The Strange Case of Jacky Caillou Squanders Its Potential

Image provided by Dark Star Pictures

If you’ve read any of my reviews of werewolf movies before, you probably know I have a love-hate relationship with the subgenre. I’m a huge fan of these monsters, so there are few things I enjoy more than discovering a good new werewolf film. But unfortunately, that doesn’t happen too often. For some reason, most of these movies are pretty subpar, so I approached The Strange Case of Jacky Caillou with a mixture of excitement and trepidation. Would it be another lycanthropic letdown, or would it be one of the few good entries in the subgenre? I didn’t know, but when I pressed play on my screener, I was eager to find out.

The Strange Case of Jacky Caillou was directed by Lucas Delangle, and it stars Thomas Parigi, Edwige Blondiau, Lou Lampros, and Jean-Louise Coulloc’h. It’s about a young man named Jacky Caillou who lost his parents when he was a boy, so he was raised by his grandmother, Gisele. Interestingly, Gisele has a supernatural ability to heal people and animals, and she uses that gift to help the people in her village.

As her grandson, Jacky also has the ability to heal, and before Gisele dies, she teaches him how to exercise it. Then, when she passes away, Jacky contemplates leaving the village to pursue a career in music, but he decides to stay and take up his grandmother’s mantle as the village healer. In particular, he wants to help the last person Gisele was treating before she died, a young woman named Elsa who has a mysterious mark on her back. However, as time goes on, Jacky realizes that Elsa’s affliction is unlike anything he’s ever seen before. She’s a werewolf, and as she kills more and more of the villagers’ livestock, Jacky has to find a way to cure her before his neighbors try to hunt her down instead.

For the first 25 minutes or so, I was totally on board with The Strange Case of Jacky Caillou. It features excellent cinematography, a beautiful countryside setting, and, most importantly, two awesome main characters: Jacky and Gisele. Actors Thomas Parigi and Edwige Blondiau play these roles perfectly, so I really believed I was watching a young man and his grandmother go about their daily lives.

Jacky and his grandmother
Image provided by Dark Star Pictures

I just loved seeing these characters, and I actually became so attached to them that I was genuinely sad when Gisele died. She’s only in the film for these first 25 minutes, but she makes such an impression in that short time that I felt like I had been watching her for hours. She’s that good, and I really wish the movie would’ve kept her around for its entire runtime.

To be fair, I understand why she died. As the title implies, The Strange Case of Jacky Caillou is Jacky’s story, not Gisele’s. It’s all about how he finds himself after losing the security of living under his grandmother’s roof, and Gisele’s death is the catalyst for his growth and maturity.

That being said, I still think killing Gisele off was a big mistake. After losing his grandmother, Jacky decides to stay in the village to help Elsa, so their relationship (which, unsurprisingly, becomes romantic) takes center stage for the rest of the film. But unfortunately, it just doesn’t work. At all.

In particular, Elsa is way too thin of a character to be compelling. In fact, she feels more like a walking plot device than a real person, so I couldn’t buy into her relationship with Jacky. It’s a stereotypical movie romance where two people fall in love simply because they’re both there, and after a while, that just killed the story for me.

To be fair, as much as I disliked Elsa, I have to say that actress Lou Lampros did a really good job playing her. In fact, she was so good that I actually quite liked the character at first. I was really excited to see where the story would take her, but it soon became apparent that she was just there to give Jacky a reason to go through his arc.

Elsa looking at the camera
Image provided by Dark Star Pictures

As I said, she feels more like a plot device than a real person, and that’s why I think The Strange Case of Jacky Caillou should’ve kept Gisele alive. Elsa’s relationship with Jacky ended up falling completely flat, but Gisele and Jacky’s relationship could’ve grounded the story and kept it interesting the whole way through. Sure, the filmmakers would’ve had to find a different catalyst for Jacky’s growth and maturity, but I’m sure they could’ve figured something out. The death of a loved one isn’t the only reason to grow up.

Last but not least, I want to talk a bit about the horror in this movie. The Strange Case of Jacky Caillou is more of a supernatural drama than a straight-up horror film, so don’t expect any gory kills or terrifying transformations. In fact, it doesn’t really have the kind of visuals we traditionally associate with horror. Sure, Elsa is a werewolf, but aside from a few dead animals, we barely see any violence or blood. Almost all the horror happens off-screen, and even then, it’s pretty tame.

In itself, that’s not a bad thing, and if the story had been better, I wouldn’t have minded the lack of explicit horror at all. However, since the rest of the movie is subpar, I really would’ve liked at least one really cool horror scene to pick up some of the slack. But unfortunately, this film takes a bit of a risk and banks entirely on its story and characters, and in my opinion, that risk doesn’t pay off.

So if you’re looking for some good new horror to watch, I’m sad to say that I wouldn’t recommend The Strange Case of Jacky Caillou. It has its strengths, like the characters of Gisele and Jacky and their relationship at the beginning of the story, but they’re ultimately outweighed by the bland, cliche romance the movie focuses on for most of its runtime.

The Strange Case of Jacky Caillou was released in limited theaters in LA and NY on April 7, and it’s set to hit VOD and DVD on April 11.

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Written by JP Nunez

JP Nunez is a lifelong horror fan. From a very early age, he learned to love monsters, ghosts, and all things spooky, and it's still his favorite genre today.

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