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The Jack in the Box Rises (2024) Review

The Jack in the Box Rises continues the story of the cursed child’s toy that began with The Jack in the Box and continued in The Jack in the Box: Awakening. This time, Jack is back and hanging out in a girl’s boarding school.

Our story starts with three people breaking into a dark building looking for a heart that some guy named Harvey (Derek Nelson, The Manson Family Massacre, Gods of the Deep) wants. What they find is The Dollmaker (James Reynard, Arthur & Merlin: Knights of Camelot, Second Sight) who kills two of them. Raven (Isabella Colby Browne, Saturday Night Inside Out, Can the Moon Walk Me Home?) makes it out alive, but without what they came for.

And that’s a problem because Harvey is holding Raven’s father captive in order to get her to retrieve these supernatural artifacts. He decides to send her after something bigger this time, a demon so powerful it had to be contained in a magic box located in the mansion from the previous film which has now been made into a school. A school Harvey is going to get her admitted to.

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Lawrence Fowler who directed the previous two films and co-writer Geoff Fowler who co-wrote The Ghost Within with Lawrence don’t waste any time getting to the clichés. Headmistress Hinch (Lisa Antrobus) promptly takes Raven’s phone and tells her, even though the gates are locked, not to think of the school as a prison because “In prison you’re allowed visitors.”

I enjoyed the first two films in the franchise, but The Jack in the Box Rises gets off to a less than impressive start with a couple of weak murders followed by lots of delinquent school girl clichés as Raven butts heads with the school’s Queen mean girl, Olivia (Leona Clarke, Summoning Bloody Mary 2, The Deadly Swarm) when she’s not creeping around in the dark looking for Jack.

Things pick up once it’s found, and The Jack in the Box Rises lives up to its name when someone sets it free. Jack (Nicholas Anscombe, Crocodile Swarm, Edge of Extinction) starts stalking the corridors of the school. But the setting isn’t the only thing that’s been recycled from the previous instalment.

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Harvey explains enough about the Jack in the Box to Raven that those who haven’t seen the other films will have no trouble understanding what’s going on. They’re also the ones most likely to enjoy The Jack in the Box Rises because it will be fresh. And that’s the problem I had with it, it isn’t a terrible film, it’s just overly familiar. If the Fowlers had done something interesting with the boarding school setting, The Jack in the Box Rises might have come off better, but all they do is sprinkle in some reform school tropes to provide some conflict among the cardboard cutouts that pass for characters.

I don’t expect a lot of characterization from these films, they’re not high drama. But the most you know about any of Raven’s classmates is one saying ”After my mother died, my stepfather made it clear I wasn’t welcome at home.” The others are even less developed, they’re there simply to die, and the writers couldn’t be bothered putting any effort into them.

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Speaking of death, we do get a few decent effects, including cut off fingers, a claw through a body and a couple of bloodied up corpses. It’s nothing spectacular, but it is better than nothing, and they’re practical, unlike the effects showing what happens when the demon is caught in the light of a blood moon.

Overall, The Jack in the Box Rises suffers from being a lazy sequel and fans of the franchise will probably be underwhelmed. Those who haven’t met Jack before will probably be at least mildly entertained. But if they can’t think of something new for a fourth film, it’s time Jack was left in the box.

4Digital Media has released The Jack in the Box Rises on DVD and to Digital Platforms in the UK and US.

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