The Killing of Jacob Marr

ImageThe Killing of Jacob Marr (2010)

Director/Writer: Brad Rego

Starring: Morgan White & Brandon Beilis

The Killing of Jacob Marr revolves around a group of friends heading to a rented cabin.  Despite the construction issues the new owner has had, group leader Ted (Morgan White) is assured that everything will be perfect upon his arrival.  However, when the group arrive there is food in the cupboards and toiletries in the bathroom, despite the fact that there is no one in the cabin.  The group consider the gesture to be an apology for the delays in construction but there is something far more sinister at work.

Lately I’ve been sort of concerned about the amount of independent horror coming out declaring itself to be low-budget above all other possible selling points, largely because it sounds, to me, like an excuse for anything lacking within the film.  I understand that working with a low budget is appealing to many, but often this comes (rather ironically) at a cost – be that a lack of acting talent, poor production values or lazy scripting that is often hand-waved as a consequence of having less money than big studios.  Of course, big studios too have been responsible for some real turkeys and they’re the ones throwing huge money around, so clearly money isn’t the answer to everything.  So, while this may appear to be a totally unrelated complaint I’m really just stating that when confronted with a screener stating its budget status I don’t expect much and The Killing of Jacob Marr has made me think that I should perhaps not be so damning of everything choosing to carry that label.

 

Yes, the premise is an all-too-familiar one, although I have omitted some of the content in my plot description because I’m always concerned about giving too much away about a film’s plot so it is a little more unique than it may seem at first glance.  The acting is nothing too special, but solid enough that it doesn’t become too much of an issue.  The dynamic between Ted (Morgan White), Dan (Brandon Beilis) and Claire (Alyssa Mann) is a fun one, helped along by an often witty and involving script.  There is some character development along the way without taking up too much time or detracting from the main plot.  Some of it – like Ted’s ill-fated crush on Claire feels clichéd and maybe a bit tacked on but is forgivable by being essentially an afterthought – mentioned once, then left with little further pining after her.  Dan is possibly my favourite of the characters with his dislike of friend Doug’s (Chris Keating) girlfriend Ellie (Elizabeth Drake) gradually giving way to a realisation that they both want the same thing and is ably played by Brandon Beilis.

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Despite a few moments of gore it is a relatively restrained film, exchanging ‘jumps’ and scare chords for far more quiet and eerie options, making it all the more effective.  The film is somewhat self-aware with its characters able to name horror characters and tropes but holds back on becoming a reference-fest.  What is really refreshing about it however, is the characters don’t do anything that could be described as painfully stupid and this makes the scenario all the more unsettling.  After all, if you have characters making silly decisions (as honestly, all horror relies on) then it becomes  very easy to work up a high body count and get the blood flowing, but when you have people making fairly rational decisions and that danger STILL finds them?  THAT is far more effective and interesting.

Overall, it is a decent enough film that, while not all that original uses some interesting techniques in its story-telling to separate itself from the many other independent horrors out there.  While it won’t change anyone’s world, it is a fun enough time to spend an hour and a half or so and I can safely say I enjoyed it.

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