I received this movie for review specifically from writer/director Mike Mayhall. Mr. Mayhall is a distinguished stuntman in Hollywood, with credits in major films such as Kill Theory, Jonah Hex, Red, Green Lantern, Looper, No One Lives, G.I. Joe: Retaliation, and Olympus Has Fallen – to name a few. In this industry, it’s natural to progress to other things and take up “many hats.” However, is is possible for a stuntman to fully transition into a bonafied writer and director? Read my review of Jake’s Road to find out.
Jake’s Road follows eight friends as they enjoy a little get away on a family campground set far back in the woods, away from civilization. Unfortunately, this will be the last adventure in the woods, as brothers Sam (Garrett Hines) and Mike (Tim Bell) have decided to sell the family lands left to them by their deceased parents. With the unpleasant news out of the way, and plans for a surprise engagement looming in the distance, the friends finally begin to enjoy their home away from home. Before the party can really start, someone makes it very clear they aren’t happy about the latest news…and they set out to kill everyone still staying on the land.
Jake’s Road is written and directed by Mike Mayhall under Action Logistics, Mayhem Productions, and Sitting Duck Films. It stars Oscar Nominee Eric Roberts (Runaway Train), Garrett Hines (“Treme,” Scream of The Banshee), Leticia Jimenez (So Undercover), Patrick Flanagan (The Unbroken), Tim Bell (Hatchet III), Ashton Leigh (Swamp Shark), Mike Mayhall (Vampires Suck), Miles Doleac (The Historian), Taryn Terrell (“WWE Smackdown”), and Kristin Samuelson (Rook).
The first thing I’d like to touch upon is that by industry standards, Jake’s Road is considered an indie film. But, it is filmed with such technique and spirit that it looks like it has a much bigger budget. It’s leaps and bounds better in terms of quality than just about every horror title hitting DVD this year, and it’s sure as Hell better than anything you’d see on the SyFy channel and those things are made for $1,000,000 each. Cinematographer Nathan Tape, producers Mayhall, Bell, Jimenez, Dan Garcia, Samuel Sullivan, Jessy Williamson, and the editor really deserve a round of applause. Beautiful sets and locations, not a single production mistake to be found, and an all around cohesive film that brings new meaning to the term indie film. I am highly impressed.
Secondly, the cast list for Jake’s Road is a small one, but they all pulled their weight into making this a well rounded piece. A lot of the cast members don’t have high profile gigs on their resumes yet, but let me tell you – every one of these actors has the chops to make it to the major leagues. Not a single moment of bad acting to be found. Often times in indie horror films, actors are untrained and barely delivering their lines in the mood they need to be delivered in. Not here. I was so pleasantly surprised to be entertained by every single actor. Professional, all of them, and I see great things in the future.
Speaking of cast and characters, Jake’s Road is the first horror/thriller in ages where I actually cared about all the characters. It’s formulatic for horror films to have certain stereotypes in every film, usually with a handful that were written to be hated. Again, not here. All the characters were extremely well written and fleshed out, and didn’t fall into the standard, predetermined categories for horror flicks. My favorite characters were the lovely couple, Sam and Kay, with Heath coming in right behind. Major props to Mike Mayhall for bringing original, likable characters to the horror genre.
Jake’s Road breaks all sorts of horror clichés, not just in terms of character development. It doesn’t rely on jump scares and falsely placed backing tracks to gain momentum and suspense. The suspense is real, and created by the tense situations forced upon a group of people you’ll grow to like. When you feel a connection to the people you’re viewing and horrific things happen to them, it’s much easier to build suspense in a genuine way than by using run of the mill horror scares. The plot doesn’t fall into the average territory where you know who will die first and the killer has flashing lights above his or her head indicating their identity. You will be guessing who the killer is up until the last ten minutes of the film. Looking for a horror-thriller, a slasher of sorts, that doesn’t rely on clichés and generic plot formulas? You got it right here, baby.
As you can tell, I loved Jake’s Road. I have no complains about it what-so-ever. I think I can even rate it 9 out of 10 stars. Amazing. I can’t wait until it is released to DVD so I can watch it again. Dare I say it? Jake’s Road is easily thee best indie horror-thriller of the year.