User login

Jack's Back

Review by: 
Head Cheeze
Release Date: 
Scream Factory
Aspect Ratio: 
Directed by: 
Rowdy Harrington
James Spader
Cynthia Gibb
Robert Picardo
Bottom Line: 
Click to Play

Back in the late 1980s, my friends and I hit the video store at least a few times a week, soaking up all of the horror and exploitation our fragile teenage minds could handle. There were some gems from that period that I remember loving dearly, but, for some reason or another, they never made the leap from VHS to DVD, and, as such, were lost in the fugue that was the pot smoke-filled basement of my youth. One such film was a little-known flick called Jack’s Back, starring a pre-baldness James Spader and the insanely sexy Cynthia Gibb. I must have rented the film at least a dozen times in my youth, as I was at once hopelessly in love with Gibb as well as drawn in by this very atmospheric and creative take on the slasher genre. For years I’ve told anyone who would listen about the film, but, aside from a rubbish full-frame U.K. DVD dumped on the market back in the mid-oughties, the movie sat in relative obscurity. When it was announced that Scream Factory would be releasing Jack’s Back on Blu-ray, I literally squealed with the delight of a child on Christmas morning. It’s been a long wait, but, baby, it’s finally here.

The film opens with the brutal murder of a Los Angeles prostitute - the latest in a string of murders inspired by the crimes of Jack the Ripper on the one-hundredth anniversary of his killing spree. The city is in a panic, and the police are forced to call on Dr. Carlos Battera (Robert Picardo), a psychologist specializing in criminal behavior, who warns that the next murder is imminent, and that the victim will be with child.

We are then introduced to Dr. John Westford (James Spader); a young doctor fulfilling his internship at a Los Angeles health clinic while also working to establish better medical care and aid to the homeless of his city. He’s an idealist whose people-first attitude gets him in trouble with his less-than-sympathetic boss, Sidney (Rod Loomis), but endears him to his co-workers; especially fellow doctor, Chris Moscari (Cynthia Gibb).

When John arrives late to work after escorting a local reporter around the homeless camp he helps oversee, he sees a prostitute arguing with Sidney about her unborn child. Sidney urges her to stay off the streets, but the woman shoves past him, pausing when she sees John. They obviously recognize each other, but John says nothing, and, as she leaves, glances at her file and copies down her address.

Later that evening, John sits in his apartment, going over his old belongings, when he pulls out a photo of him at prom standing with his date, who just so happens to be the woman from the clinic.

Meanwhile, the woman is visited by John’s co-worker, Scott (Chris Mulkey) – an awkward hulk of a man who offers to give the woman an abortion for a discounted rate. The woman agrees, and Scott goes about the task.

Worried about the woman, John decides to pay her a visit, but, as he pulls up, he sees Scott leaving his truck and running into her building. John follows him up to her apartment, where he discovers the woman laying on her bed in a pool of blood, while Scott stands beside her. Panicked, Scott throws John onto the woman’s bed and flees, and John gives chase, following him back to the clinic where Scott chokes him into unconsciousness. John awakens only to find a noose around his neck, as Scott attempts to make it look as though John committed suicide out of guilt for his involvement in the Ripper killings.  

Just as John takes his last breath, across town his estranged twin brother, Rick (also Spader, obviously) awakens from a vivid nightmare in which he experienced John’s death. Much to the surprise of everyone, Rick shows up at the crime scene and declares his brother’s innocence, but soon finds himself both a suspect and a target as he attempts to clear his brother’s name.

Jack’s Back blends slasher conventions with a mystery that’s filled with all manner of twists and turns, a few red herrings, and oozes with smoky neo-noir atmosphere.  Spader is great in the role of John and Rick, imbuing each with their own tics, traits, and styles, making for a believable set of twins. His charismatic performance paired with writer/director Rowdy Harrington’s smart screenplay results in a film that’s far better than it really had any right to be, and one that still holds up as well today as it did back upon its release!  

Scream Factory’s Blu-ray presentation offers the film in a new 1.78:1 1080p transfer sourced from the original negative. The image has that late-80s edge softness that was the hallmark of films produced during the era, but, for the most part, it’s a pretty crisp picture, especially in close-ups where fine detail is most evident. There is a bit of excess noise in scenes where there’s a lot of solid colors (white walls, for example) and I noticed blacks seemed a bit subdued at times, but, overall, this is a pretty solid transfer and a huge improvement over the full-frame PAL DVD release from 2007.

We also get a nice collection of bonus goodies, including a feature-length commentary by Harrington, as well as a fairly in-depth retrospective that features interviews with Harrington, cinematographer Shelly Johnson, producer Tim Moore, and, yes, the goddess that is Cynthia Gibb, who is still insanely hot. Also included is the film’s original trailer. All bonus goodies are presented in 1080p HD!

Jack’s Back is a long-lost gem that’s finally been unearthed for a whole new audience to discover. With Spader once again a superstar thanks to his recent turns in The Blacklist and Avengers: Age of Ultron, I hope his new fan base goes back to find out what made him such a big deal back in the decade of decadence as I think they’ll find lots to love here. As for me, I’m just psyched to have this film in my clutches again! 

Your rating: None