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Jack-O Has Arrived. It's Harvest Time!!
Matt - 4/11/01

I don't think you guys know how personally gratifying it is for me to come across awful movies. Because of the nature of this site, watching flicks and television shows have become a masochistic experience for me - if the show is good, there's just not much of a story to tell. But when I come across something bad, I know I'm gonna have a field day talking about it. But, in rare cases, I come across things so unbelievably detestable that my excitement extends to the point where I'll purposely make the review come complete with a shoddy pumpkin background image just to emphasize the point that since I suffered through a movie for you, you should give a little back. So, in honor of that, you'll have to deal with that shitty pumpkin background while reading this. Very few movies have made me want to annoy this site's readers, but frankly, I can't justify the pain I went through watching it unless I get to piss off somebody in return. Actually, on second thought, its going to be hard enough for you guys to get through this...I'll save the pumpkin background for the Monster Squad review. By the way, tonight's fantabulous movie? Jack-O.

Yeah, Jack-O. Another shallow overlook by the Academy? This is one of those movies that catches your eye every time you're at the video store, but despite your curiosity, you just know it ain't worth renting. That's partly because the state of film has left us pretty cynical, but mainly because the box art features a guy with a pumpkin mask and the tagline 'Its Harvest Time!' on it. It takes a really desperate situation to make you pull this one out. In my case, a friend suggested we rent American Psycho. In case you haven't noticed from my random comments throughout the site on this flick, I absolutely hated it. I somehow was able to convince everyone that Jack-O would be more suitable for our little movie party. By the end of the night I probably wasn't too popular with my friends, but hey, at least now I can say, with confidence, that I've seen the worst movie featuring a murdering pumpkin ever made. Scratch that, I'm sure there's a worse one out there somewhere.

Jack-O, surprisingly, is a relatively recent movie having been made in '95. But the effects are quite clearly mid-80s schlock horror, aside from a handful of computer-generated graphics that serve as a reminder that this movie is far too recent to be this bad. I'm guessing that the brunt of the effects budget went into the 'stunning' opening sequence, which features a chilling trip right through the center of a pumpkin! Horror from the getgo! You know you're in for a real treat when a movie lets you make drinking games based on the amount of times the cameras and crew are visible on the set. Its just an added bonus when you begin to realize that everyone on the cast is a lithium addict. Before we begin, let me explain the plot as best I can considering that the movie doesn't have one.

Sean Kelly is a little boy with a problem. Actually, a few problems. Problem #1: his ill-fated bloodline makes him the target of Jack-O, a pumpkin-headed demon from Hell who's out to kill him. Problem #2: the kid is a walking prozac pill. You couldn't invoke emotion out of the guy if you hired three clowns to circle him and juggle nuclear warheads. I can't for the life of me figure out how they cast this kid as the main character. Actually, yes I can, since most of the scenes call for him to fall asleep while standing, probably the only thing he can do with any degree of success. I started fantasizing about some tomato sauce company running a Halloween contest where the person who sent in the most UPC symbols got to star in a horror movie, because there is no way this kid is an actor. Anyway, the plot basically deals with that, but along the way we get tangled in a web of some of the most inane characters cinema has ever offered. I know I say that a lot, but believe me, Jack-O is easily the least frightening of everyone in this film. Before we move on to the review, I think you should meet the cast...

Alright, now that we've established the Hollywood dynasty that is this movie's stars, we can begin.

Sean Kelly is a special boy, if you're using the term 'special' as the classic masked description of a full-fledged retard. But he does have good virtues: he stops his mischievous buddy from throwing rocks at a 'witch's' car. As it turns out, Vivian is no witch. She's just a sweet transvestite with teeth the size of stalagmites. No joke, even if this movie had a comprehensible plot, it'd go right over your head because these teeth of hers are mesmerizing. We're not exactly sure what her deal is just yet, but something tells me she knows a little bit about this Jack-O character who'll appear in oh, about an hour or so. Gotta love schlock horror. You'd think these people would realize they're working with an awful script and get the monster out there from the start to cover it up, but nuh uh. We're treated to an endless stream of what the uninformed would call character development, if your definition of character development includes 45 minutes of people doing absolutely nothing. Vivian is so appreciative of Sean's good deed that she offers to walk him home. Sean knows he's not supposed to chill out with strangers, particularly middle-aged female walrus strangers, but since its literally impossible for the poor kid to explain that in words, he just nods his head while drooling on himself.

