Jikirag Poster

Jikirag (2022) Review

Jikirag opens with text telling us that we are in the year 1263AD, and a band of refugees from a plague has made a settlement in the middle of a forgotten forest. Nature granted them refuge on the vow that they take no more from the land than they needed. But now years have passed, and their hunger has outstripped their vow.

Shapur (Grant Vlahovic, Dangerous, Into the Void) and Ewan (Alexander J. Baxter, The Man in the High Castle) are searching the forest for Shapur’s son. They find the boy’s body but something else finds them, and they return to the settlement badly wounded. The next day Alis (Josefin Jönsson Tysén, Naked, Hurt & Pissed Off) ventures into the woods and after having a vision seem to become possessed.

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Seeking an explanation for what is happening, the group’s matriarch Vouga (Tracey Roath, Broil, Quantum Shock: Black Drop) journeys deep into the woods to consult a shaman (Jay Martens, Maux Mystères, Memory Thief). He tells her that they’ve broken their vow, which she denies.

The work of three directors, Alexander J. Baxter, Leigah Keewatin, and Jessica Moutray all making their feature film debut, and a script by Baxter and Jay Martens, Jikirag is a film as strange as its title. Which means that even as folk horror goes, it’s pretty strange and frequently confusing.

Part of the problem is that Jikirag’s dialogue is delivered in a sort of pseudo-Olde English, with words like “ye”, “thee” and “thine” almost randomly dropped into more contemporary speech and frequently arranged in sentences that proud to claim Yoda would be. Of course, that does give us lines like “Thy balls have not yet dropped.” which sound just strange enough to be good for an unintentional chuckle.

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And that’s when we’re actually told what’s going on. Things frequently happen with no explanation as to how or why they occur. At one point, tentacles spring from the ground and attack Ewan and his daughter, then disappear never to be seen again. What were they, and why did they suddenly pop up? Another character suddenly begins having mushrooms grow on their body for no apparent reason.

This kind of weirdness can work if it’s done right and with some consistency and internal logic. Eyes of Fire, which Jikirag reminds me of in some ways, is a perfect example. But there the actions of the Devil Witch followed a pattern and had their own rules. Here everything seems random. By the time the plot had pulled in human sacrifice and Jikirag (Roy Campsall, Grave Encounters 2, The Ninth Passenger) made his appearance, I had given up trying to figure it out.

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On the plus side, and also like Eyes of Fire, Jikirag has several visually striking scenes. Director of photography Jay Kamal (Roads of Ithriyah, Once Upon a Time) makes the most of the film’s woodland setting. The settlement itself also gives him much to work with, and for once looks like the real thing rather than some tourist trap or film set.

Jikirag might have managed to get by as good-looking and atmospheric hokum if it didn’t run two hours long. At that length, it ends up being more of a test of the viewer’s endurance than anything else. That’s too bad because the filmmakers do show promise, although why Jikirag took three people to direct it is as big a mystery as anything in the script. They all seem to have done a few more shorts since making it and hopefully, they helped them develop their potential.

Vertical Entertainment has released Jikirag to selected theatres as well as to Digital and VOD platforms. You can find out more on the film’s website. And if that’s not quite what you were looking for, FilmTagger can suggest something similar.

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