‘Jikirag’ (2022) Review: The Pagan Horror Movie Is Visually Stunning But Narratively Inconsistent

Directed by: Alexander J. Baxter, Leigah Keewatin, Jessica Moutray

Plot summary: A pagan people, founded on the bones of both innocent and unclean, is deeply rooted in the heart of an ancient Eden. As the balance of flesh and soil deteriorates, the village’s last surviving elder battles madness and the ghoulish to save his people not only from themselves, but also from the monstrous judgment lurking from below.

Courtesy of Constellate Films

Popular horror is probably my favorite kind of horror movie. That’s great, as we’ve been blessed with some amazing movies lately. the vvitch, the lament, The ritual Y midsummer they’re all horror outings that have rightly earned a place as classics of the genre. What’s really interesting about the subgenre is how it really varies in very interesting ways depending on the region. However, there is a common web that connects them. On a broader scale, these films explore the darkness in the forest, but more openly the darkness that haunts our souls.

Jikirag comes from Canada and because of its period setting, it seems like it’s trying to tap into Robert Egger’s thinking the vvitch. Unfortunately, he never reaches those glorious heights. First off though, I want to give the filmmakers a lot of credit as from a technical standpoint this haunting story is very well done for the most part. Visually, the film has a creepy look that oozes atmosphere and thus creates palpable tension. The twisted forest and small town easily set the stage for some solid scares. For what I guess was a modest budget, the costumes and production design are really on point here. It’s complicated when it comes to a period film because it will always be more expensive, but also, you have to be very precise so as not to break the illusion.

Courtesy of Constellate Films

It’s a gamble, but thankfully one that pays off here. I never felt like something completely took me out of the reality of the movie, at least from a purely visual aspect. Very similar to the mentioned the vvitch, Jikirag it aims squarely at making the dialogue feel very realistic for as much of the time period as possible. This aspect works well enough to really sell this as not just a cheesy B-movie, but more of a well-worn relic filled with superstition and paranoia. The authentic tone is perhaps the best thing about this movie outside of its great cinematography.

I am very sad to say that this is where the praise ends, and the film has a lot of problems from a pacing and script standpoint. Without even looking at the credits, I realized that this movie had multiple writers and multiple directors, which ultimately leads to the movie struggling to have a clear identity. The main thesis of the film seems to be pro-environmental, which I think is not bad at first glance. The catch with this comes in two ways: how do you deliver the message, and how do you balance said message with entertainment? Jikirag it fails on both fronts. While I think the movie has an important statement to make, the movies aren’t subtle about their proselytizing. This may not be bad in the abstract, but the movie really builds on this message, and thus the balance is thrown off balance. The pacing is also slow, and at almost two hours long, I couldn’t help but lose interest. It’s hard to get involved with the plot and really connect with any of the characters.

Jikirag it thrives on great production design and rich world building. However, with too many cooks in the kitchen, this popular horror film always seems to be at odds with its own story. The end result is a film that is aimless and not very scary.

Jikirag is currently showing in select theaters and is available on digital platforms courtesy of Vertical Entertainment.

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