Every year, I basically miss Halloween because my mortuary school finals for the fall semester tend to fall around Halloween. My semesters tend to start early and run very short. So, I wont be dressing up this year, but, dangit, I miss watching movies for Halloween. I can’t really do a marathon because I’m still in the midst of school, but I figured I could do one movie a week. And what’s more Halloween than the Halloween series? This has the benefit of being a series of movies that I’m not really familiar with. It’s strange, I know that the A Nightmare on Elm Street and Friday the Thirteenth series got a lot of play on t.v. when I was young but I never really noticed the Halloween series on t.v. This is doubly true for Halloween III: Season of the Witch.
Halloween III: Season of the Witch is the Civil War of the Halloween series, it turns friends against friends and family against family. People either love it or hate it.
Some background might be helpful. John Carpenter and Debra Hill wrote the first two Halloween movies. They were reluctant to make a third movie but they had ideas for other movies centered around weird events happening around Halloween. Halloween III: Season of the Witch was supposed to be the first of several movies focusing on Halloween weirdness without Michael Myers but its initial box office run was poor. So it was decided to resurrect Michael Myers and the world has lost what could have been multiple, weird Halloween stories. Make no mistake, this movie is damn weird in the best way. It’s like a sci-fi witch movie or if Lord Summerisle from The Wicker Man had robots and a computer. On the plus side, it’s great seeing this movie become a cult classic.
Tom Atkins stars as Dr. Challis. He starts investigating the circumstances of an odd murder-suicide that occurs at the hospital where he works. With the victim’s daughter, Ellie (Stacey Nelkin), Dr. Challis uncovers the sinister secret of the Silver Shamrock Novelties Company. It turns out that Conal Cochran (Dan O’Herlihy, I knew I recognized him, he was Andrew Packard on Twin Peaks) worships the old Celtic gods and needs a sacrifice to bring them back.
I know I’ve said this already but this movie is just damn weird. It has this very old fairy-tale kind of horror merged with what was considered emerging technology for 1982. I truly don’t think I’ve seen a story that’s merged technology with the old gods in quite this way.
I can see why people find this movie off-putting, aside from the utter lack of Michael Myers. It has a moderate anti-consumerist/anti-media message that I’m not sure if 1980s America wanted to hear, especially from a movie in the Halloween series.
Do kids still get yelled at for sitting too close to the t.v.? This feels like it was a very 1970s through 1980s concern parents had, but I know I definitely was scolded for that. There are loads of closeups on the t.v. and the title sequence is actually a super-closeup on the t.v.
You can almost feel the static electricity buzzing your nose just looking at that. The Silver Shamrock advertisements make Dr. Challis’ children pretty mindless and this is before the supernatural element is even added.
The family that we see Cochran test his sacrifice technology on, the Kupfers, are pretty much the embodiment of mindless consumption. They’re tacky, loud, and shallow, although I’m not necessarily sure this warrants being sacrificed to the elder gods.
This movie is almost like a proto-They Live, with the distrust of what everyone else accepts. It also has this meta element, with the movie Halloween playing at several points within the movie. So, it’s a movie about Halloween, produced by the maker of the movie Halloween, with the movie Halloween playing within it. It’s also set in Santa Mira, the town where Invasion of the Body Snatchers was set.
I ended up enjoying this movie immensely, it’s the techno-pagan movie that I didn’t know I was missing from my life. The pace is pretty good, it still has John carpenter’s creepy synths that are pretty much perfect for the story being told, and it’s moderately gory. It’s not Michael Myers stabbing teenagers gory, but Cochran’s henchmen like to gauge eyes.
Guys, have a happy Halloween!