Halloween themed movies are a dime a dozen. Some are instant classics like the John Carpenter classic and some are instant crap. Unfortunately I have seen more crap than classics when it comes to Halloween movies. So when I stumbled upon Jack-O I was curious. I knew it was a low budget film but that doesn’t always mean things will be bad. And scarecrows have always been kind of creepy to me. Growing up in the Midwest and going to college in the middle of farm country, I have seen some of these things up close and I can see why some people have a severe aversion to them. So what happens when you combine these two things? Let’s take a look.
The people of Oakmoor Crossing have a little urban legend for their town. It seems that years ago, a warlock named Walter Machen was hung for being, well, a warlock. But just before he dies he decides to put a curse on the town in the form of Jack-O, a stalking scarecrow killing machine. Jack-O tears through the town and kills many before one man takes down the evil creature. Flash forward to present day, well the mid-90s actually. And it seems some dumb teens have managed to upset the grave of good old Jack-O and he is free to kill again. Now it is up to Sean Kelly, a direct descendent of the man who put Jack-O to rest years ago, and his parents, baby sitter, and a few others to take out Jack-O once and for all. But can you really kill this evil? And just how many will Jack-O slice and dice on Halloween night?
When I first picked up this movie I have to say I was pretty excited. I saw the names of David Carradine, Linnea Quigley, Cameron Mitchell, and Brinke Stevens on the box. B movie heaven here I come. Problem was the credits rolled and the name Fred Olen Ray came up. Right then and there I knew this movie was doomed. Even though he only executive produced the film, his name usually means certain death for a film for me. Let me say I love hokey films, give me Roger Corman films until I pass out. For some reason Fred just doesn’t do it for me. And Jack-O is no exception. This movie is a flat out mess. It is one of the most convoluted story lines ever. There are so many people coming in and out of the movie it feels like you are watching a soap opera. We get gratuitous nudity that makes absolutely no sense. I am all for nakedness in slashers, but the long shower scene with Quigley made me fell like I was watched a soft core porn movie at 3 in the morning on cable. Nothing happens until nearly an hour into the film and it is only 90 minutes. And once the killings start they made me want to take a nap. With low budget films I expect cheesy gore and goofy kills. We get none of that here. Most of the kills are implied or we just see the aftermath. One close-up of a throat slitting is so bad it was better off left out.
Why they had this film set on Halloween is beyond me. It was obviously filmed in a warm climate, Florida I think. You would think since director Steve Latshaw being from the Midwest would have gone for a more rural look. Hell Halloween was filmed in California but John Carpenter made it look like it was right outside my Illinois door. I didn’t expect high production values here, but a scarecrow roaming through a plush suburb just didn’t work. Latshaw does have some talent with the camera. There are few interesting shots and I think with the appropriate budget and script he could do something good.
Easily the biggest disappointment of this film is the use of the B-movie stars. Both Cameron Mitchell and David Carradine appear in this 1995 movie, however there is a slight problem. They both had been dead for several years before this movie even started filming. I admit it was my fault for not realizing that when I picked up the movie. But it is a real shame that these two are exploited in this way. Both appear in stock footage scenes. Mitchell’s scenes as a late night horror movie host aren’t too bad but it is still a waste. Much more insulting are Carradine’s scenes as the warlock Machen. These scenes were filmed years before and just don’t flow. It is obvious the scenes are not the same stock as the rest of the film. This has a very Ed Wood feel to it where footage is just shoved in. Carradine has done some very good and very bad horror films, but he deserves a lot better than this.
I would really like to see a good scary movie about scarecrows, unfortunately Jack-O is definitely not it. I love cheap independent horror films but there really is nothing here to recommend. The production values are horrible, the acting is atrocious, and the kills are laughable. Normally that would lead to a “it is so bad it is good” kind of movie but that just doesn’t happen here. Zero scares, no gore, and a killer who looks like he is wearing an orange beach ball on his head equals really boring waste of an hour and a half. There is nothing in this movie worth recommending. Even Linnea’s naked body can’t save this mess. 2 out of 10.