Jake’s Road finds Sam and his soon-to-be fiancé Kay returning to his familial cabin for a family get-together. While there, Sam and his brother Mike must break the news that they will be selling the land on which their neighbors reside. This comes as a blow to the neighbors and serves to ruffle a few feathers. When the gang goes on an outing in the forest behind the cabin, they run into trouble. Someone is hiding in the woods and picking off members of the group with a rifle.
The film follows what I am starting to view as an emerging trend in independent horror and features a very likable cast of characters. After watching Jake’s Road and prior to that taking in Honeymoon (read our review), Housebound , (read our review), and Meet Me There (read our review), it seems that screenwriters and directors are becoming aware that horror fans are after more than just buckets of blood. A down-to-earth and likable cast goes a long way. As much fun as it can be to see douche bag frat guys with no depth getting picked off, sitting through a film with eight of them isn’t always enough to sustain viewer interest. Jake’s Road has a couple of semi-disposable characters that are killed off earlier in the film but the remaining members of the cast are very likable and easy to relate to.
Leticia Jimenez (Shut In) was an exceptional casting choice. She is fantastic as Sam’s soon-to-be fiancé. She is vibrant, sweet, and has a magnetic personality that makes her almost impossible not to like. Garrett Hines (No One Lives) is really good as Sam as well. Their bond is completely believable. Staging an engagement between the two of them was smart. It makes the audience invest more in the characters and their ultimate survival. I wanted to see the two of them make it out alive and start a life together. Some of the other performances are a little wooden at times but no one is consistently bad throughout. Eric Roberts was a good choice to play one of the neighbors. He doesn’t have a major part in the film but he is likable in the scenes which he appers.
I was really pleased that writer/director Mike Mayhall didn’t go with an obvious choice for the killer. It really looked as though he was going to go with a painfully evident choice for the killer but there are a couple of fairly unexpected twists that see the killer identified as someone we were not necessarily expecting. Jake’s Road is Mayhall’s feature film debut. His lack of experience behind the camera is noticeable occasionally but for the most part, he holds his own while at the helm. Some of the cinematography is a bit rough but I would chalk that up to the film’s low budget more so than Mayhill’s lack of prowess as a director. He understand how to build and maintain tension from both a scripting perspective and as a director.
In addition to maintaining suspense throughout most of its running time, the film is also very effectively paced. It makes the most of its 84-minute runtime. The picture does not overstay its welcome nor does it end too abruptly. It doesn’t slump in the middle or take too long to get started.
Jake’s Road is similar to films like The Aggression Scale and You’re Next in its mixture of action and horror. It isn’t derivative of either of those features – it just bears certain similarities in terms of tonality and its desire to meld the action and horror genres. And like both You’re Next and The Aggression Scale it does so pretty well.
One of the things that I didn’t totally dig is that the killer carries a bolt action rifle as his primary weapon of choice. A rifle is not the most imposing weapon for a horror killer and it takes some of the zing out of a couple of the death scenes. But given that Jake’s Road is a mashup of action and horror, it makes a certain level of sense.
Another issue I had with Jake’s Road is that there are a couple of fairly unnecessary scenes. Both of the sex scenes seemed a little tacked on but I suppose it’s somewhat rare for a film to really call for a sex scene. Either way, they don’t weigh down the picture too much and probably played a big role in the film securing distribution as it’s hard to sell a horror feature without a couple of perky, exposed breasts.
Overall, this is a really enjoyable and entertaining flick. It doesn’t offer a lot in the way of subtext or strive for profound and meaningful social commentary. It’s just entertaining for the sake of entertainment and it does fairly well at that. I think that both action and horror fans will enjoy this title. If you haven’t seen it, Jake’s Road is worth a look. It is a lot of fun to watch and I enjoyed the twists. It has just arrived on both DVD and VOD.
WICKED RATING: 7/10
IMDb: Rating: IMDb
Director(s): Mike Mayhall
Writer(s): Mike Mayhall
Stars: Garrett Hines, Leticia Jimenez, Eric Roberts
Studio/ Production Co: Mayhem Productions, Action Logistics, Sitting Duck Films
Budget: $300,000 (Estimated)
Length: 84 Minutes