Centuries ago, an evil wizard was executed by Mr. goodie two shoes, Arthur Kelly for his terrible practices – the wizard swears to one day take revenge on the Kelly family. He finally gets his chance when a group of 27-year-old teens mess around with his grave and unwittingly release the vengeance-seeking wizard who has now taken the form of Mr. Jack the Pumpkin Man! What a name!
1995’s Jack-O is a film with such clout, that it actually has, not one, but two tag lines – the first being It’s Harvest Time! which obviously fits with a movie about a killer pumpkin head dude…and the second one is He’s Baaack! But what exactly is Jack-O back from? The non-existent first film? Maybe the bathroom perhaps? If that’s the case, I hope he washed his hands with all that H1N1 going around. Moreover, what the hell is a Jack-O? Like that crazy pop singer that went bonkers before our very eyes? Oh wait, I get it…it’s short for, Jack O’ Lantern! Well played by the thinkers and doers behind Jack-O…well played indeed.
What can you expect from a movie titled Jack-O you ask? Not much, but I personally hope for some cheesy/sleazy fun, and Jack-O delivers on those qualities quite efficiently. There are a handful of familiar genre names and faces that give the film some solid B-movie credibility. You have a bunch of scream queens with Brinke Stevens who shows up as a sexy witch, Dawn Wildsmith as a sexy Sorceress, and every ones favorite B-Movie horror queen, the lovely Linnea Quigley.
This holiday themed Slasher film was directed by Steve Latshaw, and the sleaze cred goes even further with Fred Olen Ray in the producers spot…and that is where things get a little more interesting. Fred Olen Ray apparently had some extra footage of John Carradine just sitting in the forest at nighttime, along with some footage of Cameron Mitchell telling a ghost story to a not-yet-realized audience. Ray then challenged Jack-O’s writer, Brad Linaweaver to write a feature-length script based around this short amount of footage, which he did and the result is of course, Jack-O! I thought it was somewhat funny that Jack-O came from a sort of dare, and it is fittingly a very Ed Wood Jr. approach to filmmaking, especially when you see this footage in the film and how much it does not match at all with the rest of the movie.
Jack-O is perfect for a Halloween party with a bunch of intoxicated friends…there is a lot to laugh at with this one folks. Sean Kelly (played by Steve Latshaw’s son, Ryan) is the youngest of the Kelly clan, and suffers from these constant visions at the beginning of the film, which also serves as a way to explain the back story with that wizard Jack-Off I mentioned earlier. This is where the attempt at camera angles with skewed movements are “skillfully” showcased. The first shot of Jack-O himself was intense, mostly because I saw the exact same Jack O’ Lantern at Walgreen’s the very same day I watched Jack-O. Wish I had bought it now!
You can tell Jack-O is low budget when most of the locations are designed specifically for teens to (who are older than my parents) enjoy some beverages, and each other, out in the woods. Nevertheless, when teens are drinking and touching in the woods, you know they’re gonna get Jack-Ed up, when Jack-O shows up! The kills aren’t too terrible and there is a good amount of them – they mostly consist of “swing weapon – cut to victim holding throat or abdomen – blood spurts out of said wound.”
It’s not just teens that are the main focus of Jack-O’s rage however. There’s a random cable guy (played by the director) who is apparently working the late shift that gets it for cable prices always being, Jack-Ed up! The best deaths come when a husband and wife are bothered by trick or treater’s as they are watching TV – the husband answers the door and says to the kids “looking for a handout?!” When you’re an asshole to trick or treater’s on Halloween, you can surely expect a visit from Jack-O who teaches the husband a lesson – with his scythe. After the man is killed, his wife, who is inside making toast (?) frantically slips on a kitchen rug and jams the knife she is holding right into the toaster. The result is the best electrical action I have seen since an 80’s metal video!
What holiday themed Slasher would be complete without the some random T&A? Well, Jack-O has its fair share of pumpkins to stare at, most notably has to be the obligatory shower scene. A three plus minute shower scene to be exact – with some generous upper body shots that almost had me Jack-Ing off! Can you guess who the upper body belonged to? You got it, Linnea Quigley! She always brings her A-game. Well, more like C-game if we’re talking cup size.
As I said the acting is gut wrenchingly weak, but that make the movie that much more fun and some of the faces that these “actors” make is the stuff of legend. Rebecca Wicks as Linda Kelly constantly makes a face as if she has a pound of Peter North meat packed in her rear entrance. Catherine Walsh as Vivian (who looks like she could be the daughter of Andy Dick and Kathy Griffin…blech!) has a great scene where it seems that she is just standing there waiting for the director to call action, and she then suddenly walks off camera! Cinematic gold!
There are even more odd and random sidesplitting instances strewn through out Jack-O. One scene has these limp-wrested punk-ass kids throwing rocks at a woman’s car, but rather than actually hitting the vehicle, the rocks conveniently hit the ground just in front of the tire! Must not have been in the budget for a new paint job I guess. Maybe that portion of the budget went to the wardrobe department as one of the post-teens is literally wearing jeans that are ripped from her labia; right down to her ankles…didn’t this movie come out in 1995?! Also, how many people does it take to nail two branches together to make a cross? Apparently, three. There’s a Polish joke in there somewhere.
I have seen many cruddy movies like Jack-O, and one thing that was missing from the movie was Jack did not speak at all. That is a huge bummer as it would have been great to hear him spout off some funny one-liners occasionally. Still, I had no problem filling those shoes as I yelled out a couple of lines myself to make up for the lack of Jack participation. Still, Jack-O is a wildly entertaining B-movie in the vein of Jack Frost and Uncle Sam, and one that makes for a good time with a group of friends and a bottle of…Jack! Of course.