We definitely need another clown movie, right? Well, we have another one either way with writer/director Lawrence Fowler’s new supernatural horror feature, The Jack In The Box (2020), a killer clown movie where the clown jumps out of a box… instead of out of a sewage drain… or a spaceship… or a circus tent… A film made for the creepiest kind of horror fans — killer clown and doll-horror lovers — The Jack In The Box is an amateur attempt at a blockbuster horror movie that feels like a cross between the mythology of Jeepers Creepers (2001) and a creepypasta story of Laughing Jack. Best Feature Film jury prize winner at the 2019 British Horror Film Festival, The Jack In The Box is now being released to VOD, Digital HD, and DVD.
When, oh, when will people in horror movies ever stop opening the random antique box in a basement? From the moment the jack-in-the-box doll popped out of its box I was creeped out by its design — huge eyes, grotesque face shape, piercing stare, and it is almost still as scary when it takes its human form. I also really enjoyed the music score for the film, which utilized high pitched strings and other familiar horror scores to build its eerie atmosphere. With The Jack In The Box being director Lawrence Fowler’s sophomore feature, he proves that he is certainly a competent director, with engaging edits and purposeful framing that produced one good quality horror film. The smartest thing about this movie is that it keeps it simple and takes itself seriously — it is generic, but it is definitely on the good side of generic.
In the film, Casey (Ethan Taylor), an American Curator, takes a job at a museum in England to escape the guilt of losing his fiancée to a brutal murderer. After arriving, he and his coworker Lisa (Lucy-Jane Quinlan) discover an antique box that pops out a creepy-looking doll, unknowingly awakening a demonic evil entity. Immediately, employees begin to disappear as the entity must claim the lives of six victims in order to sustain its own life. Facing disbelief from others who do not believe in the powers of the box, Casey realizes that it is he who must find a way to put the jack back in the box and end the evil entity’s cycle of killing.
The Jack In The Box tries very hard to be scary with jump scares, using the feeling of anticipation that “Pop Goes The Weasel” naturally rouses, and typical horror string music score, unfortunately, old tricks do not a scary movie make. The scariest thing about the movie is the design of the doll, and the film actually may have been scarier if Fowler had stuck with just the doll and not had the live-action version of the clown. Also, since only recently introduced characters are killed off there is never any real sense of loss and danger instilled in the audience. In any case, the deaths all happen off-screen and Fowler missed out on opportunities to get some gore into this film, missteps that also added to the lack of establishing any real fear in the audience.
Overall the film looks good, it has high production quality for an indie film, and the premise has the makings of a story that could span multiple films, like The Conjuring (2013), however, The Jack In The Box falls by the wayside as being and underwhelmingly standard film as far as special effects, storyline, and casting. The premise is so woefully familiar that Mr. Fowler would have had to do something truly memorable for the film to feel at all fresh. Normally I enjoy practical effects more, but it seems that some CGI to help the demon move more menacingly and unnaturally would have been more imposing — it would have taken a body-acting performance level of Doug Jones or the girl from The Ring (2002) to truly bring a character like this to life. If you are expecting IT (2017) level of terror, you may be disappointed, but The Jack In The Box is a film with an unexpectedly un-happy ending that gives the film some weight.
MOVIE RATING — 6 out of 10 ☠️