Directed by Steve Wollett | Reviewed by Anushka Dutta
Writer, producer and director of ‘Jack Be Nimble’, Steve Wollett, CEO of Furious Nerd Production and the Archduke of Kronstadt, is a prolific and versatile artist. Inspired by real-life conversations with his gaming friends, Wollett produced this sci-fi horror feature film at the zenith of the coronavirus pandemic. ‘Jack Be Nimble’, a true tribute to gaming and nerd culture, features Vernon Wells as Jack, the protagonist, and Bai Ling as Nurse Edmonds, the demon banished from Hell to the aggravating mortal world on a quest to collect a hundred willing souls.
With degrees in criminal justice and comparative religion, Steve Wollett has worked in several fields including the military, emergency services, criminal justice, civil engineering, cancer research, and worked in various capacities on over a hundred and fifty films. Having gained a scrupulous insight into filmmaking, he has begun to write and direct his own films only recently and won awards far and wide for the same. Taking that into consideration, we can draw a parallel between the character of Jack, a retired soldier and ex-priest with Wollett himself, a former EMT and firefighter, a US Army veteran, and a substitute health care specialist.
Containing ample references to Dungeons and Dragons, the film accomplishes its purpose as a homage to gaming culture. A group of old gaming friends, namely Jack (Vernon Wells), Otto (Steve Silver), Storm (Liz McCullough), Karl (Brent Moorer Gaskins), and Nick (Frank O’Brien) live in Shady Acres Assisted Living, a health care facility for old people, under the supervision of Doctor Monroe (Katherine Mesa) who is solely concerned about filling beds and gaining handsome profit. “This fucking place is a death trap”, says Jack, “We live in a facility where someone dies every week.” Our incapacitated hero, a drunk in a wheelchair spouting apparent nonsense suspects the presence of a soul-sucking demon in the facility. “We have a killer amongst us”, he says. But no one believes him. Should we?
Coming to the character of the ‘demon’ in question, there are many layers to it. In the guise of Nurse Edmonds, the demon exudes intense sexual energy. The filmmaker perhaps plays with one of the seven sins of man – Lust. However, she does not seduce her victims into voluntarily handing over their souls to her. The lust is primarily manifested with cinematic virtuosity when she feeds on their souls. On the contrary, in the scene where she visits Nick at his bed to give him the good news and he tries to violate her, the role of lust as sin is reversed, for, after all, it is not the weapon of the demon but that of Man.
Bai Ling does an exceptional job at playing the ‘generous’ nurse. With great finesse, Ling performs excitement, desperation, despair, kindness, tenderness, empathy, grief, affliction and torment among other emotions through the character she plays in this fantasy thriller. The cinematography and editing play vital roles in highlighting and uplifting the character of Nurse Edmonds. Owing to his knowledge in comparative religion, the filmmaker works with the clash between holy magic and sorcery of the sinful in this feature film. The bewitching demon with her occultic charms not only allures the characters in the plot, but also the audience in some ways; for she is not the villain of the story, but the anti-hero even more.
‘Jack Be Nimble’ may be deemed as an entertaining work of fiction. The film can widely be enjoyed by gaming enthusiasts, geeks, and individuals intrigued by witchcraft, necromancy and black magic. The plot involves enough mystery, suspense and is rather engaging. In fact, there can be an alternate interpretation of the story. Towards the opening of the film, Jack is shown drinking near a staircase hallucinating about the nurse in her demon form. And since we know him to be a survivor of war, we can also identify Jack as a delusional veteran in a desperate mission to prove the existence of the supernatural to cope with the physical and psychological loss he had encountered on the battlefield.
Anushka Dutta is a student of English Honours, and a part-time content writer. A writer, singer and an artist; they have worked as an ambassador for Japan Film Festival in 2020 organized in Kolkata, India. They are a professional singer and have done playback singing in movies.