They arrive back at Sean's house to find his father, David, putting the finishing touches on his haunted house tour for Halloween night. He and his wife are charging admission into this Garage of Horrors with the intent on giving the money to the homeless. Well, that's officially the sorriest excuse for a charitable event I've ever seen. What are they gonna raise, 10 bucks? The best part is the 'spookfest' he's got planned: the inside of the garage is dimly lit with posterboard cutouts with words like 'eyeballs' and 'bats' written on them. Horrifying stuff. Anyway, he doesn't really mind that his son's hanging around with some strange woman, because that would entail acting out emotions way out of his range.

David's wife, Linda, arrives on the scene to invite Vivian to have dinner with them. She doesn't question her husband over his obvious infactuation with the mysterious stranger for a lot of reasons, but mainly because she's too stupid to notice. Though its surprising that anything gets past her because her eyes are the size of cars. She's not about to tempt fate by picking a fight with David, because she knows there's not a single other guy out there who'll shack up with a woman who looks like one of those specially bred Japanese goldfish with the protruding eyes. I'm not kidding, the things look like they're about to pop out throughout the entire flick. I don't mean she's just wide-eyed, I'm talking about eyes that are literally an inch out of their sockets. Again, I think they just chose people with physical defects so we'd be too preoccupied to pay attention to the script.

Okay, this is tough to explain. The movie's chock full of flashback scenes and Sean's dream sequences. The dreams don't seem to have much impact or revelence to the plot, but they serve a purpose in being so esoteric and out-of-place that you'll be too confused to realize how bad the movie actually is. I'm going to exclude the rest of these sequences from the review, because I have no idea what they're supposed to mean. Incidentally, I'm also going to exclude the 35% of the movie that consists of people watching television. Still not sure how those scenes made it past the editing floor. Come to think of it, the actual story here could easily be condensed into ten minutes. The rest is just there to take up time and to make you wish you got in a fatal car accident while driving home from the video store.

In any event, the above dream sequence shows Sean walking through the woods. By the way, when he's woken up its revealed that he entered this catatonic nap while standing up in the middle of the living room. So, he's not just 'special,' he's narcoleptic too.

Elsewhere, three teens who have no connection to the main characters whatsoever head into the forest in search of occult trouble. It takes us about a third of a second to squarely recognize them as Jack-O murder fodder. The movie's full of charming little nuances like this. Sure enough, the kids stumble onto a gravesite complete with a giant wooden cross that's amazingly gone unnoticed for the better part of a century. For a bunch of drunken idiots, they've got some great honing skills.

I can't remember if Jack-O's made his debut yet, but even if he has, trust me, you're not missing much. The guy is one sorry ass demon. Whereas Jason and Freddy tried to outdo themselves with progressively more and more creative murders, the best Jack-O can do is stab people with an obviously plastic scythe. Worst part? He doesn't kill any of the main characters. After 45 minutes of watching them wallow in their various idiocies, is it too much to ask for at least one of the Kelly family morons to get the axe? Oops, guess I kinda spoiled the ending there. What a shame. It was such a shocker too.

Lady Eyeballs prepares for the converted-garage haunted house. Its Halloween night! They've got a ton of work to do, including setting up a peephole show for their guests which allow them to see disgustingly realistic body parts! For example: grapes! Yes, grapes. Grapes, apparently, are so aesthetically and texturally similar to human eyeballs that nobody will be the wiser! They'll all be so grossed out by this unbridled and unprecedented horror! I know I'd be happy paying two bucks to roam around some weirdo's garage looking at a bowl of grapes and gasoline-soaked rags. I still can't believe they're claiming this is to help the homeless. Another thing...what little kids carry around money on Halloween night? This is the most flawed charity event I've ever seen. Maybe they have to donate their candy to see the scary grapes? They're going to collect stale Mary Janes and hand them out to those less fortunate. Of course, if we're not talking in terms of financial stability, the only people less fortunate than the Kelly family are people born with neon-glowing devil horns. Grapes!

