Jack-O (1995) - Hallowe'en is upon us and so it's time to view a film with the holiday in mind. The setting of a small Florida neighborhood on Hallowe'en night is not necessarily the creepiest of settings but it will do for this story of a cursed family and a pumpkin headed demon seeking them out. Steve Latshaw made this unique attempt of a film with some skill but also some obvious money issues. Some unprofessional actors including I think his son as the lead child as well as a script that leaves even the professionals sounding flat; reducing this film from what could have been an entertaining independent horror film into a clunky attempt. Still somehow he managed to get some great horror actors like John Carradine, Linnea Quigley and Brinke Stevens to appear in the film. It is true the nature of Carradine and Stevens is unclear to me. Where they are featured in a film within the film it could be borrowed footage?Of course I over rate these actors because I do love me some low budget films and they are staples in those films. Quigley though playing the protective babysitter can't save this film. As stated above this film is not hapless. Latshaw creates a clear well defined mythology for the curse and even though I am pretty sure some of the logic of is it flawed; this writer is not willing to watch a second time to find the flaws. Still it was impressive that some of the actors in the film were bigger horror name people.Because the film is less than top quality it is even more impressive.
The story goes as we see through some flashbacks that there was a wizard in the small town who was found out and killed. He cursed the town and in particularly the Kelly family. A monster called Jack-O terrorized the town in the early 1900s. Arthur Kelly managed to trap the beast in a shallow grave with a magical cross through the creature's heart. Then there is some stuff about the sixth son of Arthur could do the demon in for good and stop the curse but that seemed tacked on later in the film. So the Monster trapped under the ground for six generations is accidentally freed by a few partying teens and the killing starts anew. The Kelly family, the Dad, David (Gary Doles) a Halloween crazed fellow with a corny haunted garage knows the legend. As does his wife, Linda (Maddisen K. Krown) and son, Sean (Ryan Latshaw) In fact the whole town has the mythology down. It is part of what makes the film a bit interesting. Like the chant we hear in A nightmare on Elm St. this film does a nice job making the legend believable. It gave the film probably more potential than it may deserve. Everyone can recite the sayings around the pumpkin man and do somewhat regularly.
The Monster a larger pumpkin headed fellow with a scythe as a killing tool is certainly menacing enough to fit the myth. Add to this the character of Vivian (Catherine Walsh) a descendant of the wizard who has come around to help end the curse. It all plays out as expected, derivative of other horror films and in the end just a routine film with low production values.
The plot of the film after the killer is raised from the dead is a hunt and slash variety. Jack-O is drawn to young Sean Kelly the sixth generation Kelly. On the way he slices and dices his way through town folk with the intent to kill the kid that can extinguish the curse. A boy of about 10, Sean is going out trick or treating with his babysitter Carolyn (Linnea Quigley). As the killer moves through the town looking for Sean he is out walking, trick or treating. Eventually the family and Vivian realized the truth about the curse being alive and well and go out hunting for the kid also. There is not a lot more than that, run, hide, almost die, repeat. The kills are not very impressive with practical effects and stretegic cutting so not to show too much happening but more the effects of the violence. You see the scythe swing, then cut to it in the gut of the victim, then the face close upwith a blood spit. This is really where the low budget of the film shows itself. Latshaw knows how to shoot these scenes but the nature of the lower budget just does not make it the most satisfying scenes.What it does have is what seems a required Quigley shower scene and also a flash of breasts by the actress player her sister Rachel Carter. This writer would be the last person to say that these scenes add anything to the film.
When we finally get to the the climax and we have the slowest burying alive scene in the history of film, it is an underwhelming and quick finish. Overall this film is not really up to par and can not get a recommendation from this blog. Too many flaws and lacking the biting satire or depth that could get a low budget film a recommendation. It really does not even have any humor except the unintended kind. So you can probably skip this film unless you are punishing yourself for something.