Ratings Key

= Excellent. The best the genre has to offer.
1/2 = Very Good. Perhaps not "perfect," but undoubtedly a must-see.
★★★ = Good. Accomplishes what it sets out to do and does it well.
★★1/2 = Fair. Clearly flawed and nothing spectacular, but competently made. OK entertainment.
★★ = Mediocre. Either highly uneven or by-the-numbers and uninspired.
1/2 = Bad. Very little to recommend.
= Very Bad. An absolute chore to sit through.
NO STARS! = Abysmal. Unwatchable dreck that isn't even bad-movie amusing.
SBIG = So Bad It's Good. Technically awful movies with massive entertainment value.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Halloween III: Season of the Witch (1982)

Directed by:
Tommy Lee Wallace

Part 3 seems like it has no business being in the HALLOWEEN series at all (there is no Michael Myers to be found anywhere in the film), but it's good, dumb fun anyway. The original intention of this entry was to prompt more unrelated sequels carrying a seasonal theme and the HALLOWEEN brand name, but thanks to terrible critical reviews and disappointing box office receipts, that concept both began and ended right here. After a mysterious murder at a hospital (a guy has his nose popped right out of socket!), Tom Atkins (a doctor doing some freelance detective work) and Stacy Nelkin (a young woman whose father was murdered and is now looking for answers) go to a small California town to investigate "Silver Shamrock," a company mass-producing popular Halloween masks designed like skulls, witches and goblins. Cheerful company owner Conal Cochran (played with big kid charm and gusto by Dan O'Herlihy) is actually using the masks in a ridiculous plot to kill millions of children on Halloween night. In one scene, a kid wearing a mask watches a hypnotic and catchy commercial ("Two more days to Halloween, Halloween, Halloween. Two more days to Halloween, Silver Shamrock!"), his head melts and hundreds of beetles, cockroaches and snakes come crawling out. Robotic guards are around too, to do things like drill a hole in a woman's face and rip a bum's head off. Eventually, a news program tells us that a piece of Stonehenge is missing (!?!) and our heroes find it in the factory with robo lab technicians chipping away pieces of it to put inside the masks. See there's this special microchip thingy located at the base of the mask that's set off by flashes of colored light, shoots out a laser beam and somehow manages to simultaneously melt your head and turn it into a breeding ground for all kinds of nasty creepy crawlers. Wonder if he got a patent for it?

Despite being utterly stupid, mean-spirited and confusing (not to mention having some muddled reasoning behind why Cochran even wants to do all this in the first place), this crazy thing moves along nicely thanks to lots of gross out Tom Burman FX, good cinephotography by Dean Cundey (later a trusted cinematographed used by Spielberg, Zemeckis and Ron Howard) and an excellent synthesizer score from Alan Howarth and John Carpenter (he also produced with Debra Hill for a third time). Originally writer Nigel Kneale demanded his name be removed from the finished product. The cast includes Nancy Loomis (in a different role here than what she played in the original), Dick Warlock and a voice cameo from Jamie Lee Curtis. The Michael Myers character would return in the rest of the sequels, starting with HALLOWEEN 4: THE RETURN OF MICHAEL MYERS in 1988.


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