10th Mar2020

‘The Jack in the Box’ DVD Review

by Phil Wheat

Stars: Ethan Taylor, Robert Nairne, Lucy-Jane Quinlan, Philip Ridout, Darrie Gardner, Charles Abomeli, Stacey Lynn Crowe, Simon Balfour | Written and Directed by Lawrence Fowler

jack-box-dvd-cover

When a museum is donated a vintage Jack-In-The-Box, it s not long before staff member Casey starts to think that the creepy clown doll inside has a life of its own. As he discovers his colleagues are dying, one by one, Casey realises it’s up to him to find a way to end the nightmare or become another victim of the box’s curse…

Clowns. Bloody terrifying if done right. And in horror movies clowns are usually, no matter, the budget, creepy bastards you want to get away from as soon as possible. But what about a Jack-in-the-Box? Technically a clown yes, but hampered by – you know – being attached to a box. Though that didn’t stop the creepy jack-in-the-box from Demonic Toys did it? And it certainly doesn’t stop the titular killer here either.

The Jack in the Box is the latest British horror film to make its direct to market debut on home shores. I say that because this is the most recent in a long line of UK genre films that have been made for a market outside the UK, a market like the US which has driven this surge in UK horror production thanks to deals struck with the like of High Octane Pictures and Uncork’d Entertainment. Flying the flag for the UK however is High Fliers, who seemingly are picking up said films for the UK market, finding filmmakers whose films work in the UK – especially in supermarkets where cover art is often more important than the film itself. Case in point The Jack in the Box.

The second feature film from Welsh writer/director Lawrence Fowler, like his first feature Curse of the Witches Doll (which apparently did well at UK retail), The Jack in the Box was filmed in and around Northamptonshire, mainly in Abington Park Museum. Though nothing is made of the locale, which could be, and is, anywhere UK; I only mention it as it’s the first time I’ve seen a British genre film and realised it had scenes filmed somewhere I’ve been. In this case a Buddies USA diner in Northamptonshire!

But I digress. So what about the film itself. Well from the get-go you can’t help but be impressed by what Fowler has put together. The production quality is superb for a low budget UK film, in particular the titular jack in the box – which in doll form is creepy enough to scare anyone but who comes alive in a more grotesque, terrifying manner when finding victims. But it’s the box itself which is the most intriguing – a cross between the traditional jack in the box and the Lament Configuration puzzle cube from Hellraiser.

In fact The Jack in the Box shares a lot in common with Hellraiser. Both build a sinister mythos around a box – one that feels real, and feels deadly. And both films feature demons let loose on the earth – in this case a demon that takes six souls before retiring back into the box. Oh and where Hellraiser had its talkative Pinhead to taunt victims before their death, The Jack in the Box has a macabre music box rendition of Pop Goes the Weasel instead.

Speaking of music, the score is undoubtedly one of the best parts of The Jack in the Box. Whilst the are moments of silence which will have you on tenterhooks, it’s the score that really racks up the tension and suspense, with haunting strings that – paired with the titular monster – really ups the creep factor. And that’s the real power of Fowler’s film… It’s actually creepy. Shocking I know, a low-budget UK horror that is creepy and actually scary. Hell even a lightbulb breaking made me jump! Kudos to Fowler, whose clearly come a long way as a filmmaker from even his first feature merely a year ago. If he keeps this up he’ll be a force to be reckoned with in the UK horror scene in no time.

The Jack in the Box is out now on DVD from High Fliers Films.

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