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THE JACK IN THE BOX: AWAKENING (2022) Review

Neil reviews 4Digital Media’s JACK IN THE BOX: AWAKENING calling it “a compelling horror buried in the trappings of a gothic fairytale.”

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The Jack in the Box: Awakening (4Digital Media)

The Jack in the Box: Awakening is out now on Digital & DVD in the UK and available in the US on January 18th 2022.

Review

The Joker. Pennywise. Ronald McDonald. The clown profession really isn’t short of a creepy figurehead worthy of becoming a horror icon. In 2019, writer/director Lawrence Fowler added to the pantheon of demonic jesters with the invention of Jack, the star of Jack in the Box and this year’s sequel, Jack in the Box: Awakening.

Awakening isn’t simply a re-hash the well received first film. This time around Fowler is taking note of how all major horror-franchises strive for longevity and reinventing the wheel. Less of a straight-up horror fest, Awakening takes root in the genre of gothic British fairytale and is all the more compelling for it.

When terminally ill heiress Olga Marsdale (Nicola Wright – Devil Djinn), a collector of antique toys, acquires a mysterious box she quickly realises its contents are more super than natural. Along with her Oedipal son Edgar (Matt McClure – Penny Dreadful), Olga sets out to cure her cancer with the help of the demonic Jack (James Swanton – Host).

Fowler plays to his strengths as a filmmaker by constructing Awakening almost like a horror bottle-episode. Rarely do we leave the confines of the Marsdale family home and when we do it is only to explore its grounds. Instead the story, visuals and all aspects of the production work in harmony to make the events at the manor an enticing gothic terror. There’s no beating around the bush, this isn’t a big budget production. So Fowler and co. use their budget EXACTLY where it’s needed.

Jack looks brilliant. His makeup remains mostly intact from the previous film. Why alter perfection? Swanton plays the demon with all the gusto one would expect from an actor known for his creator performances. He grizzles and growls his way from his box to his victims becoming the stuff of nightmares. His appearance is entirely practical, earning the film more bonus points. Jack could easily go toe-to-toe with any other horror icon and is certainly deserving of this burgeoning franchise.

Likewise, the box which has been Jack’s prison for decades is stunning to look at. The small details in the carvings on the box really make the difference between run-of-the-mill direct-to-video horror and something much more enticing.

Awakening uses its 92 minute runtime to great effect. Detractors of the first film picked up on the majority of Jack’s 6 kill limit taking place too early in the runtime. Here the kills are more spaced out giving the storyline a bit more time to breath. An added benefit at the core of Awakening is the creepy Oedipal relationship between Edgar and Olga. That subplot alone gives the film some serious mileage.

Much like a Conjuring movie or a Halloween, Jack in the Box: Awakening features a stand-alone story which adds to a wider mythology and doesn’t work to setup countless sequels. Just don’t try watching it alone and with the lights off…

Verdict

Jack in the Box: Awakening is a compelling horror buried in the trappings of a gothic fairytale.

⭐⭐ ⭐ 


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