10/21/09

Halloween Top 13: The Sequel #11- Halloween III: Season of the Witch (1982)

Let me start by making a statement that is both bold and possibly alienating. I don’t care for Michael Myers. Halloween is a good film, but from his second appearance on, frankly, it loses me. You may even notice that I’ve never even touched on the original series only Rob Zombie’s horrid remake. Someday I will get around to reviewing the first appearance of The Shape, but I just haven’t felt like sitting down to view it again. There is however one film in the series that I love to see around Halloween. Hell, I would be up for watching it any time of the year. That film is Halloween III: Season of the Witch.

I’m sure most of you know how this film came about, but just in case let me recount it anyway. After killing off Michael in Halloween II, John Carpenter had the notion to make the series into an anthology series with each film centering on the spookiest of all holidays. Nigel Kneale, author of the popular British Quartermass series, was approached to write the screenplay based around Halloween, but his script was vastly changed to include much more guts and gore and the author asked for his name to be removed. Instead the film is credited as being written by Tommy Lee Wallace, the director of the film who had previously worked in the art department on Halloween II. It has been said by some that John Carpenter also took an uncredited pass at the script as well.

The finished product features Tom Atkins as Dr. Dan Challis who gets called to the hospital on an emergency call when costume store owner Harry Grimbridge is brought in in a near catatonic state and clutching a Silver Shamrock Halloween mask. In the night, Grimbridge is killed by a mysterious man who then douses himself and his car with gasoline and sets himself on fire. Dan is soon approached by Grimbridge’s daughter Ellie (Stacy Nelkin) because she wants to know if her father had said anything to the Doctor. In fact he had when he ominously intoned “There’re going to kill us. All of us.” Ellie and Dan trace her dad back to the last place he was supposed to have been before he was found, the Silver Shamrock factory in Santa Mira, California. There they discover that the head of the company Conal Cochran (Dan O’Herlihy) has a devious plan to use black magic, and bits of a stolen rock from Stonehenge, to make kid’s heads melt and spew forth snakes and an array of creepy crawlies.

Did I mention that Conal has android henchman? Or the heavily repeated Silver Shamrock theme played to the tune of London Bridge? Or awesome lines like “Conal Cochran, the all time genius in the practical jokes. He invented sticky toilet paper. “? Well, I have now, and its all part of what makes this film so great. At the time when it was released it bombed big time, but over the years it’s developed quite a following. In fact, nearly every time I mention it to a fellow horror buff, it’s met with a big smile and a rousing “I love that film.” The problem at the time was people wanted more Michael Myers and less Silver Shamrock, and that’s a shame. If this flick had been released as a stand alone title, I don’t think it would have nearly the bad reputation that's stuck with itd. Sure it’s silly, campy, and full of nonsense, but no more than most of the horror films that came out at the same time.

The glue that holds this film together is Tom “Thrill Me” Atkins. Just like his role in Night of the Creeps is the highlight of that film, Atkins shines here as Dr. Dan. I mean here’s a guy who drops everything to go off with a girl he’s just met to investigate what happened to her dad. Maybe he thought there was a piece of tail in it for him, and well, he was right. Atkins clearly had fun playing the part, and after appearing in a couple of other Carpenter films, The Fog and Escape from New York, this film cemented him as a genre regular. Atkins is still working in the genre today, and this past year he was one of the best parts of My Bloody Valentine 3-D. He’s an actor you’re sure to hear more about on the Lair because he’s in many, many films I want to cover.

The supporting cast is also very entertaining. Dan O’Herlihy plays a very amusing villain, and I loved Cochran’s desire to kill off the kids to bring back the macabre elements of the holiday. Cochran had been quoted that he did a “Cork accent” in the film because that is what he chooses when he’s having a good time. While he might have had fun, he was not a fan of the finished film. Stacy Nelkin’s turn as Ellie was quite good as well, and her shocking turn near the end of the film is one of Halloween III’s best scenes. There are also quite a few cameo appearances that both liven up the film and provide some tenuous connection to the first two films. Jamie Lee Curtis can be heard on the phone denying Tom Atkins a connection out of Santa Mira, Dick Warlock who played The Shape in his first outing shows up as Cochran’s android goon, and The Shape himself shows up in the form of a trailer for Halloween shown in a bar room.

Tommy Lee Wallace might have taken the franchise in the different direction, but one of the best things he did was keep the Carpenter style intact. I think one of the smartest decisions was to recruit Dean Cundy the cinematographer behind Carpenter’s films Halloween, The Fog, Escape from New York, and Big Trouble in Little China. So while Carpenter was not in the big chair, the film had a feel that was distinctly similar to his other films. It also didn’t hurt that Carpenter paired with Alan Howarth to write the score. Carpenter had previously worked with Howarth on the score for Halloween II, but this time instead of the reserved piano driven score from the adventures of Michael Myers, they took a turn into the world of the synthesizer. I think it fit quite well with the film’s plot which featured a horror driven by technology coupled with witchcraft.

