WRITERS: Screenplay by Patrick Moran
Based on a story by Fred Olen Ray & Brad Linaweaver
DIRECTOR: Steve Latshaw
STARRING: Linnea Quigley as Carolyn Miller
Rebecca Wicks as Linda Kelly
Gary Doles as David Kelly
Ryan Latshaw as Sean/Andrew Kelly
Catherine Walsh as Vivian Machen
Rachel Carter as Julie Miller
Tom Ferda as Jim
Bill Cross as Richard Watson
Helen Keeling as Amanda Watson
John Carradine as Walter Machen
Cameron Mitchell as Dr. Cadaver
Brinke Stevens as Witch
Dawn Wildsmith as Sorceress
QUICK CUT: In the quiet, peaceful town of Oakmoor Crossing, a secret lies long buried. A wizard, on his deathbed, vowed vengeance upon the town, and summoned forth evil forces to do his bidding and get revenge on everyone who killed...hey wait, didn't I review this last year when it was called Demons of Ludlow?!
Sean Kelly - Our young hero. And by young, I mean kid. He's pretty typical. Quiet, watches movies he shouldn't on tv, but the parents are ok with that. Gets picked on by his lone friends. Fights demons. Y'know, the usual.
David Kelly - Sean's father, and he's almost as big a geek as his kid. He loves Halloween, and loves making the yearly haunted house for the neighbourhood. And he is a total dork in costume. He tries for Dracula and hits closer to Count Floyd, or Grandpa Munster. We all knew dads like this. Some of us probably had dads like this.
Vivian Machen - A newcomer to town, but from a family with history. Both with Oakmoor and the Kellys. She's believed to be a witch, and there may be some truth to that.
Walter Machen - Vivan's ancestor, who once held Oakmoor Crossing in a grip of terror and previously unseen footage, until the Kellys rose against him, and killed him. All that got the town was a pumpkin headed demon continuing to kill in his master's name.
Carolyn Miller - Sean's overly exhibitionist babysitter. Sure, she's just taking a shower, but as a character introduction to a caretaker of children...not the best way to build her character.
Julie Miller - Carolyn's sister, and slightly less naked. Which is amazing, since she's the rebellious bad girl of the pair, with a biker boyfriend who seems ok, but ends up being a bit of a jerk.
Jack-o - The villain of the movie, such as he is. He's a monster from who knows where, summoned by Machen to terrorise the family that got him killed. He never says anything, and he's a force of nature in much the same way Jason is.
THE GUTS: I know I said we would be going back to the 80s, and this is a '94 movie, but cut me some slack. This looked terrible, and it's way closer to our target decade than the last few movies we've watched. And how can I say no to a movie with John Carradine eight years after his death?
After the credits fly through a pumpkin, we meet Sean, played by the director's son. Which explains how he got this job. Some guy gives Sean a carved pumpkin, and tells the kid the story of Jack-o. The story behind the charming nursery rhyme of Old Jack coming to cut off your head. Delightful!
The guy tries so very hard to sell his story to Sean, and consequently us. And it just comes off as forced and silly. No amount of gravitas is gonna get me to buy into an old wizard putting a curse on a town to get his revenge. I didn't buy it with Demons of Ludlow, and I sure as hell don't buy it here!
Especially not when you call your killer Jack-o, the Pumpkin Man.
So we flash back as he tells the story of Jack-o, to the time when the wizard first placed his curse, and we learn that the farmer that fought him way back when just so happened to have the same last name as Sean. Gee, could they be related?
Arthur's wife tries to stop him from going to fight the monster, and we see them fondling that there picture of Carradine, and uh...he dresses pretty modernly in that photograph from, what? The 1800s? I guess he IS a wizard.
We learn this is all about vengeance, in so many ways. Arthur and his brother hung the wizard, and he sent Jack-o after the town, which then killed some of Arthur's family, so he has to stop it to have his revenge. Arthur probably feels responsible for that too. As well he should.
Arthur's kid, also played by the same actor as Sean, asks his father if he can go with him, showing he clearly has no idea what a demon hunt is. But who does, really? Arthur says no, and the entire time he is supposed to be talking his son out of coming with him, he is hilariously looking elsewhere, probably at his wife. And very much nowhere near looking at his kid. Acting!
