The Movie Waffler DVD Review - <i>JAKE'S ROAD</i> | The Movie Waffler


A family reunion is scuppered by a homicidal maniac.

Review by Benjamin Poole (@filmclubchs)

Directed by: Mike Mayhall

Starring: Eric Roberts, Garrett Hines, Leticia Jimenez, Patrick Flanagan

"As a slasher, this film is a nicely shot, visceral re-tread of familiar tropes, but reframed as a Big Chill type reunion flick interrupted by a stealthy, murderous maniac, Jake’s Road becomes a twisty woodland path well worth travelling."

‘All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way…’, so wrote Leo Tolstoy in his weighty masterpiece of realist fiction, Anna Karenina. But while Tolstoy located the source of his familial malaise as a consequence of adultery and thwarted romance within the Russian aristocracy, the phrase still resonates (looking for a quote pertaining to family in order to open this review, this was one of the most popular Google offered), due to the simple, universal truth it offers; the bonds that tie kith and kin together are forged in the furnaces of collective experience and shared pain. Take the slipshod brood within Jake’s Road; upon the occasion of a family reunion in rural Louisiana, much recrimination and unsaid resentment threatens to spoil the time spent catching up in the halcyon surroundings of a leafy wilderness far from civilisation.
Hollywood stuntman Sam (Garrett Hines, earnest and determined) is eager to introduce his people (consisting of his brother, cousin, aunt and uncle, and other assorted buds), to his new girlfriend Kay (Leticia Jimenez, funny and lovely). The trip from L.A. has been bittersweet: Sam and Mike’s parents recently died in a car accident, prompting Sam to make the tough decision to sell the old homestead, a ‘camp’ consisting of a ranch and so many acres of woodland. Problem is, this will mean that uncle, aunt and cousin Chris will need to move on too (the uncle is played by Eric Roberts, the hardest working man in Hollywood according to his imdb listings, and here adds his usual touch of silvery class). Perhaps Sam has chosen less than ideal circumstances to ask Kay to marry him…
And then, mid-way through the film, as if the simmering tensions involving money and loyalty weren’t drama enough, an old school slasher killer - iconic uniform of camo, nasty way with knife, seemingly supernatural ability to sneak up on people - starts to off the brooding kin with brutal tenacity. The tone shift, foreshadowed lightly with beta jump moments and a silly practical joke, is intriguingly jarring; the domestic drama of the first act is so specifically related (aside from the aforementioned to-do concerning land, there are romances consummated and bonds reiterated), that seeing characters who we were only just getting to know having their guts stabbed out is a jolt. Like the cast of You’re Next a couple of years ago, these guys are slightly older than the jejune teens we’re used to seeing being chased about in woodland environments, and their experience and relative maturity adds a dimension of realism to the proceedings. There is an ease between the cast, which gives their occasionally uneven performances a likeable, winning naturalism that helps to sell the jeopardy. Jake’s Road is filmed rather carefully too: as the killer closes in, the gang scatter in broad daylight, their blood flecking sunny blades of grass, while gorse soft lifted by the breeze is trampled in panic, making the most of the picturesque surroundings.
Towards the end, the relevance of the titular highway that the bloody events take place just off is revealed to have a metaphorical significance (think full names, not abbreviations, and ladders, instead of roads), with hallucinations and the suggestion that what we’ve seen is not as it happened. I’m unsure if this really works (and, indeed, unsure of what it actually meant), but for the most part, I found Jake’s Road a commendable watch. As a slasher, this film is a nicely shot, visceral re-tread of familiar tropes, but reframed as a Big Chill type reunion flick interrupted by a stealthy, murderous maniac, Jake’s Road becomes a twisty woodland path well worth travelling.