The Movie Waffler New to VOD - THE JESTER | The Movie Waffler


Two estranged half-sisters are stalked by a mysterious entity resembling a street performer.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Colin Krawchuk

Starring: Lelia Symington, Matt Servitto, Ken Arnold, Sam Lukowski

The Jester poster

Along with fan films based on the lore of the Star Wars, Harry Potter and Halloween franchises, director Colin Krawchuk found online success with a series of horror shorts based around a malevolent figure known as "The Jester." Clad in a rictus grin mask, top hat and bright orange suit, the character makes for a visually striking antagonist, resembling a particularly sinister Dutch football fan. Now Crawchuk has expanded the concept for a feature debut that sees visual flair and ghoulish imagination wrestle with amateurish writing and acting.

The film opens with a dejected middle-aged man, John (Matt Servitto), walking through a deserted late night Baltimore. John keeps seeing the image of a young girl, which prompts him to call his estranged, now adult daughter Emma (Lelia Symington). To his surprise, she answers for the first time in years. But this is no happy reunion. Emma is unwilling to accept any of John's apologies for whatever sins she might hold him responsible. When Emma hangs up, John is confronted by the Jester (co-writer Michael Sheffield), who has been following and observing the desperate father. Suddenly John finds a noose around his neck, seemingly controlled by the Jester, who hangs John, making it look like a suicide.

The Jester review

On the surface, The Jester might seem like a cynical attempt to cash in on the surprise success of the Terrifier films, positing its titular villain as a rival to that series' Art the Clown. Yet while both films share the primal premise of young women being pursued by men in creepy outfits, The Jester has more on its mind than simply delivering gory set-pieces, though it certainly executes those well.

Following the Stephen King adaptation The Boogeyman and the Indian mythology inspired It Lives Inside, The Jester is the latest recent horror movie to feature a malevolent force that preys on victims who are at a point in their lives where they're emotionally vulnerable. Though she can't bring herself to admit it, Emma clearly feels guilty over her father's death and probably blames herself for contributing to his "suicide." Attending his funeral, Emma is united for the first time with her half-sister Jocelyn (Delaney White), whose grief over her father is compounded when Emma cruelly refuses her advances to connect.

The Jester review

This makes both women perfect targets for the Jester, who attaches himself to both in the manner of the stalking figures of It Follows, but with the trickster ways of Freddy Krueger. Krawchuk devises some clever ways for the Jester to taunt and torture his victims, with a sequence involving a horrific use of his top hat and a bloody shell game the highlights. The Jester is without a doubt the most thematically and visually interesting antagonist to arrive in the world of indie horror in recent years. The film is so enamoured with its titular terror that it lovingly crafts a great credits sequence around him.

It's also one of the more easy on the eyes low budget horrors of recent times, with a production design that leans into its Halloween setting, all autumnal browns and pumpkins orange during the day, with a night time neon colour scheme reminiscent of Joel Shumacher's Batman movies. It's refreshing to see a horror movie lean into visual vibrancy rather than cloaking everything in darkness.

The Jester review

Unfortunately, for all its visual flair and imaginativeness, The Jester suffers from a weak script that struggles at times to communicate its ideas, relying on characters speaking the film's themes out loud. Aside from Symington and Servitto, the rest of the cast is roundly amateurish, leading to unintentional laughs in some scenes (particularly one involving a pair of gravediggers).

Luckily for Krawchuck, horror fans tend to be more forgiving of such flaws than your average viewers, and genre devotees will likely recognise enough creativity in The Jester to overlook its weaknesses. I'm in no doubt that we'll be seeing more of this character, but Krawchuck may need a more adept co-writer and a more convincing cast if he's to fully realise his ambitions.

The Jester is on UK/ROI VOD now.

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