We’re living in tumultuous times. The COVID-19 pandemic still has the world in its deadly grasp. Xenophobia reigns supreme, catalyzed by social media. Chris and Jay Thornton’s found-footage horror film Cactus Jack may have begun production over four years ago, but its examination of an extremist hatemonger – a basement troll taking his viral hate to whole new levels – is sadly more relevant than ever.
The movie’s gritty look (it was allegedly made for a measly $20,000, and “a crew of zero”) complements the minimalist narrative, bringing to mind Srdjan Spasojevic’s ultra-bleak “humans are sh*t” treatise A Serbian Tale or, to a lesser extent, Pier Paolo Pasolini’s cult classic Salòm or 120 Days of Sodom (which was also a treatise on fascism). Its realism and purposefully repetitive nature are bound to make you feel deeply uncomfortable, wincing at every racist/ misogynistic/ generally hateful slur (of which – fair warning – there are many). So yes, this glimpse inside the mind of pure evil is not for the faint of heart. But, hey, neither is living in 2021.
“…the typical day in the life of a white supremacist. Ronald wakes up and hates, hates, and then hates some more…”
The first half is shot (or edited) in an effectively immersive black-and-white. Chris (Sam Kozé), an amateur documentary filmmaker, sounds frightened as he begins to interview Ronald, a.k.a. Cactus Jack (R. Michael Gull). Ronald lives in his mom’s basement, although he’s in denial; “It’s only out of the kindness of my own heart that I let her stay here,” he proclaims – and that’s him being nice about his mother. While showcasing his Nazi memorabilia and an assortment of weapons, Ronald states about the outside world: “Why would I wanna go out there? A man’s home is his castle. I got everything I need, right here.” He’s ready for the imminent apocalypse.
The Thornton brothers walk you through the typical day in the life of a white supremacist. Ronald wakes up and hates, hates, and then hates some more, projecting his demons into hate (his father blew off his head). This is a man way past the point of no return. “Calling them slaves infers that they’re the same species” is the kind of hate he spews. He spouts nonsense about the etymology of curse words, his thoughts on slavery and race, his support of Trump – until spouting becomes insufficient, and he turns the camera on the hapless Chris.
"…sadly more relevant than ever."