Running Time: 90 mins
Reviewer: David Gillespie – HCF Official Artist and Reviewer
Evil children movies are always a creepy affair with a whole host of variations over the years. We’ve had demonic children (The Omen), mutated toddlers (The Brood) and a hilarious, Eastern European ‘Krankie’ (The Orphan) all using different angles to get under our skin and terrify the ‘bejezzuzz’ out of us. In 2014 the Australian/ Canadian chiller, The Babadook used a different approach, by focusing on the family dynamic and breakdown in relations between a stressed out, widowed mother and her troubled child. The threat in that story was an entity that fed on both parent and child’s fear, anger and lack of support after the death of the father figure and husband in the relationship. During Jacob’s Ladder, made two years previous but unable to get a proper release, the single mother is also unable to cope with the demands of parenthood but with the evil apparently emulating from her child.
After a chilling opening sequence involving brutal murders on two teenagers, we are introduced to Sadie (Helen Holman), a local artist and single mum who seems to have worries about the well-being of her son Jacob (Louis James Ferouk). She approaches her kindly clergyman, Father Brian (George McCluskey) as to whether evil can emanate within a person. Sadie lives alone with the youngster and suffers a series of grotesque hallucinations and nightmares that appear to be created from Jacob or something demonic within the walls of her house. Having previously refused help from her concerned mother (Dianne Rimmer) and supportive work colleague, she allows a family friend and his girlfriend to do babysitting duties. Needless to say the evening does not turn out well with both being beaten to an inch of their lives by a hammer from an unseen assailant. The more Sadie tries to hide the truth, the more the bodies begin to pile up. Soon the artist realizes that this monstrosity might have been around far earlier than she had originally feared.
Having only received a short cinema run in 2012, Jacob’s Hammer finally has gained not only a British release but one in USA/Canada also. Although Bjotler’s debut project has been produced on a micro budget and sometimes this shows, there are several positive aspects to look out for. After a ropy opening quarter where the director seems to have shown her hand far too early, the action changes direction and relies a lot more on the acting of the cast members which works surprisingly well. Holman and Rimmer seem to have enough acting experience to form a believable mother and daughter relationship. They successfully create a great amount of sympathy and empathy for their characters. If the rest of the cast don’t bode so well, the twists and turns of the plot keep things interesting.
There are also some clever set-pieces and inventive kills for the gore fans. One shot late on focuses on a mezzanine floor. We watch as the victim walks down from the floor above unaware that the killer stands silently at the bottom with their weapon of choice at the ready. It works really well.
Angie Bojtler has come up with a clever and cruel horror movie that increases momentum and confidence as it progresses to its shocking and gory climax. Helen Holman carries the movie very well and holds things together when all hell breaks lose. Horror enthusiasts may groan at the countless times victims trip over objects or make retarded decisions when having plenty of time to flee or gain help, but Jacob’s Hammer remains a mean spirited and emotional horror thriller. It just needed that little bit of extra budget to tidy up the loose ends and rough edges.