Director – Rowdy Herrington
Cast – James Spader, Cynthia Gibb, Jim Haynie, Robert Picardo, Rod Loomis, Rex Ryon, Chris Mulkey
Release Year – 1988
Reviewed by John of the Dead
More often than not I am in need of an 80s serial killer flick, and this time Jack’s Back came in for the win. From first-time auteur Rowdy Herrington we follow a story 100 years in the making. It is the 100th anniversary of the Jack the Ripper killings and a copycat is killing the city’s hookers. A young doctor is suspected of committing the grisly crimes, but when he himself is killed the police force must rely on an unlikely source of information to catch a killer mimicking a killer who was also never caught.
Films playing on or influenced by Jack the Ripper are not a rare occurrence for the genre, but somehow I had never heard of this film until recently. Herrington pens an engaging screenplay that includes many twists and turns, including a major one that throws us for a loop early on. Despite its emphasis on one of history’s greatest serial killers the film does not come with a supreme amount of kills, and focuses more on the investigative measures taken to find the copycat killer. The character play is good and eventually each role is fulfilled more than I expected, with wasteful roles eventually becoming very significant ones. The horror was good as well and managed to keep some good tension going despite a lack of kills and gore, which comes thanks to good writing execution from Herrington.
Equally important is Herrington’s direction, which was surprisingly good for a first-timer with a low budget when so many others have failed under the same conditions. The acting performances are enjoyable and James Spader leads the way in a very diverse fashion. Herrington’s execution of the horror was good and he managed to keep things interesting despite a lack of good kills.
Overall, Jack’s Back is a positive 80s serial killer film playing on one of the most famous serial killers of all time. This experience will not win any awards and is nothing to marvel at, but it is most likely worth your time.