THE JACK IN THE BOX: AWAKENING (2021)
Directed and written by Lawrence Fowler.
Starring Matt McClure, Mollie Hindle, James Swanton, Nicola Wright, Nicholas Anscombe, Michaela Longden, Erina Mashate, Jason Farries, Victor Mellors, Ben Walters, Melvyn Rawlinson
A well to do woman named Olga (Nicola Wright) is on the brink of death and acquires an antique box that when opened, releases a demon that grants your deepest desire. But there is a cost. The box requires six souls in order to grant the wish. Wishing that she overcomes her illness, Olga lures those working for her to open the box and get munched up by the demon. Unfortunately for Amy (played by Mollie Hindle), it’s her first day of work and her turn to meet the jack in the box is coming soon.
I reviewed the first THE JACK IN THE BOX film a short while ago (check it out here) and found it to lack inspiration. In fact, I remember being very disappointed at a lack of new and fresh ideas at every turn. I also went the extra mile and tossed out some scenarios that would have made for a much better film. Now, I would never go so far to say anyone should listen to one reviewer’s opinion and while none of my suggestions were taken in making this sequel, it at least seems like filmmaker Lawrence Fowler decided to tweak things a bit to make a more entertaining watch.
Now, I don’t want to oversell THE JACK IN THE BOX: AWAKENING, but I do think it is a better movie than the original (also directed and written by Fowler). Mainly, because there seems to be a more interesting concept at the center of it. Basically, the Jack in the Box is a Djinn in a bottle concept or even a Leprechaun-style character who grants wishes for a deadly price. Not the most original concept, but at least it makes more sense than the original with its intent spelled out and a running tally is made as each person dies. The stakes are simplified and made much clearer in this sequel, but that doesn’t really mean they’re more interesting.
The acting is better. Nicola Wright is decent as the elderly woman as she clearly shows how black a heart she has and how she wishes to retain her life at all costs. Mollie Hindle is capable as the good girl in trouble, but not really given much to do other than be innocent. The best performance of AWAKENING is from Matt McClure as Olga’s son Edgar, who is dedicated to his mother, despite acknowledging the horror of what she is making him unleash on others. This is a nuanced role and McClure conveys that well.
The Jack in the Box design itself is still simply uninspired. It looks like a costume rejected from KILLER CLOWNS FROM OUTER SPACE. If you have a deathly fear of clowns, I guess you might find him creepy, but he just kind of saunters around and towards the camera. As with the original, he doesn’t do much but pop out of the box and snatch people, leaving bloody puddles in his wake. I almost feel that the giant walking clown-suit should be scrapped in fovor of the truly haunted look of the toy clown that pops out originally. The vacant stare of the toy is creepy and could make for some truly scary scenes. Even if the clown is immobile, it still is scarier than the walking stalking clown by a mile.
While I do feel AWAKENING is an improvement over the original, I still can’t recommend this film simply because it was more capably made and more focused than the previous entry. In the end it is a capably made redux of HELLRAISER/LEPRECHAUN/WISHMASTER. Not a bad idea, but not necessarily an original one either.