Tuesday, January 21, 2014

In short: Halloween III: Season of the Witch (1982)

When a patient of emergency room doctor Daniel Challis (Tom Atkins being Tom Atkins, which is to say, awesome) is murdered by a man in a suit in an improbable, head-crushing manner, and said man then proceeds to burn himself to death in his car, Challis can't help but ask himself questions about the murdered man. What horrible things was he raving about? Why was he grabbing a Halloween mask made by Silver Shamrock, whose hellish TV and radio jingles running up to the great day are enough to drive even the mild-mannered rude?

Soon enough, he teams up with the dead man's daughter, the excellently named Ellie Grimbridge (Stacey Nelkin) to investigate Silver Shamrock's very own company town. Does Silver Shamrock's boss Conal Cochran (Dan O'Herlihy) have some sort of horrible plan?

It must have seemed like a good idea at the time to follow up on the genre-building Halloween and the ultra-generic Halloween 2 with a movie that has nothing whatsoever to do with Michael Myers; too bad nobody not involved in the production seemed to agree with the decision. People, after all, do not want sequels to be any different from what came before. With the hindsight of a quintillion later Myers outings, I by now think Halloween III was absolutely the right idea, only calling it a sequel wasn’t all that commercially viable an idea.

However, as someone who really doesn't care about continuity and the rules of sequels, I can enjoy the film for what it is, namely, one of the most well-made examples of batshit insanity I have ever encountered coming from the US. Really, this is a film about a warlock who uses modern technology (particularly in form of androids in nice suits), the horrors of mass communication (oh, that jingle!), and magico-technical Halloween masks which make your head turn into an insect- and snake-ridden mess and shoots lasers, to create a mass sacrifice to the olden gods as represented by a Stonehenge menhir he has stolen! Spoilers, come to think of it. Even better, director Tommy Lee Wallace tells this tale about a plan that sounds better fit for a children's movie in a surprisingly gory manner, while never deigning to wink at its audience through all the ever increasing silliness.

In fact, if you can - and you should - get over the "oh no, no Michael Myers" blues, you might even find the film just as creepy as it is strange, with many a scene (as shot by the brilliant Dean Cundey) feeling as if it came directly out of the nightmares of somebody who has read too many (or is that just enough?) EC horror comics, or just hasn't forgotten some of his childhood nightmares.

That Cochran's plan doesn't really make logical sense (and its execution seems doubtful as well) is rather a feature than a bug in this regard, enhancing Halloween III's weird nightmare qualities because there's no way to anticipate what moment of ickiness or strangeness (or of icky strangeness) the film will come up with next.

Halloween III is glorious in its focus on the bizarre, and beautiful in all the right ways.

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