Written and directed by Larry Wade Carrell
Distributed by Kino Lorber
I was first introduced to Jacob at Texas Frightmare Weekend 2012, when it screened as part of the con. I didn’t get to see the film then, but shortly afterwards I got my hands on a screener and was introduced to the legend of Jacob Kell and his sister, Sissy, and the tragedy that befalls them.
I said it then, and I still say it now: For a film that’s a true independent labor of love, made for a tiny fraction of even Hollywood’s lowest budget horror releases, this thing is a gem. It looks and sounds far better than it has any right to, has some very fine performances, and creates a new, original mythos.
For those unfamiliar, let’s recap: Told in flashback, Jacob tells the story of the Kell family. Jacob is a massive young man with severe mental issues. His little sister, Sissy, is the only one who can keep him calm and centered. Their mother is in an abusive relationship with a man named Otis because years before the children’s father went mad, leaving the family without a breadwinner. It’s this new relationship that is the center of the film as the violence within the Kell household spirals toward an inevitable conclusion while the town watches… and refuses to do what’s necessary to stop it.
Jacob went without a wide release for some time, but finally Kino Lorber has released it on home video in an unrated director’s cut. The Blu-ray offers an excellent version of the film. The cinematography is one of the high points of Jacob, and this transfer shows it off well. The only downside is the same issue I had after my first watch: Much of the “old age” makeup just doesn’t stand up under the scrutiny of the HD picture. In the days of VHS the flaws would have been hidden nicely, but with the crystal clarity of Blu-ray it’s just too easy to tell that this is low-budget makeup. That being said, the makeup is the only thing done a disservice by the HD release. Everything else looks and sounds great, including Iain Kelso’s original orchestral score.
The disc is fully loaded with special features. You have two commentary tracks, one with director Carrell and cinematographer Stacy Davidson and another with Carrell and actors Dylan Thorne (Jacob) and Grace Powell (Sissy). The actor commentary is especially amusing, as Thorne takes the lead narrating much of the action. His cheery and witty discussion is far removed from Jacob’s brooding silence.
Next we have a feature-length making-of documentary, The Journey of Jacob, which covers everything from the earliest conception to the hunt for a distributor. It’s good work, the stuff of mainstream studio releases, despite some audio issues with the earliest/oldest interviews. The best part is footage of screen legend Michael Biehn, who plays the father of the Kells, speaking at a convention where the movie was screened. Here he discusses frankly how he became involved with the production, and this explanation is both amusing and enlightening, explaining just what makes Jacob a cut above most indie horror.
To round things out, there’s a storyboard to screen comparison, an interview from the Montreal Comiccon, footage of the original screen tests of some of the major players, your standard cadre of deleted and extended scenes, and trailers. Much like the film itself, this is a huge amount of quality content for a completely independent film.
Looking over the comments out there, it seems that Jacob is a divisive film. People either love it or hate it, very little middle ground. I absolutely love it and think it’s a real diamond in the rough that eschews the standard slasher territory for a much more dramatic and emotional skew akin to films like Carrie. Will you feel the same? No way to know until you hunt down a copy and find out for yourself.
• Director and Cinematographer’s Commentary Track
• Actors’ Commentary Track
• Deleted and Extended Scenes
• Storyboard to Screen
• The Journey of Jacob Behind-the-Scenes Featurette
• Interview at Montreal Comiccon
• Screen Test Featurette