Studio: Horizon Movies
Director: Larry Wade Carrell
Writer: Larry Wade Carrell
Producer: Stacy Davidson, Larry Wade Carrell
Stars: Grace Powell, Dylan Horne, Krystn Caldwell, Larry Wade Carrell, Leo D. Wheeler, Jennifer Blanc, Parrish Randall, Michael Biehn
A mentally stunted brute unleashes his fury on the residents of Melvin Falls after a tragic event pushes him over the edge.
“Jacob” is a Larry Wade Carrell film. There is no doubt about this fact as Carrell is the producer, writer, director, and even stars as two different lead characters in the movie. “Jacob” tells the tale of a hulking man with the simple mind of a mute child. When a devastating family tragedy causes Jacob to snap, the small Texas town of Melvin Falls takes up arms against the juggernaut and he responds by tearing off limbs and taking no prisoners.
“Jacob” also tells the tale of the equally simple-minded townsfolk who walked straight out of a cartoon and into this movie. What “Jacob” does not have is original ideas, believable acting, properly exposed cinematography, or anything resembling an entertaining film. What it does have is plenty of mullets, mesh trucker caps, groan-inducing dialogue, and reasons to stop watching.
The majority of the story takes place in 1979. The era is first established in a scene staged at a carhop with roller-skating waitresses. While not completely extinct in 1979, a carhop setting would have been more appropriate for the 1950’s or 60’s, a la “Happy Days,” but maybe this was the easiest way for the film to state, “we’re in the past.” “Expiration” does not do its homework on the period anyway, as a diner owner mulls over the possibility of installing a “Pong” machine in his café. While the rest of the country was playing “Space Invaders” and “Galaxian,” Melvin Falls would have been living it up as if it were 1972. Though Melvin Falls is depicted as so toothlessly backwoods that none of its residents would be likely to notice the anachronisms.
Character names are pulled directly from the Big Book of Country Stereotypes. Melvin Falls’ local yokels consist of bumpkins like Cletus, Amos, Otis, Mabel, Earl, and Leroy. Had “Jacob” just flat out named a character “Cornpone” it would have blended right in.
Stereotyping does not stop with the naming, either. Characters routinely swig beer, yell profanities at their own mothers, and generally behave like every other redneck wife beater from an average episode of “Cops.” The characterizations leave no derivative stone unturned. Jacob’s mother is a diner waitress who blames herself for her boyfriend’s rages and explains the bruises on her face as marks from a fall. Her boyfriend Otis is fond of sleeveless shirts and slapping asses. Jacob himself is such a buffoonish character in his Osk Kosh B’Gosh overalls that his frumpy appearance induces more giggles than chills. Shaving his head and having him peer up from a down-pointed brow does not fuel any intensity.
What constitutes acting is mostly gaping mouths and bugged out eyes. The direction is content with letting actors express emotion by contorting their faces as much as possible. Taking any of the onscreen action seriously is impossible when the only thing missing from turning the characters into Merry Melodies is steam pouring from their ears.
Completing the loving portrait of hillbilly life is dialogue that Yosemite Sam would have refused to read. The script features choking mouthfuls of country slang, pronunciations like “po-lice,” and words such as “tarnation.” Perhaps having seen one too many episodes of “Love Connection,” Michael Biehn’s character even purposefully exclaims, “whoopee!” upon hearing the news that he has inherited a haunted house.
Haunted house, you say? I though this was a movie about Lennie from “Of Mice and Men” going on a redneck rampage? In a needless attempt to explain the murderous urges of both Jacob and his father, the film flirts with a tie to an occult book and idol found underneath the floorboards of a haunted house. The history of this book and how or why either it or the house ties into Jacob’s story is not explored. Perhaps the filmmakers were optimistic about a sequel. Or perhaps they felt not enough clichés were being beaten to death.
But the haunted house subplot does give “Jacob” the chance to introduce a gnarled old witch who cackles so cartoonishly that she should have been flanked by flying monkeys in bellhop suits. These tenuous links to curses and black magic are as out of place in the main storyline as a high school graduate would be in Melvin Falls.
Either to give the film a stylized look, or because the crew lacked the equipment to properly balance the lighting, a good portion of the film is completely blown out. The area of town around the diner looks like ash covered Silent Hill as something vaguely resembling tires moves outside the windows while every other detail is swallowed by the muted brightness. The whites blaze so hot and overexposed in the flashback scenes with Jacob’s father that they look as though they were filmed on the surface of the sun.
Other shots are surprisingly rich in detail, but to a fault. The old age makeup stands out as particularly poor. Halloween masks at Target look more realistic, yet “Jacob” does not even try to hide its flaws, carelessly featuring inferior artistry at regular intervals. More convincing fake eyebrows and mustaches can be found on Groucho Mark glasses at the 99 cents store.
“Jacob” has so many faults that to forgive them all on the basis of the film being a low budget indie production would be disrespectful to films that deliver so much more on a similar scale. The movie is almost a cartoon with its ridiculous character portrayals, “hyuck hyuck” dialogue, and over-the-top acting. The story is a derivative mix of “Of Mice and Men,” “Mama’s Family,” and “House on Haunted Hill.” If that analogy does not make sense, fret not. Neither does any reason for watching “Jacob.”
Review Score: 20