Thomas Dekker’s new delightfully creepy psychological thriller, Jack Goes Home, is an intriguing dive into a young man’s overwhelming grief. It was a favorite at the 2016 SXSW and is being released today, October 14, 2016, to selected theaters, and on Video On Demand and iTunes. Don’t miss this one. Here’s a link to the trailer via iHorrorTV.
Dekker has learned his craft well and mastered the art of storytelling. Watching this film is like crossing a stream and trying to keep your feet dry by stepping on the rocks. When you get to the rapids, it’s impossible to keep from getting swallowed whole and being completely immersed in the horror in Jack’s mind. You lose track of which way is up, and what is real and what is not.
As the film begins, Jack Thurlowe (Rory Culkin) is at work. He seems normal, if a bit eccentric and acerbic, and we find he and his fiancée are expecting a child. After his parents are involved in a horrific car accident, Jack is forced to return to his childhood home. Being there stirs up memories, real or imaged, in Jack’s mind.
Jack’s mother, Teresa—played impeccably by Lin Shaye, queen of the horror genre—vacillates between nurturing and terrorizing. I found myself wondering how much of his mother was real and how much a projection of Jack. And what really happened up in that creepy attic.
The one thing that seems real throughout the story is Jack’s best friend, Shanda (Daveigh Chase), a large rock for Jack to cling to when the turbulence in his mind threatens to overcome him.
Dekker shows a keen ability to get his actors to create believable characters in an horrifying story. Culkin was mesmerizing as Jack, sometimes vulnerable, sometimes stoic, sometimes chaotic. His life-long career as an actor—he’s been acting since he was three—shows in the maturity he brought to this role. When the director needed her to oscillate between a loving, caring mother and a vicious, vindictive villain, Shaye was able to do this with ease. Chase captured well the concern of a friend trying to hold Jack in the real world throughout his rejections and violent attacks. Louis Hunter gave a sinister quality to the horny boy next door, Duncan, making me question his motivations.
Jack’s demons were reminiscent of the ones in The Babadook (Jennifer Kent, 2014), Tale of Two Sisters (Kim Jee-woon, 2004), and Mysterious Skin (Gregg Araki, 2004). The element of a traumatized mind trying to make sense of nightmarish events is there in all of these.
The lovely and peaceful setting in Kingston, New York, provided a stark contrast to the turmoil in Jack’s mind. The outdoor cinematography, by Austin F. Schmidt, was very impactful—making Jack look small and insignificant as he enters the enormous family home, and later, at the funeral. The score, by Ceiri Torjessun, added ample creepiness and tension—even the soft, lyrical numbers had edgy undertones. It’s available on iTunes.
Dekker invested a lot of himself in this story. He, too, was a victim of child abuse, and has had to deal with the grief of losing his own father as a young man. Life experiences like these help a writer find real emotions to portray. I recognized my own reactions to people around me trying to make sure I was all right after the death of my husband—their awkwardness, my reassurances, were all there in Jack’s interactions with the people he encounters.
I’m very impressed with Thomas Dekker. Like Culkin, he’s been acting since he was a young child. He’s worked with the likes of John Carpenter (Village of the Damned, 1995), Gregg Araki (Kaboom, 2010) and Robert Hall (Fear Clinic, 2015), all of whose influences are seen in Jack Goes Home. Dekker wrote and directed his first film, Whore (2008), at the tender age of nineteen and has also released two music albums.
Dekker and Culkin worked together again this year on Welcome to Willits (Trevor and Tim Ryan), which will be out in 2017. It’s nice to see these young men continuing to create creepy horror films.
Photo credits: Jack Goes Home
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