The Jack in the Box: Awakening is a sequel to writer/director Lawrence Fowler’s The Jack in the Box. That one of the better killer doll type films of the past couple of years and a major improvement over his previous effort, Curse of the Witches Doll. So in this age of sequels and franchises it should be no surprise that Jack’s back. The question is, was bringing him back a good idea?
Olga Marsdale (Nicola Wright, Spider in the Attic, Dragon Fury) is a very rich woman with very little time to live. She has her son Edgar (Matt McClure, The Wee Man, The Innocent) contact Issac Huxley (Victor Mellors) who can get anything, for a price.
What he’s gotten her will be familiar to those who’ve already seen the first film. For those that haven’t, Jack (James Swanton, Werewolf Castle, The Banishing) and his story are all explained. The world’s oldest Jack in the Box, it actually contains a demon bound inside. One that can, like Mr. Huxley, provide anything for a price. Jack’s price for restoring Ms. Marsdale’s health? Six innocent souls.
The premise for The Jack in the Box: Awakening is similar to the original’s, just with a darker twist. Rather than by accident, Jack is deliberately freed this time. And he’s being provided with victims, primarily the Marsdale’s servants, including the new maid Amy (Mollie Hindle). After all, they’re mere peasants, why shouldn’t they die to keep her alive?
Fowler gives The Jack in the Box: Awakening a bit more depth than the first film by giving Edgar a bit of a character arc. He goes from being a somewhat unwilling accomplice to murder to someone who enjoys feeding people to the creature. Unfortunately, the rest of the cast can be very easily separated into creature chow, those who’ll make it to the final act, and the final girl.
It’s a pity none of them such as Amy, Janet (Michaela Longden, Where Demons Hide, Book of Monsters) or Frank (Jason Farries, The Haunting of Margam Castle, An Inspector Calls) get any real character development. Making it harder to guess their fates might has upped the film’s level of suspense considerably.
Which is not to say The Jack in the Box: Awakening is a dull film. It’s not, it’s well paced, mixing the kills through the film to avoid long dull stretches. And we get some backstory on the demon itself and the human host it inhabits. But the mechanics of the film are much the same as in the first film, only with the creature creeping around an estate instead of a museum.
While it’s still not what I’d call a bloody film, and too much happens off camera, we do get a bit more in the way of gore and effects this time around. And like the creature itself, they’re practical rather than CGI. That alone sets it apart from many of the low budget British genre films we’ve been seeing lately.
Overall, The Jack in the Box: Awakening is an enjoyable, and slightly above average creature feature. Jack himself is one of the more effectively designed killer clown/creepy doll characters out there, and as noted, the fact that he isn’t CGI is a huge plus. But if they plan to go for a third film, they’ll need to change the plot up a bit to keep the viewers interested.
The Jack in the Box: Awakening will be released in the UK by 4Digital Media on DVD and Digital on January 3rd 2022. They will release it in the US on On-Demand, Digital and DVD on January 18th 2022. You can check their website or Facebook page for more information.