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Here at Four Horsemen Films, we're dedicated to some of the very best and worst cinematic masterpieces you know, love, and despise. Think of us as Bad Movies for Bad People, or as a liaison to the inner sanctum of cinema. Or, just think of us as quick and entertaining reads. That's what Four Horsemen Films is all about.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Halloween III: Season of the Witch (1982)

Halloween III: Season of the Witch (1982)

Written By: Tommy Lee Wallace

Directed By: Tommy Lee Wallace

Starring: Tom Atkins, Stacey Nelkin, Dan O’Herlihy

Country of Origin: United States of America

The Idea:
Before I begin to completely decimate and shred any piece of dignity that Halloween III: Season of the Witch possibly had left before making its dubious way to my website, I’d like to take this time to share with you a simple history lesson and perspective analysis. I, like many others, have watched the majority of “slasher” picks with waning degrees of interest, mainly because each one in the like follows along the same lines of perpetual stupidity. There’s a killer on the loose, he’s going to kill you next bitch, don’t run upstairs you dumb bastard. That’s the basics of Slasher 101 for ya. That being said, the Halloween series is a completely different (and altogether original) set of films that don’t follow this same formula nearly at all.

John Carpenter is, simply put, a genius. His masterful works in the genre include the original film as well as its sequel, Halloween II. Taking place during the same time and on the exact same evening, they are the perfect and ideal example for suspenseful chillers from the early 80’s that predate the infatuation with Jason Voorhees, Freddy Krueger, and yes, even Ashley J. Williams. The characters, whether they be scream queen Jamie Lee Curtis as Laurie Strode or even the menacing Michael Myers (really just a William Shatner/Captain Kirk mask after all this time), were simplistic enough that you could understand what their primary conflict was yet they required a minimum two films just to battle through it all. With ingenuity in both his technique and directorial skills, Carpenter crafted very intelligent writing amongst the blood and guts we expected (and were often appalled by) to see.

Carpenter’s final contribution to the series was when he determined it show go in a new direction. John had fashioned out an idea that Halloween, the name at least, should apply to a broader spectrum as an anthology series, chronicling several different eerie happenings on October 31st. The idea itself seems well and good, but when its very first script was green lighted for Halloween III: Season of the Witch, the ship capsized after striking more obstructions that a silver ball inside a pinball machine on tilt.

I should have known that reviewing this movie, or simply watching it again, was a bad idea. I should have noticed the signs. What signs, you may ask? Well, how about the signs that indicated that my cheap DVD copy of the film refused to play nearly six times in three different players before finally succumbing to my shitty movie lust. By the time it finally played, I had forgotten why exactly I wanted to watch it in the first place. Within 15 minutes, I was reminded about just how this movie has changed the process of sequel making for better and worse.

The story is all about a corporation, Silver Shamrock, who is on top of the Halloween costume business with their three uniquely different masks available in stores nationwide. Each mask comes with a seal of authenticity (an important button for the plot in the future) and each is encouraged to be worn during a live Silver Shamrock broadcast on the night of Halloween. Though this all seems innocent enough, strange happenings occur and introduce us to the always lovable Tom Atkins as Dr. Dan Challis. Dr. Challis is chilled by the recent disturbances these masks are causing, and upon investigation, he learns the shocking truth: Silver Shamrock is an evil corporation set to destroy America’s youth via subliminal advertising and messages in their nighttime screening that will (and I kid you not) squish every kid’s head into a pile of bugs and, presumably, kill them. I couldn’t make that up if I tried, or even through darts at an idea board. To fully understand just how awful it all is, watch this for best results.

Apparently, everyone in the good ol’ USA has bought one of these killer masks and has no idea just what destruction they can cause, so Challis sets out to rectify the situation by eliminating Silver Shamrock and everyone behind this insidious plot. Even with the constant bewilderment such an awful, awful plot has to offer, it also presents an important sociological sidebar on how consumers are driven simply by advertising and rarely look at the harmful side effects of the products they have purchased. Granted, this line of thinking is taken several steps further with the inclusion of mass murder, but we’re not far off with the kind of materialistic society we’ve become. That Tickle Me Elmo might as well be a bomb, and you’d never know, either.

No amount of intelligent subtext can cover up for the sheer audacity that the movie presents as we reach the not-so-thrilling climax and conclusion. Dr. Challis, along with some much needed help (read: gratuitous tits) thwarts the corporation with the very technology they are using against society, but his efforts fall on deaf ears when one television station refuses his demands and plays the deadly, seizure-inducing commercial as the credits roll. So much for saving the world as a renegade on Halloween.

Member of the crew who should’ve been fired: Today we’ll go with Dan O’Herlihy, the evil and demented creator of Silver Shamrock’s deadly masks. If for no other reason than his character is a benign tumor in the throat of life, his character’s name is Conal Cochran, and that’s a really stupid fucking name.

Best Name in the Cast: Tom Atkins, and not just for being born on the same day as this oft-humbled reviewer. Atkins as a knack for sizing up these roles, as he often plays a washed up cop, doctor, detective, etc. against the world. The man nips from the bottle more times onscreen than Andre the Giant at a wine tasting convention.

Quote of the Film:
“The night no one came home.” -Selected from the trailer and tagline of the movie specifically for its foreshadowing connotation. The first movie featured the tagline: “The night ‘he’ came home,” referring to Michael Myers. Ironic that “no one” came home for part three, considering that he makes no appearance in the film’s plot or continuity. Marvelous.

Final Thoughts: The financial and critical flop that Halloween III: Season of the Witch became left movie producers with no other option. If they were to continue this franchise for lucrative sums, they would have to resurrect Michael Myers, something that they literally did 6 years later for Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers. Through incredibly baffling events, he came back and ended up just as shameful as any other horror movie pioneer. At least Halloween 4 delivered what its tagline promised, instead of what we got from this movie, in which it delivered, well, I guess a third installment to a once successful and dignified series. Too bad that didn’t last, not like it ever does.

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