Does a life altering tragedy provide the necessary break for the unstable to lose themselves completely or is Jack Goes Home a film that proves even the most sound mind is always one moment away from being eclipsed in an unfathomable darkness?
In Thomas Dekker’s directorial debut, Jack Goes Home, the above question is posed as you are taken on an emotional journey alongside Jack (played by Rory Culkin) as he returns home after an accident that decapitates his father but leaves his mother barely injured. Jack soon finds himself , upon returning home to a mother in dire need of comfort and support, standing as a pillar of strength as she heals her own body and mind after the loss of her beloved husband. However, the film soon shows that this story isn’t one focused on the death of Jack’s father – and best friend – at all but a tale of how the inner woven and dark secrets of a family affected Jack’s life, even if he didn’t know it was happening.
From the beginning, it’s clear that life for Jack hasn’t always been easy and as the film progresses, he goes from a strong and rather snarky character to a man reduced to a childlike state of mind. His decline only furthers as his vulnerability becomes evident while he watches memories of the world he knew dissolve as a dark truth completely destroys them.
It’s a tape recorder, an old chest, and a VHS that reveal secrets and pain from his childhood which ultimately cause Jack’s downward spiral. When he comes face to face with repressed memories which act as a catalyst to his final downfall, the last bit of life inside him withers away and all you can do is helplessly watch it happen.
Some of the childhood tragedy will hit home for viewers, some of you watching will find yourself in pieces of Jack’s story, in turn, causing you to confront parts of your own past. This film is further proof that you can’t hide from your past, nor can you erase it.
Jack’s father knew the truth of that statement too well as one of his tapes stands as an apology. It’s an ‘I’m sorry’ for being less of a man than he intended to be, for failing a son he loved, and for not protecting Jack’s childhood innocence, in turn allowing cracks in the foundation deep enough for evil to seep in.
“I never wanted this hurt for you, I don’t know when you’ll hear this, maybe never but if you are hearing it; it probably means I’m already gone. You’ll be a man soon and a man needs to know the truth and the truth is, I’m sorry, ever so sorry. I failed you, I failed to protect you, my own baby boy, my own flesh and blood, the devil is in you now”.
It is a true testament to Thomas Dekker that this film leaves you on the edge of your seat from fear, but not in a way you’d expect. It’s not the kind of horror you can convince yourself is fake. There are no masked killers or demons coming out of railroad tracks to drag you to hell; no, the evils in Jack Goes Home are all too real; they’re personal, they evolve as tragedy strikes and there is truly nothing more terrifying than what happens to your mind in moments of vulnerability.
The cast members are so convincing as the characters they portray that in moments you find yourself wondering if this story may be real, and to a degree, it is. Thomas used the story of his father’s death as a guide to what Jack feels in this film, and while it’s not an autobiography, it does show how completely unhinged one can become after they face the death of a loved one. That’s a notion that we’ve all unfortunately known too well.
We spoke to Jordan Yale Levine from Yale Productions who directed Jack Goes Home and he sang its praises talking about the strength of the cast members, the way they worked together so seamlessly, and how much was put into making this film a success, and we have to say; they nailed it.
One of the last films that truly left us unable to function was Requiem for a Dream, but after tonight, we’ve added Jack Goes Home as it’s runner up.
“We are born of muscle, of meat and of blood. Not from loving arms; no brutality or harm.”