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"I do love a good joke and this is the best ever; a joke on the children."
Dan O' Herlihy as warlock/tycoon Conal Cochran
Hello one and all.
So, if you've been following my Halloween Horrorthon postings on geeks.media, you've already read about my distaste and disliking of sequels. And yet, I've decided to revisit one in honor of it's 35th anniversary. It's a sequel to one of the most popular horror movie franchises; but has the distinction of forgoing its initial concept of white-masked-jumpsuit-wearing serial killer Michael Myers' reign of terror on Halloween night in favor of something unique and different; making this sequel film the oddest duck of all in the world of movie sequels.
The newer story can be described at best: awkward and bizarre. At worst: utterly laughable. I will admit that I was baffled as to why the "Halloween" franchise decided to drop the Michael Myers story arch in favor of a more science-fiction horror hybrid and not the scary babysitter-stalking plotline. In an old "Fangoria" magazine interview, I read that John Carpenter and his co-creator, the late Debra Hill had bigger designs for the franchise that reached beyond the Myers story. It was planned to make a series of horror movies centered on the holiday itself rather than be a retread of the Myers storyline. Based on the box-office receipts when this film was released in October of 1982, it was obvious the mass market had spoken. They (and myself) wanted Michael Myers and felt the sequel was a mistake (a sentiment that I didn't really concur with).
The film, written and directed by Tommy Lee Wallace, who was the production designer of Carpenter's seminal 1978 classic (he also directed the original 1990 mini-series version of "Stephen King's IT"), was in my opinion, an intriguing failure at best. It was loaded with interesting ideas that I had supposed if it hadn't had the "Halloween" title added, would've made for a unique B-movie experience. Also, it should be noted that the film had its very obvious roots from the 1956 Don Siegel sci-fi horror classic "The Invasion of the Body Snatchers". Both thrillers took the concept of people becoming androids or 'replicas' of their former selves and turned it on its ear.
Another of the film's major selling points is its music. John Carpenter had scored the two previous "Halloween" films and collaborated with musician/composer Alan Howarth. The moody score had plenty of screechy synthesizer sound effects and I have to admit, added plenty of panache to the story. It was one of the best horror movie scores I had heard and I even owned the soundtrack album on the Varese Sarabande label. It was, however, the catchy calliope-flavored "Happy Halloween" commercial jingle with "London Bridge is Falling Down" as the main riff, that got me every time. As the story progressed, the jingle would delineate the countdown to Halloween until the actual date. Never had a jingle been so much fun....and so frightening at the same time!
The 1982 Movie Poster
Okay, now the plot. Dr. Daniel Challis (Tom Atkins, a fixture in many of John Carpenter's films) tends to a patient in his hospital who's carrying a Halloween mask and ranting:"They're going to kill us! All of us!" He's killed by an android to keep silent. His daughter, Ellie, (Stacey Nelkin) assists the good doctor in trying to uncover his murder and why. The mask he was clutching is obviously the main clue. Dr. Challis is a proud alcoholic and womanizer who can't even make time for his own kids, but makes all the time in the world to ship off to Santa Mira, California with Ellie to learn about the mask's origins.
Dr. Challis and Ellie meet Conal Cochran (Dan O' Herlihy of "RoboCop" fame), an Irish tycoon with plenty of charm to burn. He also meets an assortment of nutsos who as it turns out, are all of Cochran's clients. Cochran has made a revolutionary new Halloween mask that have sold like hotcakes and that will be put to great use on Halloween night when they broadcast "the Big Giveaway" at 9p.m. In a scene that needs to be re-seen to be believed, a family test subject complete with a bratty little kid (Bradley Schacter), dons the mask on while a flashing Jack O' Lantern strobes through the television monitor. Turns out, the mask has supernatural properties and manages to allow the kid to spew snakes, spiders and cockroaches orally, killing him in the process. Like I said, "see it to believe it".
O' Herlihy is one of the best things of the film. A calm, cool, business-like figure who assures Challis and us (the audience) that Halloween has become a complete laughingstock and that it should return to its dark, blood-drenched roots. No argument from me on this; but, does killing shitloads of children with tainted Halloween masks (with a little help from Stonehenge apparently) aid the cause, or make it an even bigger joke? Atkins and Nelkin made for an interesting couple and had some solid chemistry together. There are plenty of references to Carpenter's 1978 classic film as well as "Psycho" and "Body Snatchers". Even Jamie Lee Curtis, who played Laurie Strode, makes a vocal cameo as a "curfew announcer". Bottom line? As a film (B-grade to say the least), it was terrific entertainment. As a "Halloween" film, needless to say, Myers was sorely missed. 1988 would finally see his return with "Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers".
In conclusion, "Halloween III: Season of the Witch", is not the worst piece of shit as initially assessed in its initial theatrical run. It still entertains, creeps and weirds you out after 35 years later.
Does Cochran get his wish....?
***SPOILER ALERT (Yeah...might as well)***
Tom Atkins as Dr. Dan Challis:
"If it goes on, it means the death of millions of people, everyone watching, don't you understand that? Well... well say it's a bomb then, say whatever you want, just get it off the air! Please, you jus... No, no I can't prove it, you gotta believe me! Believe me! Take it off the air now, please! You've got to, it..."
[a young trick-or-treater changes the television channel twice with an announcer alluding to 'technical difficulties'. Then...on the third channel...]
"The third channel, it's still on. Please, take off the third channel. The third channel, it's still running. Stop it, please, for God's sake, please stop it. There's no more time! Please stop it. Stop it now. Turn it off! Stop it! Stop it! Stop it! Stop it! STOOOOP IIIIT!"
Next Up: A rather scary music video!