31 October 2014

Halloween Triple Feature: HACK-O-LANTERN / PRIMAL RAGE / JACK-O

Every single year, I try to review the entire "Halloween" series - and every single year, I fail to do so because there's so much other things to do, there's never enough time to dive into the Michael-Myers-awesomeness. At least, I found the time to write about three lesser-known Halloween-themed flicks this year.
Enjoy reading and HAPPY HALLOWEEN!!! :-)


Original Title:
Halloween Night

German Title:
Halloween Night - Satan lebt!

USA, 1988
Director: Jag Mundhra


This obscure little straight-to-video satanic semi-slasher was shot under the moniker "Halloween Night", but released under the rather hilarious title
"Hack-O-Lantern", following Tommy, a young innocent boy who grows up to a seemingly powerful badass satanist, thanks to his grandfather who is the leader of a satanic cult and wants the boy to be the next Satan (or something like that) with the help of special Halloween rituals and other shenanigans...

To be fair, "Hack-O-Lantern" is pretty bad, at times downright laughable. No wonder, it was directed by not-that-talented Indian exploitation filmmaker Jag Mundhra who started his career shooting low budget horror films in the 80s, before he 'descended' to erotic thrillers and softcore flicks in the 90s and 00s. I've never seen any of his lewd films, but I've seen "Open House (1987)" which is undoubtedly one of the silliest slashers ever made.

Back to Hack. It's a really cheesy flick with a story that isn't exactly spectacular, based on a pretty unimaginative mess of a screenplay. The direction is weird and very pedestrian; there are times when I thought it was actually directed by an armada of disorganized film students. Although there's lots of rather eerie atmosphere, "Hack-O-Lantern" stutters along, never gets going, eventually ends up dull and frustrating.

Fortunately, there's enough fun shit that makes fans of 80s schlock (like me) very happy, especially the scene where grown up Tommy has a dream of playing guitar along with heavy metal band D.C. Lacroix performing "The Devil's Son" (catchy!) when suddenly a black bikini girl arrives, beheads Tommy and kills the band members with laser beams from her eyes (watch it here!).

There's also a few more gory kills, masked figures, rituals in an old barn, pumpkins, pentagrams, hot nudity, cemetery sex, family drama, bizarre plot twists and a few lines that made me giggle like crazy: "Mom, I like the taste of blood. Grandpa says it's good for me." / "Check out that cemetery. There's yet another grave overturned." - "Sure, sarge. I know it's a 'grave' situation, but... I get to the bottom of it." / "Trick or treat! Give me all your candy or I'll blow your head off." - "Would you learn how to talk nicely to your sister?" - "Bang Bang! You're dead."

Obviously no must-see, but very worth checking out if you dig 80s trash like that. Hope it gets a DVD release soon...


Original Title:
Rage - Furia Primitiva

German Title:
Animal Rage

Italy / USA, 1988
Director: Vittorio Rambaldi


Okay, I admit this isn't exactly a fully Halloween-themed movie, but the entire story builds up to a 20minute finale furioso that takes place at a huge Halloween party, so IMO this makes it a perfect wach for Halloween... this, and the fact that it's quite an entertaining piece of late 80s horror trash. "Primal Rage" is one of only 4 directorial efforts by Vittorio Rambaldi, son of legendary special effects artist Carlo Rambaldi who received Oscars for his work on "King Kong (1976)", "Alien" and "E.T.".

"Primal Rage" was written by Italian horror legend Umberto Lenzi ("Nightmare City", "Cannibal Ferox") and tells the story of some kinda "rage virus" that spreads among the students at a Florida university and transforms them into bloodthirsty killer beats. What may sound like a blue print for "28 Days Later" and
similar virus-themed movies, is actually 'just' a prime example of good ol' stupid late-80s Italo-cheese.

The whole movie is a gargantuan mess that never knows where to go. The first half is more of a teenage romance comedy interruped by a few grisly horror moments, while the second half constantly switches between party film and over-the-top gorefest. I'm not saying thar Rambaldi's direction is bad. He's able to create captivating atmosphere and he knows how to execute supposed-to-be-frightening scenes, but he's awful when it comes to direct no-name actors and lets them say lines like "Listen, you dildos!" or "I'm warning you, I know Kung fu!". The acting could have been so much better, but Rambaldi obviously didn't care about any of the actors and preferred to focus on the horror and on helping his father creating gruesome-looking practical effects.