There's your obligatory shower scene, courtesy of Carolyn, a makeshift babysitter the Kelly's' hire out of nowhere just to make things more confusing. See, while they're going to be running that wild and crazy haunted house garage deal, they're simply gonna be too busy to take Sean trick or treating. And let me tell you something - Sean really wants to go trick or treating. Yes, despite the increasing amount of out-of-body experiences and sick daydreams he's having about killer pumpkinheaded demons and the like, there's just no halting his call for candy.

Apparently, Linnea Quigley was a semi-hot dish in Hollywood. Course, time and bad movies take their toll, and she comes off more like a crack whore here, just adding to the proof that Sean's got the worst parents ever. Anyway, no breast shots yet. The movie doesn't realize its rated R until the last 20 minutes. It also doesn't realize its about Jack-O till the last ten, and sadly, doesn't realize the beautiful intricities of sentence structure until well after it went to the direct-to-video vendor outlets. Luckily, we're just about there in the review, so we can finally start getting to the good stuff. If by that you mean laughably bad stuff, of course.

Meet Bill and Helen, the town's snobby religious freaks who can't stand Halloween. Bill detests trick or treaters, telling the kids who come to his door that he doesn't give away food, he sells it. Well that was unexpected. I thought he'd just lay out a simple 'get off my property!' or 'get those cameras off me - this'll kill my career!' I've seen my fair share of bad movies with the anti-Halloween couple, but this is the first time I've seen them demand money for candy. Then again, this is the first time I've seen a movie where the 'murders' entail throwing red paint in the general direction of the victims. Its a world of firsts, this Jack-O. Obviously, Bill and Helen are the target of lots of super-fun and absolutely hilarious Halloween pranks, ranging from the obvious toilet papering of the house, (the kids manage to carry around 45 rolls of it by my count) to more surreal tricks like stealing car hubcaps and throwing them at trees. I don't know what it means either, you're not alone.

There's an unwritten law in shitty horror movies stating that the killer has to murder at least one person the audience despises. In that case, Jack-O must feel like a kid in a candy store, because there's a whole lot of people to choose from. But going after the obnoxious religious freaks is always a safe bet, so let's see Jack do what he does best.

Bill's killing is pretty standard stuff - scythe to the chest, blood out the mouth, down on the ground. But this is just to set up the movie's only true amazing scene - his wife's death. Jack-O catches a break, because the people running around in this movie are stupid and clumsy enough to do themselves in without his help. With that, Helen notices that her husband was killed, so she goes the obvious route of crawling on her knees back into the house, while screaming, and opting to leave the front door wide open. But wait - it gets worse.

She doesn't know what's out there, but the girl's gotta protect herself. So, she grabs the nearest knife. (taken from an earlier scene where she was inexplicably cutting buttered toast into 2" cubes) Problem is, its a friggin butterknife. Not that she'll get to use it, though. See, Helen grabs the knife and manages to trip on a 1' floormat which for some reason is in the kitchen, and falls in such a way that the knife goes directly into a plugged-in toaster! Uh know what that means...

I'm not sure if this one even needs commenting, but needless to say: after watching it, I'm a little less convinced that Jack-O is a horror movie. This has to be comedy. Jack-O is one of those movies where you're not covering your eyes in fright, but simply because you, as part of the ticket buying public at large, refuse to believe that even the very bottom of modern cinema has come to this. Forget about pay cuts and work conditions, its seeing scripts like this that make the Actors Guild strike the hell out of Hollywood.

The best part is the aftermath. Within 8 seconds, Helen's body is reduced to a smoldering pile of charred flesh. If that's not enough to woo you into checking out this flick, consider this: a later scene has little Sean Kelly stumbling into the house, seeing Helen's dead body, and offering absolutely no sign of shock whatsoever. You know you're in for a treat when even the starring character, a 10-year-old, realizes the movie he's in is way too stupid to expend energy on.

Well, there's your gratuitous titshot. I guess the line of thought was that if the director didn't give us at least one 5-second shot of nice breasts, there'd be a lot more refund requests. I've gotta find out who was the innovator of this movie trick, because even in the course of this site I've seen the pointless boob scene in 4-5 flicks. On the out-of-nowhere scale, this one ranks a 6. Its not quite as ridiculous as the infamous alien titshot from Leprechaun IV, but its worth noting since these tits have about as much onscreen time as Jack-O himself.

