With Halloween being less than a week away, watching my VHS of Steve Latshaw's Jack-O seemed like a no-brainer.
Many generations after the Kelly family executed an evil wizard (from Florida?!), a curse resurrects Jack-O to take down the rest of the bloodline namely mild mannered trick or treater Sean (Ryan Latshaw).
I'd heard rumblings about this movie not being the greatest, and they were all true. Though it was a bit of a bore, I still managed to get some joy out of it. When looking at it from a filmmaker's perspective, it's actually a pretty good clinic on the trials of low budget genre filmmaking and coincidentally shares a lot of similarities with Gary Graver's Trick or Treats, which I posted about a few weeks ago.
In addition to them using their own houses to shoot, Latshaw used his own son, Ryan as the lead. Also like Treats, Jack-O featured a ton of genre cameos, this time mainly sourced from abandoned projects. John Carradine appears almost nine years after his death in bits originally meant for a picture called Cannibal Church and Cameron Mitchell shows up as a TV host, by way of dead anthology piece Terminal Shock. Rounding things out was footage of Brinke Stevens running through a graveyard that producer Fred Olen Ray shot while vacationing in Salem, Mass.
|Ryan Latshaw as Sean in Jack-O|
So after an incredibly convoluted set-up, Jack-O rises from the grave to lumber around and dispatch largely random characters. The creature design was kinda cool, but the budget kind of limited what he could do and we rarely got a good look at him. I have to say that even though this movie was made in 1995, it felt much more like an eighties film in tone and structure. I guess the Rush Limbaugh-like character that keeps appearing on TV was really the only thing that rooted it in the decade it was actually made in.
Jack-O was largely off-kilter, but not in the same way that Trick or Treats was. I found it odd that the kid's family just immediately welcomed a complete stranger into their home. Sean was hanging out with this woman in his bedroom and even sitting on her lap within hours of meeting her. And don't get me started on the Kelly's janky haunted hou-- garage that the father managed to accidentally trash after just two kids had gone inside it. Jack-O did have the saving grace of having Linnea Quigley in it – naked within two seconds of being onscreen of course – though. I was shocked to see that she actually survived too, especially since there was a moment I was sure she was going to get cleaved in two.
|Linnea Quigley (right) & Rachel Miller in Jack-O.|
Before signing off I do have to mention the commentary track – that I subsequently watched on YouTube – because it was better than the actual movie. I wager you too will awkwardly laugh as the banter between producer & director goes from sarcasm and jovial ball busting to full-on arguing and resentment. I'm not one-hundred per cent sure it wasn't scripted to make things more interesting, but it sounded pretty real to me.
At the end of the day, Jack-O was a low-budget throwaway that had its moments. It's certainly no Satan's Little Helper, but it could still be a hoot to watch with some pals while throwing back a few.