So armed only with a cross and a scythe, Arthur Kelly marches off to his inevitable doom.
That's when Sean wakes up from his uh...nightmare? It was just a guy marching off to his doom. And I thought that was a story flashback being told? Where does the guy around the campfire come into this? Was it a flashback? A bad dream? Both? Do I really care?
He hears something outside, and peeks through his blinds, seeing the Pumpkin Man coming after him and...he wakes up again. No! No movie! No! You do not get to pull the double nightmare wakeup! You have not earned that! Especially when that first was not a nightmare! No! No!!
Not only that, but we now resume the movie's credits, already in progress!
We next see Sean and some friends walking home from school, talking about Mister Jack (Damnit movie, pick a name and stick with it!), and he says his dad said that Mister Jack isn't real. But Sean's friend Robbie sings a jaunty little song about Mister Jack, which is just as cheerful as the rest of his story. He also points to a random woman in a car and says she's a witch, but the others don't think witches drive cars, and instead use only brooms. I feel like I should be offended.
The possible witch stops and sees the ankle biters, and they run off and hide. Man, Woodsboro this ain't, that's for sure. After just ten years there, the entire population is totally over Ghostface, but here they jump at anything even remotely connected to a monster pumpkin from 100 years ago.
Robbie grabs some rocks and decides to stone the witch, because that's what they used to do with them. First of all, they used rocks that were larger than pebbles. Secondly, if you're going to throw them at someone, make sure you can even hit her car. Because now she's seen you, and you've accomplished nothing.
Sean tries to stop Robbie from continuing to be a dick, and they get into a fight. A fight that is quickly broken up by the witch...er, Vivian, when she grabs Robbie and makes him scream like a girl and run away. Vivian then offers to walk Sean home as a thank you for her car not being stoned.
While Vivian asks Papa Kelly about local history and her family, Sean heads inside to clean up after the fight and uh...steps into the forest inside his closet? What is this, freakin' Narnia? What the Friday the 13th was that?!
Inside the closet forest, Sean runs into terrible old footage of John Carradine. Ah, so THAT is how they get him in the film. And he suspiciously never says anything when the 'camera' is on his face. His only lines are played on 'his' back, so they can use any old lines and try and make them fit. This could almost have worked, if the footage wasn't so obviously old. And I think it was filmed off a tv.
Sean stumbles into more of the flashback to Arthur, and we see him trying to find a friend to go after the wizard, but all he finds is dead bodies. I don't know if I count these as first deaths or not...and having their zombified corpses come after Sean doesn't help any.
Vivian wakes Sean out of his trance, or whatever, and he just shrugs it off saying he had a bad dream. Dude, it's 4 in the afternoon, and you did not go to sleep. Not even Freddy gets you in that circumstance.
After that 15 minutes of weirdness, because this movie has not let up on the weird yet, the movie decides to go elsehwere with a group of three teens? looking for the town cemetery. You would think something like that would be easy to find.
No wait, not the cemetery, they want the old Kelly farm, so they can find where they buried their dead. Well, at least they're still looking for dead bodies, either way.
One of the guy's makes a sexist joke to Shannon, and she huffs a full can of beer at him. His beer sense tingling, he goes after it, so as to not waste any. And he finds the can, which landed perfectly atop a log and on its side so beer could pour out, to PROVE there was something in the can! That is a long, long way to go for that gag. Especially when the guy tips over the can and pours the remainder out, disappointed it's so empty.
But besides the beer, Paul also finds the graves they're looking for, before he lets out a blood-annoying scream. His friends rush to his side, and find Paul laying on the ground. Which you just know is a joke. He's not dead, and look I was right.
Back at the Kelly's house, as opposed to their abandoned farm, Sean is watching Dr. Cadaver's Monster Movie Marathon. Or another way to get a famous actor into our movie without having him in any actual scenes. At least I can get behind this. And is perfectly fine viewing for children. Sadly though, the movie's Dr. Cadaver is showing look way better than Jack-o.
