The best thing about 1984’s THE JAR? The Magnum Video box cover (it has yet to be released on DVD) with its irresistible tagline “It Blows the Lid off Terror.”
Incidentally, the Colorado lensed THE JAR marks the only film credit I’ve been able to locate for director Bruce Toscano, writer George Bradley, cinematographer Cameron MacLeod and lead actor Gary Wallace—and I can’t say I’m surprised!
One night a bearded dork named Paul picks up a severely injured man on the road and takes him back to his apartment. The injured man quickly disappears and in his place leaves a paper bag, which when unwrapped reveals a jar containing a pickled monster fetus.
Over the course of the night Paul is assailed with horrific hallucinations: his bathtub filling with blood, a stabbing, a crucifixion, etc. The following day he disposes of the jar in a back alley trash bin but the visions continue, and the following night the jar turns back up in Paul’s apartment. He smashes it, which does nothing to stem the flow of hallucinations.
Paul’s life falls apart, with his peeved boss visiting his apartment to ask why he hasn’t come to work and a potential love interest named Crystal put off by Paul’s weird manner. After hallucinating that he’s on another planet manned by cloak-wearing freaks, as well as the jungles of (I assume) Vietnam, Paul finally comes to in the arms of Crystal…or so he thinks!
I understand that one must be forgiving when viewing a low budget horror film—especially this one, whose makers attempted to create something unique and interesting—but here there’s just too much to forgive!
Stilted acting is a constant in no-budget horror movies, but the performances in THE JAR are downright appalling. Another annoyance is the tacky synthesizer music, which is blared at full volume over seemingly every scene. There’s also the fact that the whole thing is extremely poorly photographed, with the protagonists always positioned at the outer edges of the frame.
To be sure, the material is promising, and could have made for an interesting surreal chiller. That, however, would require a skilled director and a decent budget, and THE JAR clearly had neither.
Nocturna International Limited/Magnum Entertainment
Director: Bruce Toscano
Screenplay: George Bradley
Cinematography: Cameron MacLeod
Editing: Bruce Toscano
Cast: Gary Wallace, Karin Sjoberg, Robert Gerald Witt, Dean Schoepter, Les Miller, Don Donovan