Written and directed by Lawrence Fowler, The Jack in the Box looks to do for ‘jack in the boxes’ what The Conjuring and Annabelle did for dolls. To the point where it seems to have just hit copy and paste. Aside from an initially creepy looking antagonist, The Jack in the Box is more likely to put viewers to sleep then frighten.
It’s a real shame as the movie begins strongly enough showing an elderly man finding an elaborate jack in the box buried in a field. He brings it home, opens it up, resulting in his wife being killed by something inside it.
Twelve years later and we’re introduced to Casey (Ethan Taylor) who has just started working in a small-town museum. While being shown around by Lisa (Lucy-Jane Quinlan), he comes across the jack box. The pair open it and are freaked out by the weird looking doll inside but think little of it.
That night though, a pair of would-be burglars end up suffering the wrath of the demonic force that exists in the box. Each new death sees a counter work upwards on the box, Jack needing 6 victims now it has been unleashed again.
This is detail Casey discovers when he begins to suspect something is wrong with the box. Will he be able to stop Jack before he claims his final victims?
As villains go, the jack in the box isn’t the worst idea. When out of the box, it’s a person in decent makeup avoiding the pitfall of bad CGI. It has plenty of threat but the film fails to establish any rules regarding its abilities. Does it need to be out of the box to kill? That seems to be the case for most of the film, yet late on the box itself kills someone. Can it come out at any stage? It seems to be able too so why does it even bother playing cat and mouse games. Does it need Casey alive? Why? It has several chances to kill him and doesn’t!
With no rules, it’s hard to buy into the stakes.
Stakes also come from caring about the characters and that’s not easy here. Both Ethan Taylor and Lucy-Jane Quinlan do a serviceable job, but their lack of chemistry is all too apparent. Not only that, their relationship is forced, and they really don’t share that much screen time to warrant it.
Here’s the thing and the ultimate problem with The Jack in the Box… we’ve seen it all before. Evil objects that need to be stopped by a hero or heroes, something that seems impossible until they meet someone who tells them how too or get something that can do the job.
Tale as old as time at this stage.
The Jack in the Box isn’t offensive or an abject failure. It just doesn’t really try and because of that can be consigned to the bargain bin.
The Jack in the Box
The Final Score - 4/10