Saturday, May 9

Jack Be Nimble (1993)


Directed by Garth Maxwell
93 Minutes / Triboro Entertainment VHS / Cropped from 1.85:1 to full screen

A brother (Jack, Alexis Arquette) and sister (Dora, Sarah Smuts-Kennedy) are separated by adoption at a very young age and grow up in vastly differing conditions. Dora is brought up in a loving home, but she's plagued by voices and flashes of the memories of others. Jack is constantly physically and emotionally abused by his slave-driving foster parents. The boy can't have friends or pets and is constantly ratted out by the couple's four oddly quiet daughters.

Dora yearns to find Jack, but he just wants to get away from his abusers. In his high school shop class, Jack builds a strange contraption that has an hypnotic power from the blinking lights it emits. He places his family in a trance and murders his foster mother and father to make it look accidental.

Eventually the siblings find each other as young adults, but tension sparks between Dora's older psychically endowed lover (Bruno Lawrence) and her brother. The two discover their dreams aren't quite fulfilled upon tracking down their real parents and Jack's past comes back to haunt them.

It's funny how it seems when New Zealand isn't making endearing horror comedies; they craft little surrealist horror gems such as this. I'm not going to claim to understand all the underpinnings of meaning in this film, but there's a lot of fantastic aspects here. The acting floats around perfect. Arquette, Kennedy, and Lawrence deliver nuanced, powerful performances that add much gravity to the story. The film unfolds in a consistently engaging way and feels longer (in a good way) than ninety minutes. The understated score is reminiscent of Manuel De Sica's work with Dellamorte Dellamore.

Saying all this though, the well done yet intensely dramatic ladder climbed does detrimentally alter the horror elements. The clear genre qualities occur in the latter half and ultimately feel hokey. It's so pronounced, if you were told they were stuck in at the behest of producers, you'd easily accept that as fact. There are also several substantial and unexplained leaps of faith the viewer has to take. It's still tough to completely swallow them.

Jack Be Nimble is worth tracking down (Image's DVD is long out of print) and experiencing at least once, but it certainly helps to be a devotee of the more metaphysical side of Horror.

Film: 6.5/10 (might increase with repeat viewings)
VHS Picture: 2.5/10 (sickly look, greenish color, thick lines)
VHS Sound: 5/10

1 comment:

Carl (ILHM) said...

Been wanting to see this one for a while, I will keep an eye out for it, glad ot see the review Jay!

...do you dare tread upon the staircase?
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