This blog is devoted to all those pieces of 20th century culture too often pooh-pooh'ed by the so called 'high brow' crowd. The stuff that conjoures words like 'vibrant', 'garish' and 'lurid'. Cheap paperbacks, b-movies, exploitation, fantasy, horror and hokey sci-fi - all have a place on this blog where the trash of yesterday is recognised as the classics of today.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Movie Review - Halloween III: Season of the Witch (1982)

A controversial film for many horror fans, Halloween III is probably the most despised entry in the series for many. This would be on account of the fact that it is the only Halloween movie that does not feature masked killer Michael Myers. But is that really such a bad thing? I mean, honestly?

The Halloween franchise suffered a very similar fate as the Friday the 13th series did at roughly the same time. The original concept for both franchises was to do a movie based on something completely different each year or so, making a series that would be something of an anthology of different horror stories. But after the huge success of the first film, Michael Myers, like Jason (despite the latter never actually appearing in the first 'Friday' movie) was revived for the sequel with mixed results. So I have to give credit to the filmmakers of part III for going back to the original concept and making something completely different, despite the fact that this entry is largely ignored by Halloween and horror film fans alike.

Based on a script by Nigel Kneale, the British force behind the classic sci-fi horror Quatermass series (although Kneale went uncredited after disputes with the producers), the story involves the machinations of 'Silver Shamrock' - a company that manufactures Halloween masks.

The film opens a few days before October 31st with a man being chased by some suited Agent Smith types. Evading one, the man winds up in hospital and is able to babble a crazed warning; "They're gonna kill us. All of us!" to a Dr. Dan Challis before he is killed in his sleep by another goon who then sits in his car, douses himself with gasoline and sets light to himself.

Dr. Dan Challis, mystified by the turn of events, is soon joined by 'Ellie' the daughter of the man who was killed. Ellie informs Dan that her father was involved with the Silver Shamrock company, a toy and mask factory based in the small farming town of Santa Mira. Deciding to do a little detective work, Dan and Ellie make their way to Santa Mira where they find the town totally subservient to Mr. Conal Cochran, the founder of the Silver Shamrock company.

Of course the suited goons turn out to be androids and agents of Cochran who plans to kill all the children of America with a TV commercial that will activate special chips fashioned from fragments of a stone recently stolen from Stonehenge, hidden within Silver Shamrock masks. This will cause their heads to dissolve into heaps of bugs, worms and snakes in some sort of parody of the Celtic festival of Samhain. Why? Something to do with pagan sacrifice. At least that's all I could gather from it.

As you can probably tell, the plot doesn't make a whole lot of sense and the film fits more within the territory of sci-fi thriller than gothic horror as its title might lead us to believe. But it's not too bad in a b-movie kind of way, certainly undeserving of the scorn regularly heaped upon it by Michael Myers fans. It's a shame that more stuff from Nigel Kneale's script didn't make it into the film as all the talk of Samhain and the stolen stone from Stonehenge comes across as pretty convoluted in the final film. Kneale's script contained references to ancient demons and gateways to other worlds that never made the final cut. A little more clarity certainly wouldn't have gone amiss.

The film bombed on its release, not helped by the fact that it was up against First Blood (1982) when it opened. Having learned its lesson to not be so damn original, the series picked up with Michael Myers once again in 1988 and hasn't looked back since. Disappointing though Season of the Witch may have been, I think it's a shame that no other non-slasher stories were ever attempted as the series certainly ran out of steam fast.


Anonymous said...

This is one of the best horror's ever! I tend to ignore the whiny Myers fanboys [and subsequent sequels} now and just enjoy it as a stand alone movie. That creepy early evening town curfew is really unsettling.

Toadmushroom95 said...
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