other Texan indie horror films before it, JACOB is a wonderful mix of skill and talent. A well-developed story and great acting from the majority involved, this is one film that definitely deserves to be seen.