Actor turned writer-director Thomas Dekker got his film start in 1995 as the only Aryan alien child in John Carpenter’s Village of the Damned to feel empathy. He’s clearly a horror fan. Since then, Dekker has bounced around numerous indie-horror properties, sharing scenes with Elvira and Robert Englund. This is why it’s so unfortunate that his sophomore effort as director, Jack Goes Home, seems to draw its inspiration more from the disjointed, multi-story American Horror Story than from any of the classics.
Jack (Rory Culkin), upon hearing the news of his father’s sudden death, returns home to see his cold, overbearing mother, Teresa, played by the expertly cast horror veteran Lin Shaye (Critters, A Nightmare on Elm Street, Insidious) — she might be the only actress able to pull off such a difficult shrew of a character and still seem human. Jack finds some decades-old tapes that tell him he’s got to go to the attic to find the truth. He’s already developed an uneasy friendship with his neighbor and doesn’t call his six-months-pregnant lady friend at all while he’s gone.
There’s something about sleepwalking happening, and then another thing with a family secret and another unconnected family secret. But what’s more disappointing than the competing storylines is the emotional void created by these joyless characters.
Every aspect of Jack Goes Home points to an ultra-serious, lugubrious black hole. There might be a good story somewhere deep inside this tangled narrative, but Dekker seems more focused on creating a succession of “scary” images than he is on that.
Jack Goes Home
Written and directed by Thomas Dekker
Opens October 14, Cinema Village
Available on demand