David takes Sean out to the garage to show him the spookhouse, and damnit, with all this setup, it better be the home of a bloodbath before this movie wraps up. Before that though, Sean's mom arrives with the groceries they'll be using as fake bits of brain and such for the house.
Back in the field, the trio find the cross and scythe, as well as the gravestone for Arthur Kelly, and decide to leave rather than disturb the dead...Hey! Random naked woman in the shower! There's your gratutious nude shots of Linnea Quigley, folks.
This is the woman chosen to babysit Sean? That might not be the best way to introduce her character, as an exhbition to the viewers, while she slowly lathers up. I appreciate that if you have Quigley in your movie, you're almost contractually obligated to show her naked, but yeesh.
And there's people outside her house, talking about answering the phone. I'm starting to lose track of the cannon fodder here.
Oh, who will answer the phone?? Will such nagging questions ever be answered? Or will they just lay there, unattended, like Carolyn's phone? Where oh where is Julie?? I hate when movies drag these sorts of scenes out.
Because there's not enough characters yet, we get to see Carolyn's neighbours watching her sister Julie on the bike with her boyfriend, and get treated to just how much they look down upon the Millers. Is there a point to this? Or the guy on the tv ranting about how tough things are for whites? What the hell, movie?
Back in the movie proper, Vivian heads out to the abandoned Kelly farm where the trio are still lost in the woods I guess, and then we're back to Sean going to sleep, and asking about Mister Jack. Such brilliant editing.
Then it's BACK to the field where the kids are dicikng around and pull the cross out of the ground. Oh, finally. It's been 30 minutes. Can we get to the fun stuff now?
Sean has a bad dream again, and we see Arthur lamely fighting Jack-o. He waves the cross in a most non-threatening manner, which actually makes Jack Skellington rear back for a moment, long enough to catch the scythe in the side and fall into the conveniently open grave.
Sean comes across his parents kneeling before not-John Carradine, and all I want to do is source where they're taking all his lines from. I can't believe they're creating an entire role with old footage and what is essentially ADR. They couldn't hire a guy for this? Heck, they have a guy in the robe as a stand in, why not just have him play the part? It could not be any worse, or look any more goofy than this, unless he sounds like Gomer Pyle.
Meanwhile, in the really real world, the three amigos continue to get drunk as Jack-o rises from the grave, and sets his cross on fire with the powers of his mind!! Or the powers of his pumpkin seeds, I guess.
While Sean fights against invisible barriers that keep him away from the footage of his nemesis, Jack-o slices up the trio of idiots that disturbed his sleep. Shannon survives a whole two minutes longer than her friends since she wisely runs away, but soon her death screams wake up Sean. Or something.
Sean again peeks outside, and again sees Jack-o, and AGAIN wakes up from dream #2. Just...just go to hell, movie. Again.
Back in the less annoying part of this movie, Vivian finds the fresh corpses of the trio, and she hears the voice of her grandfather coming from inside her locket. This is the only time you actually see his face and hear his voice at the same time. This is just sad.
Carolyn and Julie arrive to babysit Sean, along with Julie's boyfriend, because hey. Why not? And while Sean is standing right there, Carolyn throws out the line, with zero self awareness, that she likes little boys. And that is the moment I would get a new babysitter.
Julie makes a great first impression thanks to her boyfriend taking Sean for a ride on his bike, much to the chagrin of his parents. I can almost hear the wacky sitcom music.
Vivian arrives at the party, and shows off her old family bible, which is second only to slideshows for party deaths. Inside the bible is a picture of Walter the Wizard which is weird for a bible, but I'll let it slide since it's probably more of Walter's black evil bible than a real one. Sean recognise the image from the Carradine movie he's been seeing in his nightmares. When Vivian says who it is, there's a musical sting to underscore the importance, but the dead silence and awkward glances by everyone waiting for the next shot just ruins the moment. Yeah, that could have used some better editing.
While Sean watches more of Dr. Cadaver, and I wish I could join him, Vivian tells the story of how the Kellys and the Machens were such close friends, and everything was puppies and rainbows...no wait. They hung Machen for murdering people, and he called down a demon upon the town.
