THE LEGEND OF HALLOWEEN JACK
Director: Andrew Jones
Year of release: 2018
Country of origin: UK
Running time: 82 minutes
DVD/Blu ray: DVD only
Taglines: "He's back for those who killed him" and "Trick or treat, you're dead".
Casting the spotlight on the slasher genre
Story: As prime suspect in the murder of a young couple occultist Jack Cain manages to escape imprisonment on a technicality due to a mistake by arresting officer Frank Hollister. With the families of the deceased distraught over Cain escaping justice tempers flare with Frank taking it in the neck not only from those grieving but also from the town mayor. So incensed is the mayor that along with two close family members of the victims he persuades Frank to turn vigilante. The four of them form a mob that set about abducting and killing Jack Cain before burying the body and putting out the rumour that he has skipped town to start afresh somewhere else.
The following year, close to Halloween, one quarter of the vigilante mob is unable to live with the secret and shoots himself on the site of Cain’s unmarked grave. His blood seeping into the ground combining with Cain’s occult background and the spooky time of year results in an unholy resurrection of Cain himself. Back from the dead as a barbaric scarecrow type creature Cain sets about hunting down the remaining members of the vigilante group.
Good points: *The acting is of a high quality throughout with impressive performances from all the people in the films key roles. My favourites were the cop Frank and his daughter Jennifer, an occultist friend of Cain’s and the slippery slimy mayor. The performances from those few in particular were spot on but like I say pretty much all the acting talent did a grand job. It was definitely some of the best acting I’ve seen in a lower profile, smaller budget slasher film. This was aided no end by the script which was also very solid and again a cut above what I normally see when it comes to lesser known genre entries.
*The back story for Jack Cain was well delivered and was given time to be properly explained and established. I liked how as well as witnessing his murder there was a short sequence with him actually alive as well. Some films with similar plots have a tendency to gloss over the killers demise (Gingerdead Man for example) so it was nice to see it all plotted out for us to see here and it provided a solid foundation for the rest of the film to take root in.
Some way into the film with the introduction of Cain’s occultist friend even more of an explanation was provided for how Cain’s resurrection came to be so it was cool that they went out of their way to add more flesh to the bones and that little bit more clarity.
*Once back from the dead Cain looks interesting and though his look wasn’t completely to my taste I can’t deny an effort was made to provide a distinct looking killer. Clothed in a burlap sack type tunic, floppy hat and a big smiley sack type mask he looks very much like a scarecrow so distinct probably isn’t the right word seeing that there have been many scarecrow type slashers before. Effort has gone into the costume though and despite it coming across as a little cartoonish I’ll give them points for trying hard. Browsing through some reviews online many seem to really like the look of Cain as well so its fair to say they were on the right track with the killers design.
Bad Points: *Sticking with the resurrected Cain’s appearance there was something which did bother me about it and that is how random it was that he took on the form of a scarecrow. It all stemmed from the vigilantes tying him up crucifixion style and placing the sack type mask on his head prior to shooting him. It wasn’t explained however why they chose to cover his head with the mask. Plot wise the film seems to be heavily inspired by Dark Night of the Scarecrow so it must have been meant as a homage to that but it came across as too random. It could have been justified by saying Frank had bagged the mask as evidence from the crime scene of the murdered couple so there would have been a way of writing it in with a little more thought.
*There were too many seemingly random clips used of old black and white horror films. This was mostly an issue at the very start and seemed to be something of a padding out the running time method.
*The deaths aren’t up to much and the film definitely felt flat in the killing stakes with a lack of any memorable signature kills. The camera would usually cut away much of the time at the point of impact so there wasn’t a whole lot of gore either. In fairness there was at least a good variety in the weapons used so it could have been worse.
*Mild spoiler: Despite being well written and well-acted, the characters for the most part aren’t very nice. The one flaw in the script I suppose you could say is that it doesn’t provide enough sympathetic characters. It’s one of those films which leaves us without a traditional final girl/boy to root for. Frank is the main character but due to his involvement with Cain’s demise plus something which happens later where he harms another character he wasn’t someone I could get behind. His daughter Jennifer was the closest to a final girl and I did like her as I did her boyfriend as well. Jennifer being pregnant did encourage me to care about her a bit more as swell and definitely she and her boyfriend were seen as the nicest characters. In Jennifer’s case though I don’t think she received enough screen time to qualify as a final girl.
*Another mild spoiler: Going back to Jennifer’s boyfriend for a moment there was another small weakness in the script pertaining to him and his reaction to Frank’s revelation about helping to kill Cain. He didn’t seem too surprised or shocked and for realisms sake I felt he should have reacted with more distaste or anger.
Verdict: I wasn’t blown away by the Legend of Halloween Jack but at the same time I did largely enjoy my time with it. For a lesser known film which I knew next to nothing about going in it proved to be a pleasant surprise in most ways. The acting in particular stood out as being better than what I normally see and I appreciated the effort that had been put into crafting Cain’s back story.
It falls down with it’s lack of enough likeable characters and a crop of lacklustre deaths but these problems aren’t severe enough to harm things too much.
Though not a film to bowl anyone over it’s a fun watch and a good choice to pick out to watch at around the time of Halloween.
Bodycount (contains major spoilers):
1)Jack Cain: Tied up crucifixion style and then shot multiple times.
2)Johnny: Shoots himself in the head (suicide).
3)Mike: Found slumped over car with throat cut.
4)Long haired vigilante: Stabbed in the stomach with garden fork/pitchfork.
5)Edie: Stabbed in the stomach with knife by the mayor and then strangled.
6)The mayor: Throat cut.
7)Mayor’s wife: Bludgeoned with rolling pin.
8)Occultist: Shot in the chest by Frank.
9)Female friend of Jennifer’s: Killed with scythe.
10)Male party guest 1: Eyes thumbed out/head possibly crushed,.
11)Male party guest 2: Picked up and thrown onto over turned chair. Impaled on the legs.
12)Male party guest 3: Stomach punctured and guts pulled out.
13)Burly male party guest: Beaten up but mainly off camera. Looked to have some sort of compound fracture but not sure if he actually died.
14)Frank: Immolated in town hall gas explosion.