Overview: After his father is killed in a car crash, Jack returns to his childhood home and discovers secrets he repressed. Momentum Pictures; 2016; Not Rated; 100 minutes.
Jack Talks Too Much: One of the basic tenets of film, show don’t tell, is most important when it comes to the thriller. It’s what allows for tension to be created, mystery to be preserved, and character insight to be given. Director and screenwriter, Thomas Dekker abandons this rule within the opening fifteen minutes of the film as his lead character, Jack (Rory Culkin), and every character he interacts with, falls prey to a severe case of verbal diarrhea that does nothing to endear us to the characters. Much of the dialogue isn’t particularly interesting or well-crafted, consisting of obvious statements and sarcastic snobbery that make every single character feel more juvenile than the story intends them to be. “The house is so quiet,” Jack’s friend Shanda (Daveigh Chase) says, before spouting off lines about the eeriness of Jack’s house, an eeriness that the film never achieves through filmmaking. Later in the film a scene between Jack and Shanda plays out as such: “We’re best friends.” “Yeah.” “No secrets?” “No secrets.”
Similar interactions, just on the fact these characters are best friends, play out at least six more times throughout the film. But there’s no sense of chemistry or history between the two. The only sense that they are in fact friends, let alone best friends, is because they tell us. Every relationship facet, whether it be between Jack and his mother (Lin Shayne) or his pregnant fiancé (Britt Robertson, only appearing through Skype), is directly spelled out to us as the characters seem to exist in their own separate bubbles. If we were told that none of these actors filmed their scenes together, it would be entirely believable. There isn’t a single likeable character in this film, because despite the talented actors playing them, they are never given an opportunity to play off each other and create anything that comes across as genuine. Everyone in this film is written as overly cruel, mean-spirited, and broken, as if the film is trying to scream at the viewer to feel invested in the lives of these paper people to make up for the fact that there aren’t any character-driven performances in the film.
Jack Represses Too Much: When Jack returns home and finds a cassette tape his father left for him, he begins unraveling repressed secrets from his childhood. These secrets should create some tension, but there’s none to be found. From direction, production design, and sound, Jack Goes Home is an absolute bore of an experience. The camera plods from room to room as we’re given nearly every cliché from the psychological thriller genre that’s ever existed. An attic full of secrets? Check. A crazy mother? Check? A mirror scare? Check. Repressed sexual abuse? Check. Creepy neighbor? Check. A secret twin? Check. Someone’s been dead the whole time? Check. Even with all these being clichés, none of them fits together in any logical way. They’re thrown in together in such a way that suggests a shrug-worthy interest in creating mystery and shock value, but they don’t fit together in any way that makes the narrative or themes work.
Jack Goes Crazy . . . Too Crazy: By the time Jack’s memories of what happened to him return and he goes full-on crazy, the film has full-on lost its audience. Too be fair, starting the film with Jack’s Poe-riffing poem should have been warning enough that this film couldn’t be heading anywhere good. There’s an interesting idea about how much grief a person can handle at one time, but the film isn’t really interested in exploring that in any way that takes time. Jack kills his dog, has wannabe-Lynchian gay sex with his neighbor, and sees his dead father crawling on all fours like a lazy Martyrs reference. This is catch-all crazy, an attempt to make the film seem like it has more going on than it really does.
Overall: Jack Goes Home is a mess of a film that’s silly to the point that it’s not even funny.
Featured Image: Momentum Pictures