Because the movie was showing too much of another movie on Dr. Cadaver, we cut back to those wacky haters of all things right and good, Carolyn's neighbours! And when the trick or treaters show up, Richard gives them a lecture on handouts rather than candy. Oh, how subtle. These Watsons are practically caricatures of right-wingers.
At least the kids TP their house, and Jack-o is lurking outside. But annoyingly enough, rather than kill the two most deserving, he decides to take his giant pumpkinhead and check out the haunted garage, and the bad movie Sean is watching.
So, Sean's parents are home, running the haunted garage, dealing with trick or treaters...why do they need a babysitter again? Can this be any more forced to get bodies here? I guess Carolyn can take the rugrat trick or treating, but it still feels awkward.
But then Jack-o's back to the Watsons and their preachy tv, when yay! The blowhard gets shut up by the antenna going down. I hope Jack-o did that. Thank you, Pumpkin Man!
Mr. Watson hears some more pranksters outside and goes to investigate, but all he finds is his removed hubcap, and Jack-o out there to remove his spleen. And what is up with his wife slicing up toast? Aside from making similar imagery to her husband being cut in the gut, is there a point?
His wife comes outside to see what's taking so long, finds Richard's dead and bloody body, and runs back inside, where she slips on a rug they set up not two minutes ago as being annoying and dangerous, and she purpo...accidentally stabs a knife into the toaster. So...not exactly a kill by Jack-o, but more death by stupidity, then. I do appreciate they keep cutting back to it for like a whole minute.
Back at the Kellys, Julie has bailed on babysitting, and has her boyfriend circle the house for ten minutes until they notice she's gone, just so they can know where she went.
I love the trick or treaters from earlier coming across Mr. Watson's body and thinking it's just a scary decoration, and not being impressed by it at all. Maybe this IS Woodsboro after all.
Sean and Carolyn head out for candy, and they stop at the house owned by the weird guy from the start of the movie who may or may not have been telling a flashback. He's dressed up as the Phantom of the Opera, and laughing WAY too much over all this. He likes Halloween, I guess. The kid is just as weirded out as I am, and just stares at the guy. I am now concerned about what else went on around that campfire.
Elsewhere, we get proof that Julie is Carolyn's sister, as it isn't long before she's toplessly making out with Jim. But she's quickly clothed again when she hears Mister Jack watching. She probably smelled burning pumpkin from his head. And sadly, since she's not gonna put out, Jim leaves her stranded in the woods. I bet trick or treating doesn't sound so lame now.
And finally we get to see the haunted garage, hosted by Count Kelly. Just imagine the lamest guy you know doing a lame Dracula impression to fill that hole in your imagination of what he looks and sounds like. And do the same for the haunted garage. Every bad, cheesy urban haunted house you can think of, and this is it.
Robbie and Sarah see Jack-O...uh, I don't really know where. They're inside the garage, they see him somewhere, but it looks like he's outside? This geography is messed up. Anyways, they run off scared, and he's not as scary as half the stuff in that garage.
David pokes around and makes sure the kids didn't mess anything up, and knocks over a rack that makes a mess and shuts down the garage. So much for all that build up. At least Jack-o is stomping around inside the house and slashing stuff.
Meanwhile, over in the eighth subplot of this movie, the director is playing a cable installer, and being stalked by Jack-o. I thought this thing was just supposed to kill the Kellys and anyone close to them? I guess this is a close-knit town. But still, do we have to jump around to every member of the community for five seconds of them with a scythe looming ominously nearby? The answer is no.
At least some of these threads are bumping up against each other, as Julie runs into Robbie and Sarah still spooked by the Pumpkin Man, and Jim turns up to scare them, all while the monster continues to lurk just out of killing length of everyone.
Jim thinks he hears something and wanders into the woods, because that's always smart, but decides he'd rather have a smoke than actually look for something. Which is fine, since Jack-o says hi anyways.
So, Mister Jack cuts off Jim's head, making him the headless hogman, I suppose. I love that the head rolls right back to Julie, who picks it up and almost casually stares at it like it's just some prop. Oh wait. She's honestly more freaked out by the giant pumpkin-headed guy when she sees Jack-o.
