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Case Number 07797

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Jack O'Lantern

Lionsgate // 2004 // 94 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // October 15th, 2005

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All Rise...

You remember how slimy and gross it is scooping the guts out of pumpkins? Judge David Johnson thinks that's an appropriate description of the feeling you'll get sitting through this poopy horror flick.

The Charge

Crap o' Lantern

Opening Statement

Great! A horror movie about a monster with a Jack O'Lantern for a head! This can't be bad!

Facts of the Case

A year ago a guy named Jack (David R. Watkins) was involved in a car accident that rendered him stupid. Whatever happened on that night has produced a secret among Jack and his high school chums, and it's a secret that will lead to them meeting grisly fates.

One by one, each friend is murdered by a mysterious force that sees the world through a green filter. Who is this maniac? And what does he want? As the friends scramble to get to the bottom of the mystery, and as Halloween approaches, they must rely on their wits and ability to no get killed to survive the vengeance of the Jack O'Lantern pumpkin-headed killer maniac.

The Evidence

(Judge's Note: I'm grasping wildly to the few remaining, functioning brain cells I have left in the old cerebral cortex after suffering through this horrible movie, and fear if I were to write a full review, the surviving gray matter will fizzle and die and I'll end up catatonic. So I hereby relinquish my reviewing responsibility for Jack O'Lantern to special guest judge, Carl the Nordic Houseplant.)

Thanks Judge Johnson. And thank you DVD Verdict readers for giving this botanical B-movie buff the opportunity to share my thoughts on the Lions Gate release of Jack O'Lantern.

First, a note about my qualifications: yes, I am a houseplant, and yes I generate my own food through the process of photosynthesis and yes I don't have any eyes, but lest you harbor any misgivings about my capability as an unbiased film critic, you should know that I recently received my Masters degree in comparative literature and command an encyclopedic knowledge of celluloid lore. Plus, I'm from Iceland, and if you've ever been to Iceland, well…heh…need I say more?

As a big fan of decent horror movies and mineral-enriched potting soil, let me start off by stating, unequivocally, that Jack O'Lantern is not suitable for membership into either of those two categories.

A zero-budget slasher pic that tries to foist a complicated conspiracy plot on the hapless viewer who's just expecting a large pumpkin-headed maniac killing people, Jack O'Lantern fails in almost every category it competes in. Acting, story, production values, gore, and entertainment, all of it—a big fat zilch-o.

The most distracting thing about this film is its execution. Now, granted I am an autotroph, but I can still recognize good filmmaking, and it ain't on display here folks. The editing is hackneyed, the establishing shots are placed in the oddest locations, actors are often way off their mark, and the overall shot selection is uninteresting.

But this is a horror movie called Jack O'Lantern so what's the big whoop? Well, I can get past a lot of things if a movie is the least bit entertaining, but sitting through this flick is like getting pruned by a blind toddler.

It's slow, dialogue-heavy, and hard to follow. There's some dense I Know What You Did Last Summer-type of teenager conspiracy, but it's boring and the teenagers look more like graduate school students.

Worse are the attempts at actual horror film moments. The kills are dopey; for example, some schmuck meets his end like a punk, getting pushed into a car engine, and though I've never driven a car what with the roots and leaves and all, I know a little bit about engines, namely, it's hard to get killed by being pushed into one.

As for the creature itself, I will give a few props to the make-up guys: the Jack O'Lantern make-up is pretty cool, but when you see the monster in full, it looks like some kid with a neat Halloween mask on, running around drooling.

Bottom line: this flick just isn't fun to watch. Your head will hurt listening to these idiots yammering on about some big secret and yawns will be suppressed during the big down-time between kills…which suck anyway.

A vastly unimpressive 5.1 mix accompanies a serviceable 1.66:1 letterbox widescreen video transfer. The lone extra is a surprisingly weighty "Behind the Screams" featurette, which includes tons of interviews with the people associated with this film.

Closing Statement

I may have cell walls instead of cell membranes, but I still know wastes of time when I see them.

The Verdict

The accused is to be wrapped in a paper bag, set on fire, and placed on someone's doorstep.

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Scales of Justice

Video: 80
Audio: 75
Extras: 80
Acting: 40
Story: 40
Judgment: 50

Perp Profile

Studio: Lionsgate
Video Formats:
• 1.66:1 Non-Anamorphic
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (English)
• English
• Spanish
Running Time: 94 Minutes
Release Year: 2004
MPAA Rating: Rated R
• Bad
• Horror

Distinguishing Marks

• "Behind the Screams" Featurette
• Trailers


• IMDb

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