Color, 2011, 91m.
Directed by Larry Wade Carrell
Starring Grace Powell, Dylan Horne, Krystn Caldwell, Larry Wade Carrell, Leo D. Wheeler, Michael Biehn, Jennifer Blanc-Biehn
Horizon / Kino Lorber (Blu-Ray & DVD) (US R0 HD/NTSC) / WS (2.25:1) (16:9) / DTS-HD 5.1/2.0

JacobA welcome change from the norm, this Southern fried gothic slasher film feels like a throwback to Jacobthe drive-in heyday of the mid-1970s when regional filmmakers like S.F. Brownrigg (Don't Look in the Basement) were churning out odd mishmashes using familiar horror elements. In this case we have some heavy doses of alcoholism, murder, angst, and revenge, laced with some poignant moments and a dollop of the supernatural thrown in as a cherry on top. That means it isn't slick and has some pretty iffy acting at times, but when the blood starts to hit the fan, there's plenty of fun to be had.

Though he's in his early twenties, Jacob (Horne) has the mind of a baby and can only relate to his little sister, Sissy (Powell), who's the center of his life. Their mother, Edith (Caldwell), decides to marry again but unwisely chooses a drunken, abusive bum named Otis (director Carrell), whose brother Billy (also Carrell) is the local deputy. Things go from bad to worse, and soon an act of violence sets Otis off on a primal killing spree that leaves plenty of blood in its wake.

In an interesting tweak, the bulk of this story takes place at the end of the 1970s with modern wraparounds framing it as sort of a local horror folktale. (Watch out for a nice early nod to Christine, too; yes, that is a Plymouth Fury used in the original film.) The film itself also feels like a throwback, complete with practical gore effects (mainly confined to the final third, and no CGI blood in sight) and an ambitious, atmospheric look that's impressive for something apparently shot with some off-the-shelf Jacobprosumer HD cameras. The framing Jacoband color choices all pay off nicely, and while the film isn't close to perfect (the aforementioned acting missteps and some pretty awful makeup in the framing device), there's more than enough to make this worth a look.

Jacob marks another in the line of titles distributed by Kino Lorber and acquired by Horizon, whose uneven past catalog includes titles like A Thousand Cuts and Mr. Hush. This is easily the strongest of the bunch so far, and not surprisingly, it's also the most heavily stacked of their discs so far. There are both Blu-Ray and DVD options available, and while the quality of the HD transfer itself is obviously limited by the nature of the original videography, it's all watchable and gets a bit of a bump when you watch the Blu-Ray. The DTS-HD 2.0 stereo track (which isn't the default) is definitely preferable to the 5.1 option, which is one of those jobs like early Anchor Bay UK titles with everything (including dialogue) funneled into the surround channels. Definitely go with two-channel audio.

As for extras, we start off with a pair of solid audio commentaries, the first featuring Carrell and cinematographer Stacy Davidson, which is obviously pretty technical and oriented around tricks of the shoot like doing scenes with Carrell as two characters at once, the magic of matte paintings, and the tendency of child actors' moms to cut their hair at inopportune times. The second commentary is very different and a lot of fun as it pairs up Powell and Horne (plus Carrell again), with Powell in particular getting in some cute moments and talking about the experience of doing a "creepy" movie at such a young age. You also get to find out about the method acting way of eating cheeseburgers, working with Michael Biehn, and how to get the audience to root for someone to get murdered. The lengthy (over one hour) "The Journey of Jacob from Behind the Scenes" has pretty much the entire cast and crew talking on camera about the shoot, interspersed with behind-the-scenes footage, while a reel of deleted and extended scenes (some pretty brutal) runs six minutes with or without filmmaker commentary. There's also a storyboard to screen comparison (four minutes), a nine-minute Montreal Comic Con featurette originally compiled for Yell magazine with the stars and director, five minutes of screen tests (with Powell, Horne, and Caldwell), and a teaser trailer and a "proof of concept" pre-production trailer used to raise funding that, for once, looks and feels an awful lot like the finished product.

Reviewed on May 3, 2013.