Cactus Jack is an independent horror movie where the evil monster is man himself, with very polarizing results.
The story starts in the fall of 2016, just prior to the Presidential election. Chris (Sam Kozé), an amateur documentary maker, decides to make a film about a man who hasn’t left his mother’s basement in six months.
After meeting Ronald, a.k.a. Cactus Jack (R. Michael Gull), he discovers the recluse is in fact a vile doomsday hatemonger and white supremacist.
Ronald finally snaps, imprisons and tortures Chris, and takes control of the cameras to start a vitriolic, venomous podcast, making enemies far and wide and promising violent retribution for any who come after him.
I’ll admit…Cactus Jack is a hard movie to watch. It took me two tries to make it through the less than an hour and a half long film.
The script calls for Gull to utter an almost non-stop rage-filled rampage jam-packed with hate-filled slurs against people of color, women, and Jews. So much so that I had to stop the film about a half-hour in, just to give my brain a break.
I will give debut filmmakers The Thornton Brothers (Chris and Jay Thornton) a lot of credit for what they accomplished with a crowdfunded $25,000. The film is shot in a mixture of black and white and color film, utilizing not only footage shot almost exclusively on iPhones, but incorporating film clips from the past to cleverly accentuate Ronald’s verbal vomit.
And the mostly two-person cast really commit to their roles, especially Gull. But seriously, after the first meeting, the fact that Chris went back again and again made me lose all compassion for what happens to him in the last third of the film
As much as I enjoy horror films, I didn’t enjoy this film at all. In light of the constantly visible presence of white supremacists and extreme hate groups in the past few years, Cactus Jack seems a little too close to reality for comfort. I’ve actually met men like Cactus Jack, and it wasn’t pleasant, nor anything I want to be reminded of.
I’m giving Cactus Jack a 1 out of 5 stars. I just can’t recommend this unless you like movies that test your ability to sit through films that disgust you. I’m only giving it this high a score because visually, I’m impressed with the way they weaved in film clips with the “found footage,” and the overall editing, and would like to see what The Thornton Brothers can do with a horror story that doesn’t make me want to turn off the film.
CACTUS JACK (2021)
Directors: Chris Thornton, Jay Thornton
Cast: R. Michael Gull, Sam Kozé
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