Friday, October 31, 2014


Ok, good advertising at least... hey, wait, isn't this movie about ::becomes muffled, taken away::
It's a strange, unlikely and usually joyous thing when a movie that got dumped by fans and critics upon its original release gets (semi) resurrected as a cult movie (whether it's a cult favorite or cult "classic" is up to the viewer), and then it comes time to give the movie another evaluation.  I have scant memory of Halloween III: Season of the Witch - which was produced by John Carpenter and Debra Hill (writers of the first two Halloweens) and directed by Tommy Lee Wallace (later to helm the TV mini-series of IT) - except the ending, which has the character played by Tom Atkins yelling into a phone to stop the TV showing what is showing, and the screen flashing a pumpkin over and over again.  That had a certain factor to it that made one stop and go 'Whoa' in one's tracks.

Actually, come to think of it, I'm not a hundred percent sure I watched this movie when I was younger, or at least completely.  At the time when I dug into the Halloween movies, and to date myself this was before the return of Jamie Lee Curtis for her very brief re-run in the franchise with H20 and Resurrection, this was the odd film out.

A new heavy-metal band mascot?  Could be...
 The One Without Michael Myers (which, technically, isn't entirely true as he appears on a TV screen showing the original Halloween, hey, if you want an in-joke, go to Carpenter for one sledgehammered in your skull!)  The one that seemed kinda weird and about Halloween masks and stuff.  So, returning to it some 32 years later, and from the perspective of one who loves the first film, likes the second, and the rest of the series can be taken or left as standard slasher fare?  How does it just work as a movie unto itself?

The story of this installment, which according to IMDb trivia was supposed to be the start of Halloween as more of an anthology franchise, concerns a small town where a man comes in to a hospital after being attacked by an unknown assailant in a suit.  He's not quite dead, but another man in a suit (the same one, who can tell) comes into his hospital room and kills him in a gruesome way (fingers through eyeballs, ugh!) and then goes into a car, sets himself on fire and that should probably be that.  But there's no need for this to go to the authorities, heaven's no: the doctor played by Mr. Atkins, joined by the dead man's daughter played by Stacey Nelkin (is it the 80's? check the hair), to venture to the town where the Silver Shamrock Novelties company is being operated and had something to do with this man's murder. 

Don't worry!  This plastic surgery worked wonders for Joan Rivers AND Renee Zellwegger...

There's something odd about this town, and its cameras placed all over the place, and how one or two of the citizens who have their own outspoken ways wind up dead due to mysterious circumstances... well, not that mysterious to the audience anyway.  Pretty quickly it becomes clear this is an Invasion of the Body Snatchers scenario... or a little of They Live... or a little of that episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer where it's Halloween and everyone becomes their costumes.  Of course here it's a bit different, and without spoiling too much the whole thrust of the villains' plans is to... well, honor stonehenge's wishes.  Yep, you read that right, it's all about the stonehenge.

Interesting ingredients abound in Halloween III, and Wallace is adept at finding some sinister, creepy and disturbing ways to kill people.  My favorite involves a family who become prey to a mask work by a kid, and it shouldn't be very creative as a death scene but the sheer abundance of 'stuff' that comes to kill the people the family is satisfying as far as a horror movie death goes.  Oh, and lest I forget to tip the hat to Carpenter (and Alan Howarth) on the soundtrack, as the music punctuates things in fun and fantastic ways (in the 'carpet' style that Carpenter has said he likes to lay on his movies, that is for the story to have a footing).

But certain things don't quite make sense throughout the story, some of these can be chalked up to just Bullshit Screenplay Maneuvers (in capital letters, so you don't forget).


For example, Daniel and Ellie (the doctor and the daughter) go to investigate this death and share a motel room, and right away they get together.  Sexually speaking.  This days after this girl's death.  A little... soon much?  This same framework of the Man and Woman (again in caps) being the people who go into this conspiracy involving mind control and robotics and children being killed, is still akin to Body Snatchers, or at least follows that sort of formula, which this wasn't the first or last to homage.  But the quickness which these characters get together is completely unbelievable (yes, the man is now an 'ex' husband, but c'mon).  It doesn't really add much to the story and if anything takes away what is set up, at least through a majority of the direction and Dean Cundy's smooth stedi-cam cinematography and big compositions (not a Carpenter film but a production all the same) as a quasi-realistic setting.

For another example, this man in charge, I think his name is Cocker or Cochran, he's old and has sideburns, again the early 80's, he has his reasons he's doing this.  All of this laid out in careful Villain Exposition by the way, the kind that is relayed to our main character simply because how else would the audience know for God sakes(!)  It seems to involve the ritual of Halloween itself - before the candy and trick R treating of course - but this still seems murky, even with the explanation.  What's the end game here with all of these masks at this precise time?  And seeing the ending, which by itself is a solid terrifying end that, again, apes the Body Snatchers formula of a man yelling to the world "THEY'RE COMING FOR YOU!" seems sillier in this context....

Greater Good Inc.


How can a man call up ALL of the TV stations, like, everywhere?  In 1982 there were fewer TV stations, but how would he get to all of them?  And across the country?  And the entire factory is destroyed by the time Daniel leaves town, why is it still broadcasting the signal?  Did they explain it?  Perhaps it was explained like other things - briefly and in a way to keep the action movie.

On its own terms, Halloween III is not altogether bad.  The filmmaking has some skill and craft - again, with the DP who in the same year lensed The Thing it's hard to muck that up - and I liked the performance of Dan O'Herlihy as the villain, stock as it is.  It's just hard to see the holes not poking out, and to look to other examples of this type of story, better ones, with more (intentional) humor or better acting or a stronger message, and to wonder if it would have been the Old Standard as a Twilight Zone episode.

It has that shape and scope and central aims as far as the 'world going upside down' mode goes, which is fine on paper, and then things like the sexual tryst and a couple of dips with side characters that are presented just to get offed in creative ways distract from what could have been a nifty B movie.  It's almost as if the movie if being pulled in directions of being a quality horror story, with some believable special effects and make-up and production design and being about 'something', in this case about the dangers of conformity, maybe, and... being an exploitation quickie to cash in on the franchise.

A Plague of Formula befell the movie

In the end, it comes out to be... middling.  It's not bad, and it's not very good.  And contrary to one or two critics, it doesn't come off like parody of cliches to me.  Sometimes a mask with a special microchip is just a special mask with a microchip, to quote Freud.

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