The Jack in the Box (2019)

The Jack in the Box is a British horror film, written and directed by Welsh auteur Lawrence Fowler. We rented it on Amazon Prime.

The Jack in the Box is a straightforward proposition for a horror fan. If you watch the trailer (or even just read the title) you know exactly what kind of movie you’re getting and the production values you can fairly expect. While it won’t win prizes for originality, the good news is that Lawrence Fowler’s second full-length feature is a very solid example of the form, which I thoroughly enjoyed. Hooray!

Casey (Ethan Taylor—who’s either a real American or doing an accent that fooled me) moves to the UK and takes a job at a remote museum. His new colleague Lisa (Lucy-Jane Quinlan) only works there to be near her sick mother. Unlike her, Casey has a passion for antiques and is thrilled to find an old jack-in-the-box languishing in the back room. Unfortunately—we already know this from the prologue—the “jack” is a murderous demon, very much in the strong-but-silent camp (if you’re hoping for a more “quippy” kind of villain, like Krueger or Pennywise, you’ll be disappointed).

Far too many B-movies muddle along with several half-baked ideas. The Jack in the Box has a simple premise and sets it out clearly for the viewer. The demon must claim six victims, and each is counted by a mechanism on the box. Casey and Lisa both have demons of their own, but his are developed more on screen, which adds an extra layer of interest to the drama (I don’t want to over-egg this, because it’s not Oscar-worthy, but nor is it pure filler). The ending is 100% predictable but satisfying all the same, and I would have felt cheated without it.

In terms of production, the film makes great use of its limited budget and follows the golden rule of B-movies: never overreach. Fowler tells a story that he can actually afford to tell. Jack himself comes in two forms: a prop (the doll in the box) and a costume (a full-size actor with extensive makeup). As you can see from the trailer, both are superbly executed for this price point. The acting and script are good, with only minor wobbles in both categories (the diner scene, in my opinion, is an example of a slightly awkward passage). My willing suspension of disbelief was safe throughout.

In short, The Jack in the Box was exactly the sort of movie I wanted and hit the spot nicely, so I’m happy to recommend it. I hope Fowler finds time and energy to make sequel. In fact, I’d love to see a low budget franchise that eventually sends Jack and his box into low earth orbit. Give it a whirl and see if you agree!

Mind you, I’m just one person. So, here are some more reviews of The Jack in the Box:

Voices from the Balcony

The Horrorcist

Movies & Mania

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