The Jester is a new horror film making its way to theaters and video on demand this Halloween season. Directed by Colin Krawchuk in his feature film debut, The Jester is based on a trilogy of short horror films that Krawchuk previously created along with co-writer Michael Sheffield, who also stars as the villainous title character. Set over the course of one fateful Halloween night, The Jester follows two estranged sisters who must band together to try and defeat the malevolent supernatural entity known only as “The Jester” who begins sadistically stalking them and leaving a trail of bodies in his wake.
Featuring rising stars Lelia Symington and Delaney White as the lead sisters Emma and Jocelyn, The Jester aims to provide frights and a creepy villain for horror fans this October. With his ghostly white mask, orange suit and supernatural abilities, early comparisons have been made between The Jester and Art the Clown from Damien Leone’s Terrifier films. While this has sparked some controversy, The Jester does seem to offer its own macabre twists and story. Reviews so far have been mixed, with praise for the visually creepy Jester but some critiques on the pacing and plot.
In this review, we’ll take a deeper look at all the elements that make up The Jester to see if this micro-budget horror flick is worthy of your Halloween watch list or if you’re better off skipping it for more reliable frights. From the effectiveness of the title villain to the acting, story and technical chops, we’ll highlight the pros and cons so you can determine if facing The Jester is right for you this scary season.
The Sinister Jester
With his ghostly pale mask, vibrant orange suit, and sadistic tricks, The Jester makes for an instantly iconic horror villain. Visually, The Jester has an incredibly creepy and unsettling look. The stark white mask covers his entire face with exaggerated eyebrows and a curled jesters smile painted on it in black. With its frozen, unmoving expression, you can’t tell what The Jester is thinking or feeling, adding an extra layer of unease. His bold orange suit decorated with pom poms and bells completes the sinister jester aesthetic. He also wears a top hat and carries an ominous cane. Even just standing silently, The Jester’s appearance is enough to send chills down one’s spine.
In addition to his creepy look, The Jester possesses supernatural abilities that allow him to toy with his victims. He can suddenly appear and disappear at will, haunting those he has chosen to terrorize. The Jester also exhibits telekinetic powers, able to control objects through hand gestures and use them as weapons, like making nooses come to life. This adds extra suspense, as you never know what sinister trick The Jester will employ next.
His style of killing is akin to a cat playing with its prey before going in for the kill. The Jester likes to frighten and mentally torment his victims through games and illusions before finally executing them in gruesome fashion. In one scene, he plays a deadly shell game with a victim, making him pick the wrong shell over and over again until the man’s eyes and teeth are horribly ripped out for choosing incorrectly. The Jester clearly relishes in the physiological torture, evident from his ostentatious gestures and mannerisms while stalking his prey.
Comparisons to Art the Clown from Terrifier are apt, as both share similarities as horror icons who don’t speak but communicate through visual theatrics. However, The Jester has his own unique flavor. While Art has an utterly sadistic bloodlust, The Jester is more calculating and methodical, preferring head games and fear over pure gore. The Jester also brings a clear supernatural element that adds new dimensions. His muted mime-like movements are incredibly eerie and uncanny, solidifying him as an original and compelling slasher villain for modern horror fans.
By keeping The Jester shrouded in mystery, it makes him an enigmatic figure of fright. We don’t know his motives or origins, but then again we don’t need to in order to feel the malice lurking beneath the flamboyant costume. Overall, The Jester is a horror villain who clearly makes his mark through his ghostly appearance, sinister tricks, and the palpable sense of dread he brings to the screen. While comparisons to similar clown horrors are inevitable, The Jester carves his own niche and stands out as a villain who delivers the scares.
A Tale of Grief and Regret
The Jester features an emotional narrative revolving around grief, regret, and the long-lasting impacts of past mistakes. The main storyline follows estranged half-sisters Emma and Jocelyn, brought together after the sudden death of their shared father. Neither knew the other existed until their father’s funeral, representing the deep secrets and compartmentalized life their father led. The sisters meet under tragic circumstances, both processing acute grief over their father’s death combined with anger over his lifelong lies.
