Confined to bed in her candlelit room, the final stages of her terminal osteosarcoma imminent, Olga Marsdale’s sole companion is normally her son Edgar but today she has another visitor, the oily Mister Huxely having obtained the object she has sought to bring her some comfort, “The oldest Jack in the Box ever discovered.”
Her condition making it unlikely there will be repeat business, perhaps Huxely saw no reason not to be rude to both mother and son, but Mrs Marsdale takes exception, marking him as the first of the six sacrifices demanded by the demon of torment held within the box, victims who will grant her a reprieve from death, a bloody plan which will shock her son and test his devotion to mommy dearest.
The Jack in the Box: Awakening written and directed by Lawrence Fowler, it is a sequel to his 2019 original which is obliquely referred to in the opening scenes, offering a history of the cursed object and its creator in a brief period interlude potentially more interesting than the contrivances of the main feature, housemaids Amy and Janet and chef Frank accepting that they are under a curfew behind locked gates and with no mobile service, landline or internet connection to summon an ambulance should their mistress take a turn for the worse.
Edgar (Matt McLure) an ineffectual sleaze from the opening scene, his professed qualms about murder evaporate when he checks his girlfriend’s phone when she is out of the room, nor is it clear how he disposes of the vehicles belonging to the victims sufficiently far from isolated Rosewood Manor to avoid suspicion; did he strap a bicycle to the roof and pedal all the way back home?
The first sacrifice precipitated by the simple action of setting the tumblers and cranking the handle on the Jack in the Box until the mechanism reacts, each of the subsequent kills follows in exactly the same manner with no attempt at variation, suspense or innovation, as predictable as the toy which dates back to the 1500s, making it unlikely that the intricately decorated and well-preserved antique presented by Huxely is in fact “the original.”
The presence of a hideous doll not inherently scary or disturbing in itself, lumps of exposition are spoon-fed to Edgar by the invalid Mrs Marsdale (Nicola Wright doing her valiant best) while Amy and Janet (Mollie Hindle and Michaela Longden) fail to reconsider Frank’s apparent desertion in the light of increasingly suspicious developments, nor the possibility of using a ladder to climb the wall to escape themselves, little more than frustrated cogs in a poorly constructed machine.
The Jack in the Box: Awakening is out now on Digital and DVD in the UK and will be available in the US on Tuesday 18th January