Thursday, October 15, 2015

Halloween III: Season of the Witch (1982)

Director: Tommy Lee Wallace
Notable Cast: Tom Atkins, Stacey Nelkin, Dan O'Herlihy, Michael Currie

Of all of the Halloween sequels in all of the land, Halloween III: Season of the Witch has the strangest and most devout cult following of them all. The film itself was fairly controversial, if not for just the fact that it is a Michael Myers-less entry, and it has created a massive divide of people that fall into the ‘love’ or the ‘hate’ columns. The people who love it will defend it with all of their logistical might and those who hate it will simply refuse to acknowledge its existence as a film... let alone part of an iconic slasher franchise. For this reviewer, Halloween III remains a fun 80s flick, working in some nice silly concepts and some oddly serious performances, but it’s not nearly the classic that some say it is. In the end, it falls right in the middle of the two extreme opinions of the film.

Eight days before Halloween, an elderly gentleman winds up in Dr. Challis (Atkins) hospital clutching one of Silver Shamrock’s new – and very popular – Halloween masks and telling the doctor that ‘they are going to kill us all.’ When the man winds up dead in the hospital and his killer torches himself in glorious 80s explosion fashion outside, Dr. Challis decides he needs to investigate further. With the daughter of the deceased man by his side, they head to a small town where Silver Shamrock makes the masks…and uncover a disturbing conspiracy.

A masked conspiracy. Ba da cha.
If there is anything that can be said about Halloween III, it’s that it goes for broke with its concept. The idea of an evil corporation and their intent to bring down civilization is a well-used 80s film idea, but going as far as having them utilize “killer Halloween masks” that are linked to a signal which just so happens to make the pieces of Stonehenge in the circuitry (!?) turn children’s heads into bugs and snakes (?!?!?!) can seem a little bat shit insane. Halloween III, however, never treats its ridiculous material as ridiculous as it should. Director and writer Tommy Lee Wallace plays it completely straight forward in tone and seriousness. It’s to the point that as the viewer laughs at each new discovery or plot twist, they can’t help but wonder if the film is laughing with them or not. Decades after seeing this film for the first time, I still don’t know if it’s brilliant or asinine in this approach. Perhaps a little bit of both.

As if the idea of evil corporations using TV and ancient cult rituals to kill our children on the devil’s night wasn’t 80s enough, it also throws in a strange curve ball by having robots that look like people work in the corporation. This “mystery,” as it is first approached as in the film, seems to be an afterthought to the main evil mask storyline though. It’s not wholly dissected in its themes that it hints at – which would fit well into the subtle ones about evil technology that the rest of the film uses – but it makes for some fun action like sequences (including one where Atkins punches through the stomach of one to yank out its wiring). It’s horribly cheesy and it doesn’t quite fit in with the rest of the themes, but hell, I’m down for some cyborg horror even when it’s not called for.

However, despite how the film latches onto its plot and its ridiculous 80s plot progressions, Halloween III really fails to give us characters that are worth taking the ride with. Dr. Challis, played with dire seriousness by Atkins, is quite honestly a terrible character to follow. He’s shown to be the worst father known on the planet and his romantic relationship with the plank of wood lead female character Ellie is about as believable as the rest of the plot. Had the film spent ten more minutes getting us invested into Challis' plight or give us a reason why he seems so intent on solving the murder that kicks off this film than Halloween III might have worked tenfold better. Outside of a few moments though, including the awesome final minutes of the film, there is rarely a moment where the audience connects with the heroes to relate.

No I don't want to make a Collect Call!
Halloween III: Season of the Witch is more or less a fun holiday themed flick that’s hilarious to pick apart and enjoy for its outrageous moments and ideas then it is to watch as a “good film.” It has a lot of issues with its characters and the plot has some serious holes (why is Silver Shamrock still producing masks a few days before Halloween if they plan to kill so many children? Is this just the first step towards a world destroying plan since this will only affect a fraction of the children in the US? SO MANY QUESTIONS!), but it’s hard not to get a sense that Wallace and company intended some of the silliness just for the sake of making an entertaining movie. And it’s quite the entertaining romp. If you want a good movie, don’t go looking in this direction. If you want fun, then this is the perfect Halloween treat.

Written By Matt Reifschneider

1 comment:

  1. I refuse to own this entry for the simple fact it doesn't have Michael Myers. I bought the Blu-ray box set, sold the Halloween 3 disc/case and replaced the empty slot with the single release of the Halloween 6 producer's cut. HALLOWEEN = MICHAEL MYERS