This painful family drama collides with the supernatural horror of The Jester targeting the sisters. The Jester embodies the darker emotions of grief, regret, and rage, materializing at moments when the sisters experience extreme distress. In this way, The Jester becomes intrinsically connected to the story’s themes, acting as a sinister physical manifestation of internal turmoil bubbling to the surface.
The film’s pacing mirrors the ups and downs of the grieving process. Slow sections allow the viewer to sit with the melancholy and resentment the sisters feel, interrupted by intense encounters with The Jester sparking fear and panic. These highs and lows artfully convey the rollercoaster of grieving, from listless despair to frightening outbursts.
The subplot with Jocelyn and her friends feels disjointed at times, but ultimately intertwines with the main arc. Jocelyn separating from her friends on Halloween to be with family represents her past life and innocence dying along with her father. While pacing suffers occasionally with jumps between the sisters’ plot lines, these branches converge fittingly in the climax.
The ending delivers an emotional gut-punch. Emma is forced to relive her worst memory – finding her father dead from suicide years before. This time with The Jester manipulating her through this trauma, Emma must confront extreme pain to save her sister and put The Jester to rest. The finale emphasizes forgiveness and fighting through pain to reconnect with estranged family.
While downbeat, the ending completes Emma and Jocelyn’s arc realistically. Their father’s death and The Jester’s attacks will forever haunt them, but they emerge closer, their understanding of each other and their shared grief bringing catharsis. Where The Jester embodied raging, unrestrained pain, the sisters overcoming him signals hope.
By blending grief and regret seamlessly with supernatural horror, The Jester stands out in how poignantly it explores complex emotional themes for a slasher flick. The sisters’ palpable pain resonates made even more vivid against the chilling presence of The Jester. While pacing suffers at times, the story ultimately weaves together its disparate threads for a satisfying if solemn finale. By confronting pain together, Emma and Jocelyn dispel the darkness plaguing them, making The Jester a deeper cut of horror exploring loss and reconciliation.
Complex Characters Caught in Turmoil
At the heart of The Jester lies the tumultuous relationship between grieving half-sisters Emma and Jocelyn. Emma, played by Lelia Symington, is the quietly damaged older sister. Through flashbacks, we learn of the trauma Emma experienced discovering her father’s suicide years prior, leading to estrangement from Jocelyn’s mother and her half-sister. Symington portrays Emma’s melancholy and cautious nature well, though becomes a bit one-note in her constant staring off in mournful thought.
Jocelyn, played by Delaney White, represents youthful innocence shattered. White nicely captures Jocelyn’s blithe immaturity enjoying one last Halloween with friends before her father’s death rips away her sheltered life. Jocelyn undergoes the biggest change, gaining maturity and empathy as she grieves alongside the once-unknown Emma. White showcases Jocelyn’s emotional journey from clueless teen to young woman scarred but wiser.
Together Symington and White create a complexsibling dynamic that evolves throughout the film. Understandably distant at first, we see glimpses of their repressed bonding as they open up about shared pain. Their chemistry strengthens particularly in the climax, where their sisterly connection proves the key to conquering The Jester.
Supporting characters like Jocelyn’s friends add some levity but remain underdeveloped. The friends are mercilessly offed by The Jester, denying opportunity to grow beyond stereotypes of “the jock” or “the rebel.”
Jocelyn and Emma’s mothers also lack dimension, acting cold and unsupportive in the sisters’ time of need. While meant to heighten the sisters’ isolation, the one-note cruel mothers feel contrived.
Where the film truly shines is drilling down on the sisters at the center. Jocelyn and Emma avoid easy tropes, transforming from estranged to bonded through navigating profound grief. Their nuanced performances and relationship add depth against the backdrop of The Jester’s supernatural horror.
Crafting a Macabre Mood
On a technical level, The Jester utilizes its indie budget well to deliver an eerie atmosphere and several standout sequences. Cinematographer Joe Davidson bathes the film in shadowy tones and striking lighting, often cloaking The Jester in an aura of darkness. Creative framing choices ramp up tension, like shots positioning The Jester in the background barely noticeable at first. The muted color palette and moody lighting work harmoniously to sustain an unsettling mood.
