Jack O’ Lantern (2004)

Starring Dave R. Watkins, Kevin L. Powers, Tracy Yarkoni, Justice Leak

Written & Directed by Ron McLellan

Four weeks ago, Hurricane Katrina pretty much destroyed the hometown and region of the country where I’ve lived virtually my entire life, and while my home survived the storm itself, it remains unlivable due to the dangerous black mold that now grows inside of it from the water that leaked in through the roof that got damaged when a Katrina spawned tornado leapfrogged over it. Last night, I watched a new direct-to-video horror movie called Jack O’Lantern. I’d just like to take this opportunity to ask God a question: Have I not suffered enough?

Amateurish on every conceivable level, there is no justification I can think of for this wretched film to have gotten a legit release, certainly not through a name distributor like Lions Gate. Much like Zombiez, Jack O’Lantern is another case of Lions Gate acquiring a movie with absolutely no redeeming qualities whatsoever and putting it out on DVD with deceptively eye-catching artwork that gives potential viewers like myself the false impression that the film contained inside might actually be worth a damn. I really think it’s time I looked into a potential class action lawsuit against Lions Gate for repeatedly duping people like me with this misleading marketing technique. Honestly, who the hell watched this duller than dirt crapfest and decided it was deserving of a distribution deal? Forget firing this man, I’m ready put out my own fatwa on whoever’s responsible for this garbage getting onto video store shelves.

The film opens with a prologue set on Halloween somewhere in Eastern Mississippi. Some guys run out of gas in the vicinity of a pair of backwoods cannibals, a terrified woman shows up to deliver dialogue lifted straight from Texas Chainsaw Massacre, the cannibals kill the stranded trio, and then a green point-of-view shot kills the cannibalistic duo. I honestly have no idea what the hell any of this had to do with the rest of the movie and I suspect the filmmaker doesn’t either.

Jump ahead a year to California where the actual film kicks into gear with a guy named Jack that just got out after being institutionalized following a tragic traffic accident he was in that also claimed the life of his uncle or dad or whatever and rendered him a mute simpleton that dresses like Elmer Fudd. Jack goes to carve a Jack O’Lantern but the pumpkin bleeds; why exactly is another one of those facts I never could make sense of. An evil force has been unleashed; an evil force that is never adequately explained at any point in the film. Or maybe the film did explain things and I missed it because I was struggling to pay attention. The ensuing events take place over a four-day period leading up to Halloween and, believe me, Jack O’Lantern feels like it was shot in real time. This is one of the most boring horror films I’ve ever sat through. Boring! B-O-R-I-N-G!

Back to Jack, he keeps lapsing into these catatonic states that come complete with glow-in-the-dark contact lenses. Whenever this happens, that green point-of-view shot, sometimes accompanied by split second shots of what appears to be a melted Jack O’Lantern puppet, kills someone (usually off-screen) unless someone else manages to wake Jack up first. The monster behind it all is so pathetic looking it’s hard to even laugh at how cheap and bad the costume is. It’s a guy in potato sack clothes wearing what looks like a scary Jack O’Lantern Halloween mask purchased from Spencer’s Gifts that was then spray painted gray and left out in the blazing hot sun until it began to melt. And since the monster has a psychic link to Jack and is exacting revenge on his behalf we can also add a Pumpkinhead rip-off to the film’s lack of creativity. This is also one of those horror films where you can just sit there and identify other horror flicks it “borrows” from.

Who are these people being killed and why are they being targeted, you didn’t ask? I’ll tell you anyway. They are all part of a circle of friends and they are all played as bland as humanly possible by people that would get an “F” in acting class. If you keep in mind the fatal traffic accident and you’ve ever seen either Prom Night or I Know What You Did Last Summer, it shouldn’t be too difficult to figure out why they’re being targeted.

As the film crawls on, Jack starts talking again, others talk about whatever, Jack does whatever, Jack goes into a trance, others get killed, Jack wakes up, others then start talking to Jack or about Jack or about the others that have been killed, and I begin making use of the fast forward button. As with everything else in regards to both Jack O’Lantern’s plot and editing, the events I just described do not necessarily occur in that order.

In the end – there really is no “in the end” to this film; it just ends. You sit through all this crap and the finale doesn’t even have a real payoff, and before you even have a chance to cry foul the film jumps forward another year to another place with other people and another bleeding pumpkin. This epilogue was clearly designed to set up a sequel but I couldn’t help but interrupt it as a great big F.U. from a filmmaker so obviously not skilled at the craft of filmmaking that he managed to spit in the audience’s face through sheer ineptitude. Toss in the usual first time filmmaker mistakes – poorly staged scenes, seemingly random editing, scenes that begin and end with shots that linger for far too long, ill conceived attempts at using fancy camera tricks, zero atmosphere or suspense – and you’re left with a thoroughly rotten attempt at horror filmmaking that should have remained solely on the director’s shelf so that he can laugh at it in a few years when he actually learns what the hell he’s doing, assuming he continues filmmaking and actually goes on to learn from the mistakes he made with this fiasco.

0 out of 5

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Jon Condit