Sunday, October 25, 2015

Halloween III: Season of the Witch (1982)

Halloween III: Season of the Witch (USA, 1982) - Color, Director(s): Tommy Lee Wallace
MPAA Rating: R
[UK: 15]
Approx. 98 min.

Z-rating: 3 stars out of 5

Cheese Factor: 3 stars out of 5

I know I haven't reviewed the rest of this franchise yet but I decided to do this one first because it stands apart from the others. After the ending of Halloween II, where Michael Myers was presumed dead, they were originally planning to turn this into an anthology series with each installment telling a different Halloween-themed story. Unfortunately, Halloween III was panned by critics and audiences who were expecting the return of Michael Myers. For many years this remained the black sheep of the franchise until recently when it experienced a sort of revival among horror fans as a standalone cult film. What's funny is that audiences would eventually tire of slasher films and complain that the long running franchises like Halloween were just rehashing the same ideas over and over again. I guess you really can't please all of the people all the time.

Without any connection to the previous films, Halloween III opens with man running for his life. After escaping from the men who are trying to kill him, he ends up at a hospital in the care of Tom Atkins (Night of the Creeps) who notices him clutching a Halloween mask and reacting strangely to a commercial for the Silver Shamrock Novelties company that produce the masks. The man who is later identified as Harry Grimbridge is killed by a mysterious stranger wearing black gloves that also burns himself alive in a car afterwards. When the daughter, Ellie, starts asking questions that no one seems to be able to answer, Tom Atkins agrees to investigate the mysterious circumstances of his death with her.

Their investigation leads them to the fictional California town of Santa Mira (The same one from Invasion of the Body Snatchers) where the Silver Shamrock factory is located. There they uncover a diabolical, if not convoluted, plot by the owner to return Halloween to its ancient roots of human sacrifice and witchcraft using androids, fragments of Stonehenge, and masks that react to a jingle and melt children's faces. This bizarre mix of science fiction and witchcraft is such a departure from the slasher theme of the original films, it's easy to see why it may have been jarring to anyone expecting another Michael Myers film. In fact, the only references to the original film are short clips playing on television in the background during certain scenes.

Nudity: Stacey Nelkin is shown getting out of the shower and Tom Atkins sucks on Nelkin's breast but nothing is shown. We do get a shot of Tom Atkins' ass as he's getting out of bed if that's what you were hoping to see.

Gore: Since this isn't a slasher film, the scenes containing gore are far and few between. The masks that melt children's skulls also cause a swarm of insects and snakes to crawl out of their heads because reasons.

Awesome: I actually didn't see this movie until after its resurgence of popularity. Slashers were my preferred subgenre when I first got into horror movies and I was told by a friend to avoid the third film because it has absolutely nothing to do with Michael Myers. Combined with the negative reviews online, I didn't get around to seeing this film until much later. As part of the franchise, it definitely stands out as a bizarre entry that is completely irrelevant to the Michael Myers saga. As a standalone film, it was an interesting departure for the series that at least tried to do something original when other franchises were all beating the same dead horse. The masks and Silver Shamrock jingle, set to the tune of "London Bride Is Falling Down", are easily the most memorable parts of this movie. There's even a reference to the commercial in the most recent Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles TV series on Nickelodeon. When a reference to a movie about killing kids appears in a children's show, you know you've made it. This isn't one of those films that I can't say I would recommend because its appeal may be limited to a niche audience. I personally enjoyed this film and if it sounds like something you'd enjoy, chances are you'll like it too.