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“JACK’S BACK” (Blu-ray Review)

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At face value, JACK’S BACK has all the trademarks of an ’80s horror/thriller: a charming lead, supernaturally-connected twins, prostitute murder and a melodramatic rock ballad kicking off both credit sequences. Hell, even the stylistic flourishes from director Rowdy Herrington (of ROAD HOUSE fame) are unmistakably representative of the era and genre. However, in spite of those timely details, JACK’S BACK is a bit more effective than it’s unassuming reputation may hold, taking advantage of its L.A. setting, high-concept narrative and solid ensemble, lead by an excellent James Spader in a rare dual role.

For those unfamiliar, JACK’S BACK follows a series of slayings whose modus operandi is indicative of Jack the Ripper, whose crime spree was 100 years ago to the date. After the lead suspect- who was a philanthropic doctor- ends up dead, his troubled identical twin brother arrives in town, looking to clear his deceased kin’s name. However, all the brother has to help him are nightmarish visions and a lovely young doctor, who also may be a target of the Ripper imitator.

JACK’S BACK is certainly one of the last of its kind, falling right in between the ’80s killer flick and the ’90s erotic thriller in terms of tone even though the atmosphere is certainly more of the former than the latter. Nevertheless, the film’s greatest asset is Spader, who propels the role of the twins far beyond the trappings of a protagonist; in fact, Spader’s physical interactions with the scenery, including extras and his natural surroundings, is incredibly indicative of his full-on immersion into the role. However, that shouldn’t write-off the rest of the film either, which includes an incredibly charming Cynthia Gibb as well as the great Robert Picardo and an especially wormy performance from Rod Loomis.

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Now on Blu-ray from Scream Factory, the boutique outlet should be commended for going above and beyond for the new digital transfer on JACK’S BACK. Struck from the original camera negative, JACK’S BACK has never looked better, with a depth and clarity that is impressive even beyond the frequent use of soft-lighting throughout the film. And the new DTS Mono track is clear, concise and well-mixed, even if it doesn’t sport the range of a standard 5.1 stereo mix.

Scream Factory also supplies a pair of solid features to this release, which spares this from being a barebones reissue and adding a bit more value to the disc beyond it’s inherent fan base. A 20+ minute “Making Of” featurette is the highlight of the package, offering new interviews with star Cynthia Gibb as well as producer Tim Moore, DP Shelley Johnson and director Herrington that provides some insight into the production and Spader’s lauded performance. Scream Factory also offers a feature commentary from Herrington, which is equally as informative if not as comprehensive as the featurette. The disc also comes with a trailer (which is delightfully era-appropriate) and a DVD copy of the film in tow.

Overall, Scream Factory presents a deserving high-def release to an underrated genre thriller, and one certainly worthy of re-examination now that Spader is at the top of his game once again. With a great new transfer and a few features to please collector’s and fans alike, JACK’S BACK is an unexpected genre gem that’s frightening and fun in equal measure.

About the author
Ken W. Hanley
Ken W. Hanley is the Managing Web Editor for FANGORIA and STARLOG, as well as the former Web Editor for Diabolique Magazine and a contributing writer to YouWonCannes.com. He’s a graduate from Montclair State University, where he received an award for Excellence in Screenwriting. He’s currently working on screenplays, his debut novel "THE I IN EVIL", and various other projects, and can be followed on Twitter: @movieguyiguess.
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