The effects are judiciously used, allowing the small team to focus resources on select gory payoffs. The Jester’s ghostly powers come across convincingly enough for the story without overextending the budget. The scene of The Jester sadistically ripping out a man’s eyes and teeth displays impressive practical effects. While restrained compared to similar slashers, the FX team crafts these moments with care to maximize impact.
The sound design enhances the horror with amplified soundscapes of The Jester’s bells jingling or his victims’ heartbeats thundering. Discordant violin screeches underline the most suspenseful sequences. The sparse soundtrack knows when to recede into silence, allowing scenes to build tension through natural ambience.
Director Colin Krawchuk does an admirable job capturing the look and feel of a higher budget horror. A few editing hiccups where day becomes night abruptly pull viewers out of the experience. But Krawchuk largely sustains the sinister atmosphere through conscious cinematic and sound choices. Restrictions from the modest budget rarely undermine the vision.
For an indie horror flick made for under $100,000, the technical execution of The Jester impresses in many regards. The creative team works smartly within limitations, spearheaded by Davidson’s chilling cinematography and standout practical gore effects. Minor quibbles aside, this is a well-constructed horror movie that overcomes budget constraints to deliver on mood and style. The Jester makes up for its indie restrictions with plenty of directorial flair and nuanced technical choices that provide the scares.
A Flawed but Frightful Indie Horror Romp
While The Jester stumbles in some areas, it ultimately delivers an entertaining and surprisingly poignant indie horror flick for the Halloween season. The Jester himself is the movie’s biggest strength, bringing a creepy new horror icon to life through his sinister look, mysterious powers, and sadistic mind games. Michael Sheffield deserves praise for his mime-like performance that oozes menace without uttering a word.
The emotional core centered on grief and regret adds resonance not often found in the slasher genre. Lelia Symington and Delaney White bring nuance to their roles as the afflicted sisters at the heart of the story. However, pacing issues and disjointed subplots prevent the movie from fully realizing its ambitions at times. Supporting characters fall flat and the story becomes derailed in the transition between familial drama and supernatural thrills.
Yet for horror fans seeking some original scares this Halloween, The Jester delivers on the horror elements with several tense set-pieces. The creepy cinematography, grisly practical effects, and sinister soundscape create an eerie, unsettling mood befitting the lead villain’s talents. On a small budget, director Colin Krawchuk squeezes true cinematic style and flair from his indie production.
While not without flaws, The Jester carves out a place of its own amongst recent Halloween horror entries like Terrifier 2 and Pearl. The title villain alone makes this a worthy watch for slasher enthusiasts. For horror hounds seeking a creepy, moody flick that also attempts to tug at the heartstrings, The Jester provides a solid option to get your spooky fix this season.
The Jester is a flawed but enjoyable horror romp carried by the creepiness of its iconic villain. While the story gets bogged down at times trying to balance multiple tones and arcs, Michael Sheffield’s sinister performance as The Jester and the movie’s chilling atmosphere make it worth a watch for horror fans this Halloween season. The Jester himself brings the scares, but issues with pacing and plot hold the overall film back from reaching its full potential. For those seeking some spooky thrills centered around a new slasher icon, The Jester should provide enough entertainment value to satisfy horror enthusiasts looking for a creepy good time this October. Just don’t expect it to reach instant classic status and you’ll have fun descending into madness with The Jester.
- The Jester is an instantly iconic and creepy horror villain
- Michael Sheffield delivers an eerie, mime-like performance as The Jester
- Creative and sinister killing scenes and supernatural elements
- Moody cinematography and solid indie production values
- Actresses Lelia Symington and Delaney White give nuanced lead performances
- Story attempts to bring emotional depth about grief and regret
- Pacing drags at times between horror scenes
- Supporting characters are underdeveloped
- Tone shifts between drama and horror don't always gel
- Some ineffective editing and continuity errors
- Similarities to Art the Clown and Terrifier films may bother some