And now, the ultimate Halloween Chamber of Horrors. The Kelly family is downright creepy. Since Jack-O is such a non-factor, the only thing you have to look forward to in this movie is what the inside of the Kelly Haunted Garage looks like. Since they were previously shilling the thing as the greatest charity event suburbia's ever offered, I was expecting a little more than a dark room with decorations straight out of Rite-Aid. Even their costumes are weak - all they wear are capes! None of the kids are buying it, but it really doesn't make much of a difference anyway because the sum total of what they'd make from this to 'save the homeless' can be found in between the cushions of any couch across the country. I can't imagine them raking in more than 15 bucks, a sad showing for the weeks of preparation that went into it.

Oh yeah, Jack-O somehow manages to get inside the haunted garage, but don't worry, nothing comes of it. He scares away one of the kids, and next thing you know, he's back in the forest. I think the demon was just so flabbergasted with the level of absurdity he was up against, he felt almost shamed killing them since its pretty clear he'd be doing the world a favor - something Hell's demons aren't out to accomplish.

Vivian finally explains why she's got no problems spending every waking moment of her miserable, snaggletoothed life with the Kelly family despite only having met them two days ago. As it turns out, after a life of ridicule, she just wanted to spend a little time with people who didn't expect the allowance of giant teeth jokes in return for their friendship. Aside from that though, she knows Jack-O's dirty secret. In true horror cliche fashion, he's out to kill all the first sons of the Kelly family. Or something to that effect, I really couldn't gather too much information because, like I said, those teeth are absolutely enchanting. I did pick up that she's willingly using little Sean as bait to draw Jack-O in so she can kill him, but as we'll find out in a few minutes, the plan is completely flawed.

By the way, while this movie is worth checking out based on camp value alone, if you'd like to see a flick with the pumpkin/demon theme that isn't necessarily God Freaking Awful, rent Pumpkinhead instead. I wouldn't call either movie a classic even with a gun to my head, but the latter of the two movies at least makes a small attempt to maintain a plotline. Course, there's no mutant teeth or random titshots in Pumpkinhead, so I'll leave it to your tastes.

Jack-O finally does some damage. Remember the titty girl and her stupid boyfriend from earlier? Well, you know that they weren't gonna last since they had no relevance or relation to any of the main characters of the movie. That's definitely to their credit, but its not without a price. Jack-O chops off the guy's head, leaving his body to accomplish the impossible task of moving and shaking for another ten seconds while the head rolls into his girlfriend's lap. And I guess she's got a strong stomach or some really irresistible curious urges, because she picks the thing up and inspects it long enough for Jack-O to waddle his way over and slice her too.

More shitty action transpires, but to sum it up: Vivian's idea of stopping Jack-O turns out to be nothing more than standing in front of him with her arms outstretched. He makes quick work of her. Jack-O buries Sean alive without a hitch because the kid seems almost delighted to help Jack get him underground. Even more amazing is the fact that he emerges from the soil without the slightest trace of dirt. See, he is special afterall. Meanwhile, after all this nonsense, the payoff of Jack-O's death isn't even at the hands of our heroes - the idiot somehow trips and falls through a piece of wood, and since durability isn't the strong suit of low-budget demons, that's all it takes for him to explode into CGI-enhanced flames. '1995' should flash on the bottom of the screen throughout the death sequence.

As you can see, even when a fucking demon is imploding into itself right before his very eyes, Sean maintains the stagnant, statuesque boredom that's made him the renown actor he is today. Maybe I'm being too hard on him. Maybe he encounters pumpkin-faced demons on a semiweekly basis, and the whole aura of shock has totally worn off. Either way, there you have it, Jack-O's been killed. The ending scene, true to form, features the surviving characters talking about buying ice cream and completely overlooking the fact that they just saw their good friend Vivian get gutted by a monster. Not exactly the happiest ending in the world, but realizing the movie was finally over was enough to get me cheering.

Overall: Its not easy to transcribe the script Jack-O was working with in the review, but suffice to say, the movie's not worth renting because of what's happening, but moreover how the characters go about it. A group of people playing Chinese checkers for two hours would triple the amount of emotion of this movie in its entirety. Still, there was no way anyone went into this expecting something good, and given the fact that my friends and I have managed to work the word 'Jack-O' into pretty much every sentence spoken all week, I'll go out on a limb and recommend this for a rental. Don't buy it though. Even if you find it for 2.99, based on principle alone, nobody should ever, ever give Jack-O that much credit.

- Matt

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