Reviewed by: Dave Murray
What's it about
The Kelly family is once again stalked by a century old curse, which resurrects the pumpkin headed, scythe wielding demon named Jack-O Lantern on Halloween Night. Now it's up to a little boy (the fifth generation descendant of the family who first put Jack-O to rest), his hot babysitter (scream goddess Linnea Quigley!) and the granddaughter of the sorcerer who raised Jack-O, to put him down once and for all.
Is it good movie?
Here we have a prime example of missed opportunity and a little bit of wasted potential. Jack-O (and is that ever an unfortunate choice for a title in this decade, hindsight's really a bitch) could have spawned a new horror icon, if it had been done right. Not on the iconic level of Myers, Freddy, Jason or even the bloody Leprecaun or Tall Man. But this could have at least been something cool, a halloween flick with some bite and a slick, pumpkin demon killer. Instead we get a movie centered around a kid who acts like he's clinically retarded, some obnoxious teens, inept parents, a corny back story and a villain who looks like just some guy in a cheap pumpkin mask from Halloween III. Not exactly a menacing image, huh? And the crappy title is just the tip of the iceberg here. We haven't even plumbed the depths of camp yet.
Not that I don't appreciate the campy tone and fun nature of this low budget ham-fest. It's just that most of the movie, including almost every character, got on my nerves. I'm a lover of low budget horror/comedies, and in fact they are some of my favourites, but when the performances are dead flat, the effects dull or nonexistant, the script is poorly constructed and the dialogue is forced, the situations are contrived and the villain is lamer than a three dollar, one legged St. John's harbour hooker, I'm sorry, I just can't get into the movie. Despite a long shower scene from Linnea Quigley herself (and I am not complaining one bit!), the majority of the movie is a mess. It's no wonder after he made his handful of movie for Ray, Latshaw left directing and went on to become a prolific screenwriter of family comedies and straight-to-video action dreck. From the looks of the unfinished Gator Babes footage on this DVD, it was a merciful thing that he did, abandoning the making of movies of this ilk.
Not that it's all shit and groans, mind you. There is the above mentioned shower scene (Ms. Quigley really is a adolescent fanboy's wet dream come to life), as well as a couple of funny light comedy bits. The cameos from late stars John Carradine(which is actually just unused footage shot for another movie that was used here after they died) and Cameron Mitchell, as well as cameos by Brinke Stevens and Dawn Wildsmith, are pretty cool, and the music is pretty good (for being heavy on the synth, which upped the cheese factor a whole lot). Most of the movie is so bad, what with the magically "I'm everywhere!" teleporting villain, throwaway plotless characters (including two annoying hacked up Conservatives), the retarded kid played by the director's son who is a pivotal character to the movie (bad casting choice guys, I really hope that kid quit acting after this!), that it is all really, really funny. But considering when this movie was made (1995), unintentional humour does not make up for a poorly made movie. Even pure camp from the same time period is better made than this. Unless you are craving some seriously bad movie watching with a few chuckles and a whole lot of tedium and emotionless performances, then leave this "classic" alone.
Video / Audio
Video: Widescreen - 1.85:1. The picture on this DVD release is, for a movie made in 1995, pretty damn crappy. Think VHS camcorder and you've got the look. But hey, considering the budget for the flick, would you expect any more? In fact, it's part of the film's cheesy B charm. Yeah, right.
Audio: English (Dolby Difital 2.0) and English closed captioning. The sound was pretty decent here, even for Mono.
Aside from the Original Trailer for the film and a short Behind The Scenes Featurette (which is just a couple of on set clips, and some funny interviews with Quigley; loved the camera guy and his enthusiasm, though), there is an Audio Commentary by Latshaw and pseudo-legendary B-movie producer Fred Olen Ray, which is at times enlightening and a little disturbing. I can see now why Latshaw chucked directing for writing family films. He still seems a little bitter about a few things. But otherwise, it's a entertaining listen, and usually better in places than the acting in the film. Finally we have the chucked-together footage from a follow up movie that never came to be called Gator Babes. Using most of the same cast (in some of the same clothes no less, as the bits were shot during the production of Jack-O), we can all be glad that this movie was never fully realized or even finished. Talk about corny, and not in a good way, folks. It just looks bad on a level I can't comprehend.
For something that could have rocked with just a little more care and talent, Jack-O is a pale imitation of a horror movie, and when compared to the campy schlock that came before, and more contemporary fare, it juts doesn't measure up. There are a couple of nifty bits (two of 'em belonging to Linnea Quigley, of course), but for the most this is a stale and hokey Halloween themed pile of boring. Which is too bad, because the whole idea of a pumpkin headed demon killer had promise. But Latshaw's uninspired directing, a piss poor script, acting that is only matched by the talent of some of Madame Toussaud's wax people, and, well, a big guy in a corny mask playing bad guy, they all add up to another entry into the "so bad it hurts the brain" movie night catalogue.