The Legend Of Halloween Jack (2018) Directed by Andrew Jones. A murder suspect is executed by a group of vigilantes, only to rise again one year later as an unkillable scarecrow to seek bloody revenge.
We begin our misguided tale in a courtroom, where a prosecutor is laying out a murder case against small-town resident Jack Cain. The man is accused of murdering a local couple, and the parents and friends of the victims watch the situation unfold from the upper level of the courthouse.
This scene is exceptional only in that it risks redefining how fatally dull two wooden actors in their 60’s talking at each other can truly be.
Cain has elected to represent himself, and after the judge allows the maximum legally allowable amount of boring exposition to fall out of the prosecutor’s mouth, the supposed killer is set free.
It turns out Jack’s arrest was illegal because the police forgot to read Cain his rights. What’s worse is that the judge knew this all along and still made us sit through an unconvincing murder trial.
During this opening, we run into our first major problem. We need to SEE the murders in question, particularly because it isn’t even clear what actually transpired or why Jack was suspected in the first place. No physical evidence is presented or described that ties Cain to the crime, so what’s he doing here? This lack of background information and any real character development leaves us with nothing to anchor our investment in the story. It’s like the film started in the middle and we have to try and make sense of what’s going on. This is why “Halloween” vividly began with the murder of Judith Myers, rather than Dr. Loomis and a six-year-old boy sitting in court and listening to lawyers drone on about the events of that night. Opening with the murder sets the stage. We go into the central body of the film understanding exactly what the threat is.
But let’s swiftly introduce what passes for heroes. There’s garage mechanic Grizzly Joe, angry cop Frank Hollister, teenage Johnny, town mayor Milton and local priest William. Hollister is the detective who forgot to read Cain his rights, which embroils him with the relatives of the deceased.
After the court decision, Milton essentially talks the rest into killing mean old Jack for his apparent crimes. They accost him at his cabin deep in the woods on Halloween night and tie him to a scarecrow cross. Then he’s forced to don a scarecrow’s burlap outfit and finally shot to death at close range.
The men bury him in an unmarked grave, which left me a bit puzzled. If they were just going to shoot him and bury him, why was he made to dress up first and hang on a cross? Jack has no thematic connection to scarecrows or even Halloween. He never once makes an enthusiastic remark about the holiday and he’s not a farmer with scarecrows in the field. Anyway, moving on. The killers make a pact to never tell anyone and go back to their lives.
Cut to one year later.
We are introduced to Jennifer Hollister, a disc jockey and Frank’s daughter. As she spins spooky tracks, a drunk Johnny stumbles into the forest and laments his involvement in the killing. Guilt has been eating him alive, and he commits suicide on Jack’s burial site. The dead man’s blood seeps into the ground, and Jack shoots out of the dirt like a Cirque du Soleil acrobat. Just kidding. He rises up extremely slowly, and we see supernatural fire behind his burlap eye holes. Cain’s distorted voice now sounds both booming and muffled, like Darth Vader taking your fast food order through a drive thru speaker.
Grizzly Joe, who looks and sounds like a younger Groundskeeper Willy from “The Simpsons,: is the first to have an encounter with the new and improved Jack. His bloodless death avoids showing the penetration of the weapon that impales him or any form of effects. The deaths of both Johnny and Grizzly Joe prompt Frank to stock up on firearms from a local criminal. Meanwhile, Milton goes bonkers and begins murdering people that he believes had knowledge of Cain’s murder.
Jack’s murder spree intensifies, and after each killing we are treated to the momentum-killing drag of a brief police investigation. The deaths eventually compel Frank to tell his young partner about the secret execution of Cain, and to something much worse. It turns out that an incarcerated psychopath admitted that he had committed the murders that Jack was accused of, meaning that Cain had been innocent all along. Hollister pulled strings to cover the situation up. After this big admission, Frank tracks down occultist Anton Crowley. He was Cain’s best friend and fellow enthusiast in the supernatural, and confirms that Jack had done some mystical mumbo jumbo involving living past death. Crowley also gives Frank a rather unappealing way to destroy the scarecrow monster.
At the radio station, a massive Halloween costume party set up by Jennifer is raging. Halfway through the rock band’s set, Jack strolls onstage and the partygoers scream in terror.
But why? No one outside of the vigilantes who killed Cain knows that he was forced to wear a scarecrow costume prior to death. So his physical appearance would not spark recognition or fear in anyone else. And this IS a costume party. Regardless, folks run in all directions and bump into each other while Jack slowly attacks them. One man is somehow electrocuted by a door handle, though we never saw the killer setting up that gag. The cops show up and fill ol’ Jackie full of lead. They then shamelessly rip off the climax of a popular and beloved 1981 slasher film.
If you want certain undesirable guests to leave your Halloween shindig this weekend or just need some sleep, pop in “The Legend Of Halloween Jack.”
It’s too talky, too amateurish and much too tame to hold the attention of its target audience. I’m all for the introduction of a new horror icon and a new horror mythology, but this flaccid mess is a far cry from legendary.
Oh Laura, oh Lizzie — maybe you should just have stayed home. But who can resist the temptations of “Figs to fill your mouth, Citrons from the South, Sweet to tongue and sound to eye?” And who wouldn’t peep at goblin men, no matter how dire the consequences? I’ll buy, I’ll buy.