Sunday, October 21, 2012

Halloween III: Season of the Witch

"It's almost time, kids...the clock is ticking. Be in front of your TV sets for the horrorthon, followed by the big giveaway. Don't miss it...and don't forget to wear your masks. The clock is's almost time."

Following the trend of watching Halloween-themed movies this October, I went ahead and watched one of my favorites from the Halloween franchise, the Michael Myers-less, 1982's Halloween III: Season of the Witch. Constantly bagged by critics and angrily overlooked by most Halloween fans, this film is still one of my favorites of the 1980s cheesy horror flicks and I really don't mind that it doesn't include the famous pale-masked serial killer we've all come to grow and love. What it does have is an outlandish plot, a gruff protagonist who gets the girl very easily, and an over-the-top villain who's evil for no apparent reason.

Yes, the movie is laughable and really can't be taken seriously, but there's a quality about it that makes you overlook the absurdities of the plot. So you do have to check your brain at the dooror at the very least shut it down before popping this into your media playerthere's no doubt about that, but that's what made the horror movies of the 80s great, right?

Well, the movie starts with an older gentleman running forwhat appears to behis life, holding onto something as he does. He appears very spooked and we see a car is coming after him as he manages to elude it, getting help from a lowly gas station attendant down the street. The man is brought to the local hospital where we meet our protagonist, Dr. Dan Challis (the great Tom Atkins) for the first time. He treats the older gent and takes note of the man's claims that "they're going to kill us all." Later that night, a nondescript man in a suit comes in and kills the old man. He then leaves and, as Dr. Challis follows and watches, gets into his vehicle blowing himself up with gasoline. The next day, the man's daughter, Ellie Grimbridge (Stacey Nelkin), shows up and meets Dr. Challis, telling him that her father told her of some goings-on at the Silver Shamrock factory that may have led to his death. She tells him that she wants to look into the place and Dr. Challis decides to go with her to help. What they find there is some really weird shit.

For many of you who associate the Halloween franchise with Michael Myers might find this film a little strange seeing that it has nothing to do with the masked killer whatsoever. As a kid, I, too, thought this outing was a little odd and preferred not to watch it when I had the chance. It's there, when you correlate it with the franchise as a whole that it's most noticeable as an anomalous chapter to the whole story. But if you've ever read or heard John Carpenter's idea for the franchise, you'd understand what this movie was supposed to be. See, Carpenter saw Halloween II as the end of Michael Myers. I mean, come on...Loomis and Myers went up in flames in the blast and we saw Michael fall beside Laurie Strode and burn, practically melt, to death. How do you continue a franchise with the main baddie gone? No, what Carpenter wanted to do, was to have a different story every Halloween, sort of an anthology of movies throughout the years, and I thought that was brilliant. But, alas, the horror audiences of the 1980s weren't ready for that.

The performances in Halloween III: Season of the Witch are pretty much what you can expect since the actors didn't have much to work with. The story is pretty crazy, so I give them props for being as straight-faced as they were. Tom Atkins, as he is in every film I've seen him in, is the every-man, playing it cool and getting the girl so easily.  Anyway, he, at least, has two children that he promises his ex-wife he'd take trick-or-treating, but decides to forget about that to go and join this strange woman to investigate some novelty factory in some other town. Stacey Nelkin as the love interest played her part very well, considering how her character ends up. And let's not forget the villain, Conal Cochran (Dan O'Herlihy), as the owner of Silver Shamrock and master of the diabolical scheme to kill everyone on Halloween, all for the sacrifice for Samhain...I think.

Even though this film was directed by Tommy Lee Wallace, the whole movie is very Carpenter-esque, which is probably because the cinematography was done by Dean Cundey who worked a lot with John Carpenter. The film has a very eerie mood and can be very frightening at some times, which I think had a lot to do with Cundey's skills.  Not only the cinematography, but the music definitely makes you think of Carpenter, since heas well as Alan Howarthwrote the eerie score for this film.

One thing you better prepare yourself for is the commercial jingle you'll hear throughout the film. It's the song for Silver Shamrock Novelties, selling the Halloween masks seen on screen. Basically it's to the tune of "London Bridges," but be ready for it sticking in your brain regardless. I can hear it right now, as a matter of fact.

The scenery is pretty cool as they shot most of the film in the town of Loleta, California (called Santa Mira in thefilm). It's an appealing small town near the coast, but works perfectly as a place where everything just doesn't seem right.

The film features some pretty gruesomeyet coolkill scenes. I found myself squirming in my chair during some of these scenes, because they're that horrific.

But, for the most part, this movie is silly fun. I mean, unless you don't think a factory in the 1980s is able to create lifelike robots posing as people and the same factory to have the means to steal one of the boulders from Stonehenge to bring to America then you'll have to problem with the logistics of this movie. I won't give away the ending, but I must implore to you to please understand, this movie was made in the early 80s and we didn't have many television channels like we do today, so keep that in mind when you see that last scene.

By the way, a few cameos in this film: one from the original Halloween movie that you'll see on TVs a couple of times and the voice on the television commercial that tells us "it's almost time" is director Tommy Lee Wallace.

My final "bit" on Halloween III: Season of the Witch? It's a bit of nostalgia for me to see this, especially being that it's a movie from the 1980s. Capturing the feel of October is a tough thing to do, seeing that it was more than likely filmed at a different time of year. I love the idea that Carpenter was trying to go with the franchise and kind of wished he was successful at it, but the better decision was made at resurrecting Michael Myers to return and return and return. This is definitely a must-watch for me every October and it can be seen in order from part one or just view it as a standalone flick. If you look at Tommy Lee Wallace's oeuvre of films, you'll see that this is probably his best piece of work...but that's not saying much. No offense to him because I love this flick.

Thanks for reading and have a Happy Halloween!

You can reach me on Twitter: @JustCallMeManny.

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