And while I want to shout about how much I do not care about every little character in this town when it jumps right back to the cable repairman, at least Julie isn't too far behind. This movie has character ADD, but at least some times it gets lucky and its jumping around runs into the characters it just left.
Julie tries to warn the director about his own monster, but even he doesn't believe this crap, until Mister Jack slits his director's throat. Oh, if only that stopped the movie, right?
And because no one demanded it, the first person David runs into is the weird storyteller wannabe Danny Devito lookalike. His laugh cuts through me like a scythe. This movie loves this guy way too much. And he somehow doesn't die.
So after asking one weirdo where Sean is and not finding his kid, David returns home, where his wife is surprised to hear he's even missing. Because Vivian never told her. Cue the menacing, concerned looks and creepy, ominous music. Yes, beware the "She didn't tell her about the missing son!" scene! Those over 50 or pregnant women will not be admitted!
But all is well with Sean, he's just finishing up trick or treating, so he and Carolyn decide to head home through a shortcut in the park. The dark, off the beaten path, shortcut. These things never end well...and not three steps in, and there's Jack-o. Carolyn sacrifices herself so Sean can run away, which he more or less squanders by staring and watching as Merv Pumkinhead knocks her out.
Sean ends up at the Watson's house, and finds Mrs. Watson's toasted corpse before Jack-o arrives and stands in the doorway just watching while the kid tries to hide. And he hides so, so very poorly.
As dumb as that makes Mister Jack look, it is a pretty cool shot, using the reflective surface of the coffee table.
Oh for... Not only is Jack standing there and somehow NOT seeing the kid, but then Sean stands right up and runs away, with the killer standing right next to him. He might as well have shouted, "Ha ha, can't catch me!"
But back in movie B, Vivian has been found out, for no other reason than being creepy, and gets grilled by the Kellys about what is going on. She tells them she came to town specifically because she knew the demon would rise, thanks to a handy prophecy that said so. It also said that only the fifth male descendent of Arthur Kelly could kill it. Which is oddly specific, isn't it?
The best part of this little story is that as she finishes her dramatic retelling, it cuts to Sean running from the creature...and the sound of crickets. Yeah, that is about what I would expect for a reaction to that tale of garbage.
Just as they're debating whether or not to go looking for Sean, he shows up right outside, saving us the trouble. But oh no! Earlier in the movie, there was a clunky scene that may as well have been screaming, "SETUP!" at us, showing the door has a tendency to stick. And oh no, guess what! It sticks now! Whatever shall we do with such a tense...zzzzzz
Before they can get the door open, there's a loud pop and gush of red stuff against the window. I am gonna say this was the convenient red juice bottle Sean got earlier in the evening in another clunky setup scene. And I'm right. At least they didn't drag out the 'oh no, Sean is de...oh no he's not' tension.
Everyone is chased, or hurries out to where Jack-o's shallow grave is, and he sticks Sean into it. The adults turn up and after finding Jim's bike, and his head, Vivian nails together a new cross. You guys do know they have those premade, right?
The adults take their damned sweet time banging those two branches together, giving Mister Jack plenty of time to point the kid into his open grave, where Sean emotionlessly grumps "Nooo." over and over. Not even Vader's screams were this pathetic.
Jack-o starts scraping dirt off the ground and into the ground with his scythe, which has to be the least convenient way I have ever seen to fill in a grave. And Sean just lays there and takes it as the handful of dirt is tossed on his chest. Come on. Really?
Vivian and friends finally arrive after Sean has been completely, er barely, covered with a thin, thin layer of dirt, and she shows the monster the picture of her grandfather. Which is still a better use of Carradine's image than the old footage.
She tries to use the power of the locket to make Jack-o go back to hell, but since he's already there in this movie, he just stabs her through the gut, lifts her into the air, and hurls her about five feet away to die. Ok, that was pretty cool for a low budget movie.
David threatens the Pumkin Man with the cross, but I guess having that thing jammed in the skull for 90 years made him less afraid of it than he was when Arthur tried the same trick, so he just smacks that crap out of David's hands.
