Film Reviews

Jacaranda Joe (1994)

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Thanks to the University of Pitt’s discovery of Jacaranda Joe in their Archive, I was able to attend their virtual event and watch this mostly unknown unfinished George A. Romero film.

While it was an incredibly choppy presentation, often times impossible to fully engage with (a zoom issue most likely), it was still amazing to see this never before seen by the public proof of concept from George A. Romero! It’s more so this than an actual short film as it was never actually completed as intended. According to those involved it was meant to be finished in 3 parts during the following Summers but Romero got incredibly busy with other work so it was never finished. But with already 17 minutes of footage completed during that lone summer, it seems like it could’ve become a feature length film!

The 17 minutes of Jacaranda Joe that actually exists consist of brief found footage centered around a totally 90s reality talk show about the existence of Bigfoot in Central Florida. Of its 17 minutes, most is padded by the charismatic talk show host and his interactions with his crowd hyping up his topic but it does lead into the found footage portion that takes place in rural Florida during a festival that then leads to the brief nocturnal hunt of the enigmatic creatures led by locals, a film crew and a random celebrity athlete. During this hunt we actually get to see one of the Bigfoots they created…..but only for maybe 5 seconds! Sure even the creature screams 90s cinema but what we see of it still looks promising and unlike any other version of this mythical creatures we’ve seen before, even to this day. At least we can only assume this behemoth is a bigfoot. It could’ve just been some unkempt hillbilly hidden away in the swamps for all we know but all we can do is wonder what it really is because that’s unfortunately where Jacaranda Joe ends, with an eternal tease of what could have been but will forever be a mystery.

Back then Found footage was a style of filmmaking and a mold of storytelling not truly seen before so it was just ahead of the times and surely inspired a select few involved or not, to explore this style of filmmaking just a few years later and the rest is history! Countless horror found footage films would be made…. some not so great but some would become cult classics enjoyed by so many. It’s a shame this was never finished because it too might’ve become not just a George A. Romero cult classic today but a found footage one as well! But if anything, it once again shows just how innovative George A. Romero was as a filmmaker.

There was a Q&A panel afterwards that included 3 individuals, I believe their names were Michael Sellars, Elizabeth Kurtz and George Rizkallah, who were on the crew all the way back in 94! Listening to these 3 who were so closely tied to the production and George was super fascinating to me and the amount of research that the Pitt affiliates have done just to bring what exists of this project back to life is just incredible work!

There was a brief mention of possibly having the film digitally available for viewing as a part of the film archives check out system in the future so if that happens I highly recommend giving it a watch just to see a sliver of film history that partially exists as part of George A. Romero’s immortal legacy.

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