THE JACK IN THE BOX ** UK 2019 Dir: Lawrence Fowler. 87 mins
Welsh writer-director Lawrence Fowler adds another Creepy Doll Thing to the post-ANNABELLE genre world (following his own CURSE OF THE WITCH’S DOLL) with this pedestrian shocker. In the opening, an old collector discovers the hideous eponymous box while out metal detecting in a field – he takes it home where, naturally, it pops up to consume his wife. Potentially marketable for henpecked husbands the world over. Twelve years on, friendly Lucy-Jane Quinlan works part time at the Hawthorne Museum, welcoming “Obligatory American Hero So We Can Sell This Easier Overseas” Ethan Taylor, a curator from the U.S. who finds “Jack” dumped in a store room of odds and ends. The accursed Victorian era box – from which a giant claw emerges while dragging folk to their doom – needs to feast on six human victims before heading back into storage and waiting for the sequel call. Peopled with disposable characters destined to be fed to you-know-who (burglars, cleaners, etc.), this lightweight flick quickly gets bogged down in bland, familiar character beats: Quinlan has a sick mum, Taylor has flashbacks to the tragic fate of his girlfriend. In between, we get the now obligatory 21st century Google search for “demonology” (never as cinematic as microfiche) and some clunky Basil Exposition characters wandering in to explain the plot in the creakiest way possible. The join the dots plotting is matched by tepid execution: the Jack is creepy enough as a visual but there’s no real sense of threat and tension and so much is just filler: at one point, we get a flashback to the scene-setting first sequence in the movie! A decent score by Christoph Allerstorfer might be its only asset.
Review by Steven West