Sean crawls out of the grave he was 'buried' in, and I use that term almost as loosely as the dirt is packed. He calls out to the creature to leave his parents alone, and if not for having a pumpkin for a head, I would call that a look of surprise on Jack-o's face. Which is surprising in itself, considering how poorly he actually covered the kid up.
He grabs the cross, and I guess all his visions of his ancestor's battle with the creature gives him some idea the cross might do some good. Sean yells at the monster, and David rushes up behind Jack-o, shoving him down onto the cross. Which should be noted was very blunt, and not sharp at all, so very poor for impaling. Unless he's pumpkins all the way down.
Mister Jack bursts into flames and is suddenly gone, just as the sun is about to rise. David is ready to get his son home for two hours of sleep before school, but Sean has something to do first. Because heaven forbid this damned movie just ends already.
His important task is to clear Arthur's grave, place some flowers on it, and remember some of his lines of dialogue from the start of the movie. That's a fair enough coda, I guess. But can we end now?
Sigh, no. The movie remembers the sisters are out there somewhere, and we have to be reassured that they're ok, and wake up just fine. I could have just assumed they were ok, movie.
Carolyn wakes up, panicking over where Sean is, what happened to him, and if he's ok. YES, he is. We all know this. We do not need this fake tension. End, already!
We finally, mercifully have an ending, as everyone stumbles off into the distance, with more pointless dialogue about what they're going to do now. No one cares, the movie is over.
Or it would be, but the movie just has to pan over to a pumpkin carved to look like Jack-o, that starts glowing mysteriously. Oh no! Will there be a sequel?? No. No there will not. I am the only person that has seen this movie in the last 15 years.
Video: Ugh. Another movie that is in widescreen, but crammed with letterboxing bars to make it a 4:3 format. The quality suffers, and it's a pain. And it's not helped by bad and uneven lightling.
Audio: An ok stereo mix, that's decent, way more than the video. The voices are sharp and clear, and the effects are nicely mixed.
Special Features: A commentary by the director and producer, which starts off calling reviewers idiots. Like I didn't enjoy tearing this movie a new one to begin with... But I digress. There's also some behind the scenes footage that's mildly interesting, and stuff from another failed/fake movie starring much of the same cast, called Gator Babes.
First Blood: Not counting Arthurt's dead friends in flashbacks, we find dead bodies 33 minutes in when the three amigos buy it in rapid succession.
Best Corpse: Oh, that goes to Amanda Watson. Sure, she wasn't killed by Jack-o, but her death was hilarious, so over the top, and they miled it for all it was worth. Great.
Sound Byte: "You're like a little boy about all this scary stuff." "I guess it keeps me young." "I like little boys." Carolyn and David Kelly, in a truly creepy moment
Blood Type - C+: Well, there's some nice blood here, but it's quick and almost sanitised. But I can't complain about what we do get, especially when some of that gore is a smoking, charred corpse! Nice work.
Sex Appeal: Linnea Quigley, ladies and gentlemen! Need I say more? Ok, supporting role by her sister.
Movie Rating: Cheeeeese. The editing is atrocious, the lighting is awful, the acting is...surprisingly not terrible. Some of the actors are more than competent even! Sean's not so hot, but he's a kid, right? The story is a bit of a mess, and the use of so many names that aren't REALLY in the movie but off to the side is frustrating. And there's not much new here, we've seen this story before. Hell, I've reviewed this story before! And probably will again. But for a low budget, quickly made film, well, it does the trick, but not much more. Two out of five severed biker heads.
Entertainment Value: I gotta admit, I kinda love this movie. It is just so bad. It's fun just to try and spot all the actors in outside footage that otherwise wouldn't or shouldn't be in this movie. Saying you have Brinke Stevens in your movie, and she only appears in a 30 second clip of a monster movie marathon? That's so unfair. And yet, the use of Carradine and Cameron Mitchell's old footage and lines IS indeed clever, as well as giving us some almost new roles by them. Jack-o is a hilarious villain that's way more threatening than many of his contemporaries with better budgets and effects, but still goofy. This movie is bad in all the right ways, and a true treat of a trick to share with someone. Four out of five stolen hubcaps.