Jack-O (1995)

If we’re being honest, isn’t the real climax of the Fred Olen Ray-produced Jack-O not when the careless Jack-O allows himself to get pushed from behind so that he gets impaled on a piece of wood, but when David Kelly knocks over a shelf full of paint in his garage thus causing the premature closure of his extreme Halloween haunt attraction, “The Haunted Garage”? After all, while Jack-O spent most of the film wandering around Oakmoor in circles killing people here and there for no real reason, David spent the whole movie gearing up for his spooky showcase. He was even using it as a fundraiser for the homeless!

The prep work for the The Haunted Garage surely took the better part of an hour as it involved a few decorations, a fog machine, a witch that lit up when you clapped and some grapes, spaghetti and cauliflower which were supposed be eyes, intestines, and brains respectively. The spray-painted bedsheet announcing the Haunted Garage he hung out front of his house, completed the whole “eight year old kid made this” vibe that he must have been trying for. Dressing up as Dracula and assuming a cheesy Bela Lugosi accent only served to further confirm why David was the sort of guy whose son Sean had to go trick or treating with a babysitter instead of actually having any friends to accompany him.

In the great tradition of Chan Mahon (The Wonderful Land of Oz) and Christopher Barkett (Empire of the Dark), Shawn is played by Ryan Latshaw, son of director Steve Latshaw. As far as actors whose chief talent is blatant nepotism go, Ryan is serviceable, though he is helped out by being surrounded by adults who come by their terrible acting honestly. The best performance by far was Cameron Mitchell as the completely superfluous late night monster movie host on the TV show Shawn watches. And Mitchell was dead before the movie was even made! (The movie within a movie, The Coven, which we see “clips” of is frankly not much more of a sloppy amateur effort than Jack-O.)

Shawn is descended from a family who several generations before helped lynched the town wizard. As you might expect the wizard laid a curse down on the town that the next year, a demon would show up and kill everyone. Shawn’s ancestors stopped that demon, but in a twist of fate that would be shocking if we didn’t seem to see it in every third or fourth horror movie, some drunken punks unwittingly unleash Jack-O and now he’s going to finish killing off the Kelly family! Luckily for him, the Kelly family hadn’t moved across country in the intervening 75 years, forcing Jack-O to convince a Greyhound Bus driver that his scythe is actually a service animal and that the Americans with Disabilities Acts requires Greyhound to let him ride with it.

But because of where Shawn falls on the generational timeline, only he can kill Jack-O! We know this because at the same time Jack-O get resurrected, Vivian, a descendant of the dead wizard appears and relates everything to David. (After helping out with the Haunted Garage of course. Just because some dude with a glowing pumpkinhead is slashing throats all over town doesn’t mean some guy’s embarrassing homemade haunted house has to be postponed!)

Shawn also has some sort of psychic connection to what happened in the past because he keeps having visions of his relatives who probably fought the monster and wizard. (And in a move that only a film shot on weekends, sometimes even at the director’s house, and starring the director’s kid would do, Ryan Latshaw also plays the little boy in the flashbacks as well.)

These psychic episodes do nothing other than reveal some backstory, which seemed unnecessary since there was already a prologue featuring the origins of this tale, but served to give John Carradine (who like Cameron Mitchell had already died before this project), a confusing cameo as the wizard. As we know from his so-humiliating-it’s-funny death scene, in the end none of it even mattered to defeating Jack-O.

So what does any of his have to do with Linnea Quigley as the babysitter taking a nice long shower? Or the camera perversely lingering on her character’s sister’s breasts in another scene? Well nothing of course, but do you really want the liberal filmmakers to spend even more time making fun of conservatives through the two shrill caricatures we see in the movie? It isn’t even that these folks are introduced solely as fodder for Jack-O because while one is killed by the demon, the other just trips and gets electrocuted when she accidentally sticks a fork in a toaster! (And to show how truly awful conservative Americans are, these two refuse to give candy out on Halloween!)

The best that can be said about Jack-O is that Jack-O himself looks cool. At least while standing still and posing menacingly, his glowing jack-o-lantern head exactly what you want and expect from such a Halloween monster. He’s a lot less cool when he’s trying to chase people or getting pushed around, but in a movie where everything is breathtakingly substandard from the script, the effects, performers, all the way down to the very end of the movie when after almost being killed and having seen people murdered right of front of them, the survivors decide to go out for breakfast and one of them says she wants pie, but just as long as it’s not pumpkin pie, Jack-O at least looks the part the movie was after.

Demonically disappointing at every turn, director Steve Latshaw wisely turned the focus of his career largely away from directing to find more success writing loads of great low budget action movies like Mach 2, Scorpio One and US Seals: Dead or Alive.

© 2017 MonsterHunter

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