Unfortunately, Carpenter’s idea of a cinematic anthology series did not come to fruition, and by the next film, Myers was once more stalking the streets looking for people to stab. Yet this singular experiment in taking the series in another direction stands out at an interesting experiment. It’s too bad that it didn’t work out though. I would have been much more interested in where the series might have gone instead of ending up with things like Busta Rhymes kung fu-ing The Shape. If you’ve hesitated to give this one a chance in the past, I recommend you reconsider. It’s a great film to throw on when you’re gearing up for the holiday, and one that is perfect for having friends over, carving a pumpkin, and having a good time with a well aged slice of horror cheese.

Bugg Rating



That's not all I have for you folks today. I have lists of course. First off the Bugg's old friend Chance Shirley, director of Hide and Creep and Interplanetary, dropped me a line to say that he loved Halloween III and Dawn of the Dead. Well I looked at one of them today, and I'd be surprised if we did't see the other one in the future. He also wanted me to let and readers on the west cost know about a screening of his latest film. Let me let him explain:

INTERPLANETARY will be screening Friday night at 9p.m. at the Hollywood ArcLight theater as part of the Hollywood Film Festival. It'll probably be the only opportunity for West Coast folks
to see the movie on the big screen, and I hear the projection and audio at the ArcLight are top-notch. If anyone wants tickets, they can pre-order via this link.

I sure wish I was going to be in L.A. and I encourage any of my readers who are to go out and support this film. It's really funny and you're sure to have a good time. The second list today comes from one of my favorite people Rev. Phantom of Midnight Confessions. Here's what the Rev. had to say:

Okay, here's my Top 5 (because I couldn't think of anymore than that)...

5. Friday The 13th: The Final Chapter
4. Halloween Part III: Season of the Witch
3. Nightmare on Elm Street Part III: The Dream Warriors
2. Texas Chainsaw Massacre Part 2
1. Evil Dead II: Dead By Dawn

I don't think any of these need an explanation or defense besides maybe, Halloween III--so here's a link to my review of that film. http://www.reverendphantom.com/2008/10/halloween-iii-season-of-witch-1982.html

Hey no defense needed around here Rev. I am with you 100%. I see a few films that might still be showing up on the countdown so stay tuned for those in the upcoming days, and I'll be back tomorrow with my review of Number 10 on the countdown!

8 comments:

  1. I feel like a complete idiot that I didn't include Dawn of the Dead--because that would actually be my number one--doh. I guess because it doesn't have a numeral in the title I forgot it was a sequel. lol

    I'm always happy to find another HIII fan. Unlike you, when I tell people that I like it, I usually get--"Man, I hated that movie! Michael Myers wasn't even in it!" I'm with you about not being a big fan of ol' Mikey. I always thought Freddy and Jason were cooler.

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  2. The problem at the time was people wanted more Michael Myers and less Silver Shamrock...

    Ironically, I think today people would beg, beg for less Michael Myers. And since the recent Rob Zombie sequel did poorly, there's you're evidence.

    Always liked this film since it scared the hell out of me as a little kid when it showed on TV and I was terrified my Halloween masks were going to spew snakes! I love the original Halloween, but also have little interest in continuing to watch the Shape—he gets boring very fast in the endless sequels. At least this film tried to do something different and really dig into the underbelly of the Greatest Holiday on the Planet. (I love Kneale and really wonder what his originally script would have been like on screen.)

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  3. I went to see this when it came out and enjoyed the hell out of it. Since that time, I'm relieved to learn that I wasn't the only person who thought the film had merit.

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  4. I have to agree that this is my fav of the series. I loved the end.
    And, don't feel bad Rev., I forgot to put Dawn on my list too!

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  5. Season of the Witch is one of best actual "Halloweeny" films out there. I didn't get it the first time around, but now it's by far my favorite of the sequels. Then again, that doesn't say much (since pretty much everything but II was a total disaster) so I'll also say it's one of my favorite horror sequels in general.

    And you know, Michael Meyers doesn't do too much for me either. The original holds up and I still find it incredibly effective (plus obviously influential), but because the sequels are so meh, I can't say Michael gives me nightmares.

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  6. I agree, this movie probably would have done a lot better if it was just a stand alone movie rather than one of the Halloween movies. Like several others here I saw this when I was really young on TV and it scared me. I wish they had ended the Michael Myers stories with number 2 or with number 1 actually and continued with the holiday theme movies. There is no telling how many interesting stories we could have gotten.

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  7. the sneering (homo-phobic) snobOctober 22, 2009 at 6:04 PM

    I just wanted to see Stacy Nelkin without her clothes on, she was so gorgeous back in those days.

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  8. Now THATS the way to start a post and grab attention! Good on you for being honest Bugg!

    Season of the Witch will always be a favorite of mine, for all the same reasons. I mean, who can hate any film with Tom Atkins??

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