Also, the editing is often too over-the-top, too choppy, the cheesy title song is horrible ("Say the Word" by some group called "The Facade Band" who even get the chance to perform this piece of aural rape at the Halloween party) and nearly every plot twist / turn is either weird or AYFKM?-kinda bad.

Yet, aside from all these flaws, there's shitloads of great moments that makes this rather entertaining, most notably the entire last Halloween party which includes three infected rapists with awesome-looking Grim Reaper costume killing their way through the party, and shitloads of party guests wearing really amazing costumes (oversizes nose-heads, a Janus face with water faucets, a guy with a huge saw stuck in his head...).

There's also other ugly-looking infected people with yucky blood-bursting wounds, lots of brutal and gory kills, excellent "Shakma"-like ape-on-the-loose action, a powerful electro / metal score by grandmaster Claudio "Goblin" Simonetti and some neat camera work by Antonio Climati ("Mondo Cane"). All in all, a solid piece of Italo trash that will give you a good time... if you're able to ignore classic Italian filmmaking incompetence ;-)


Alternate Title:
Jack o'Lantern

USA, 1995
Director: Steve Latshaw


Don't get fooled by the super-cool cover: this is not "Trick 'R Treat" level, this is just a lame and immensely disappointing slasher-attempt, actually one of the very last old-school slashers before Wes Craven rebooted the genre in 1996 with "Scream". Based on a story by trash-god Fred Olen Ray ("Biohazard") & Brad Linaweaver ("The Brain Leeches"), as well as on a screenplay by Patrick Moran ("Biohazard: The Alien Force"), director / writer Steve Latshaw ("Return of the Killer Shrews") created a dumb flick about an age-old creature, Jack-O, the Pumpkin Man, which accidentally gets brought back to life on Halloween and immediately starts to kill everyone that crosses its path...

The basic concept is fun and promising, but due to Latshaw's terrible direction and the overall horrible execution, "Jack-O" ends up as trainwreck par excellence. A weird opening, followed by even weirder character introductions, "guest appearances" by ex-acting-legends John Carradine and Cameron Mitchell via unused archive footage, an endless succession of unimportant, uninteresting characters getting killed by Jack-O and an ending that is just meh, meh, meh.

The acting ranges between solid (Linnea Quigley) to downright awful (Maddisen K. Krown a.k.a Rebecca Wicks), same for the special effects which are at times cool, at times dreadfully bad. I love the iconic look and design of Jack-O with his huge head and the glowing eyes [1 point], love all the nudity, all the few gory kills [1 point] and the wonderfully haunting score by Jeffrey Walton [1 point]. Everything else about is plain forgettable. No need to Jack this one out ;)


  1. Was Jack-O the one that has somebody get killed with a toaster?

  2. Brilliant reviews, as always!

    I quite enjoy a lot of the lesser-known Halloween flicks, they're usually a lot of fun, and cheesy as Hell!

    I caught John Carpenter's Halloween at the cinema last night, which I've never seen on the big screen before. It was fucking awesome!

    A friend and I also watched Horns. If you haven't already seen it, but intend to, I recommend reading the book by Joe Hill first.

    I hope you had a wicked Halloween!! ♥

    1. Oh yes, they are. Ever heard of "Hollow Gate"? One helluva stinker, but somehow amusing.

      Jealous! Never seen Halloween on the big screen. Hopefully one day, one day...

      You're the 4th person now who recommends Horns to me. I think I should really read it ASAP :)

      Thanks, had a wicked-tastic Halloween :D

  3. I haven't seen the first two - but I want to. I like Jack-O better than you - it's not great, but their hearts were in the right place.

    1. That might be true, but that doesn't make me like it better.

  4. That creature design of Jack-O is a reason it might deserve a dvd release one day. Don't know what type of camera they shot this with tho so it might not be possible for a wide-screen. I didn't see the movie obviously but I think the monster looks cool. He reminds me of that monster from the ghostbusters cartoon show.


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