Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Halloween III: Season of the Witch (1982)

Here we are, my loyal readers, at the end of Horrorfest. There are a great many films I could've covered for this rather belated finale. Movies that personify for many what Halloween is all about. But for me, there was no other choice, because nothing says Halloween to me quite like this movie. That's right, I adore the Halloween film that doesn't contain a knife wielding psychopath in a William Shatner mask. As a matter of fact, next to the original film, this is probably my favourite movie in the series. And I don't mean that ironically or any of that bollocks. I legitimately love this movie.

Oh, stop crying, Michael! You're such a drama queen.

If you didn't already know, the idea was to turn the Halloween movies into an anthology series, featuring a different story every time that was only loosely (if at all) related to the other films. At the time this idea didn't go over very well and the audience backlash was rather savage. Critics tore the movie apart and the idea that Michael Myers wasn't present really just pissed off a lot of fans of the first two films. yes, because bringing Michael back sure did turn out great for that series, didn't it? Besides, logically, how did people expect him to really come back? He was shot in both eyes and blown up. The series ignoring him getting shot in the eyes is one of those things that has always bothered me. Did he grow them back? I mean, what the fuck? Jason has an excuse for always coming back, being that he was unwittingly resurrected by the kid who killed him. Michael didn't get a Tommy Jarvis though.

He just got super incestuous instead.
So, what is Halloween III about if it's not about Michael Myers chasing either a family member or a random girl? Well, it's about Halloween. I know! How surprising! Actually, considering the other films could easily just be set on any other night and they'd still not lose any plot relevance, having a movie with Halloween in the title that actually centers on the holiday is kind of nice. It's like having a Smarties candy from Canada. You get it, expecting something you've had over and over again...but then it's this whole other thing. And there's Tom Atkins in there too! Delicious, delicious Tom Atkins. So let's find our way to the center of this tricky treat and see what's going on, shall we?

I'll try not to gush over how dreamy Tom is.
The film opens as a man named Harry Grimbridge is being chased down by a guy, but he manages to not only escape but kill this guy via crushing him with a car. Spoiler alert: the now dead guy was actually not a guy, but an android. Yes, this movie has androids. Lots and lots of androids. Shortly afterward, we see a gas station attendant who is watching something about Stonehenge on TV and then we see the commercial that will drill into you head harder than anything. The Silver Shamrock commercial. Yes, of all the things this movie is known for, this commercial and its jingle are by far the most notorious. Even to the point where mutant turtle teenagers cannot escape it.

By the way, if you're not watching this show, I am judging you. Severely.
The announcer on the commercial declares that "Yes, kids, you, too can own one of the big Halloween three. That's right, three horrific masks to chose from. They're fun, they're frightening, and they glow in the dark." and our boy Harry wanders and collapses, clutching a jack-o-lantern mask made by Silver Shamrock saying "they're coming" before the gas station guy drives him off to get medical attention. Sure, that opening is no Dr. Loomis freaking out over Michael escaping, but I think it's fairly exciting and clearly sets up the fact that Silver Shamrock Novelties is a shady company. That's ignoring the fact that there are androids too.

But seriously, THE SYNTHS ARE REAL! THE INSTITUTE WILL KILL US ALL!! AHHHHHHHH!!!
From here we finally meet our hero, Dr. Daniel Challis, who has an estranged wife, two kids, and a bit of drinking problem. He gives his kids some masks for Halloween but they express utter disappointment because they're not Silver Shamrock masks. Good ol' 1980s commercialism at its best! His ex informs him that she already got them some though and he ends up getting called into work where he meets Harry, who is ranting about how someone is going to kill us all. Understandably, this results in no one really listening and him getting sedated. Poor Harry then gets his eyed gouged and and his skull is split in half by one of those horrible synth bastards. Why can't more synthetic beings be more like Harkness? He seemed alright.

Okay, Harkness was an asshole, but at least he's not crushing people's heads.
But that's not all, as the killer robo-dude goes outside and douses himself in a nice layer of gasoline in his car before becoming a one man Bonfire Night. Harry's daughter, Ellie, is brought in to identify her dad and is assured his murder is being investigated and some guy named Teddy gives us some foreshadowing that the guy who killed him wasn't a normal human. Yeah, sorry, already spoiled all that. Challis spends some time in a bar while watching a TV that's advertising Halloween (the film) and announcing that following the showing of it on the 31st, there will be a big giveaway from Silver Shamrock. To tell us all about it, here's Little Buddy!

Thanks, Buddy! You just lay down and rest there for a while.
Ellie finds him and they decide to work together and investigate her father's death themselves. You know what that means? Oh yeah, Ellie is getting her some of that hot Tom Atkins booty. After visiting her father's now closed store, they find evidence that leads back to Santa Mira, California, as that's where he went to buy some masks from Silver Shamrock. The town seems nice enough, hosting a fairly decent Irish community that the factory keeps afloat. It also explains the name of the company. As a matter of fact, it seems this company is the largest maker of masks in the world. I guess that's why they make so many...three masks. They're a massive company that only offers three types of masks. I mean, yeah, they're great designs by Don Post, but really? Just the three masks?

It's almost like the company is more focused on some evil plan rather than offering a variety that is sure to appeal to many.
They figure they'll infiltrate the factory to check it out under the guise of a couple who are looking to buy masks for a distributor, so they set up in a nearby motel. There we also meet Marge Guttman who is pissed off about a screwed up order and we meet the Kupfer family, who actually are looking to buy masks for distribution. We also meet Conal Cochran, head of the Silver Shamrock company and if he's not evil then I am cursed by Thorn and will soon have to murder my entire family.

Well, this is awkward...
The town curfew is announced via loudspeaker, which is rather odd, and homeless guy named Starker meets a messy android- assisted end after remarking to Challis that he intends on burning the factory down with Molotov cocktails. Teddy tells Challis over that phone that they weren't looking at bone but were rather looking at what had to be bits of the car...except that androids don't have bones. THE INSTITUTE WILL STEAL AWAY YOUR FAMILY IN THE NIGHT! PREPARE FOR THE WORST AND STOCK UP ON DRIED MEATS!

Just don't buy any from Farmer Vincent. Trust me on this.
But enough of that, it's time to get back to the story as Ellie finally gets her a piece of that Atkins booty and lives that dream. Meanwhile, Marge starts prodding with the seal on the Silver Shamrock mask she's got and it zaps her faces rather savagely. Like really, it looks like a badger just crawled out of her mouth. But that's not all, no, because while she lies there dead as fuck, a big fricking spider-cricket thing crawls out of her mouth and I find myself never wanting to wear a mask again. At least not any that have weird microchips in them that cause that to happen.

I hear the same thing happens if you try to peel old Blockbuster stickers off of used VHS tapes.
Moving on from there, things get much weirder. They're all given the guided tour through the factory and afterward Challis notes that the guards all looked an awful lot like the man who murdered Ellie's father. Not shocking anyone who has read along this entire time, they soon learn that it's because they're all damned robots and that Will Smith was right all along. Ellie gets nabbed and Challis goes looking for her only to find that Cochran has a bunch of robot henchmen and is currently using the company as a front for his massive evil scheme, because he's the leader of a cult.

I wonder if he and Terrence Wynn ever hung out?
He launches into the big master plan, explaining how he built the robots and how he intends to kill every single kid with a Don Post mask on during the big giveaway. He then shows the effect wearing a mask has on a kid by having Little Buddy Kupfer and his family sit in a room while he wears the mask and watches the blinking jack-o-lantern on screen. This results in his head essentially melting in the mask and a whole mess of insects and snakes crawling out, which then attack the kid's hapless parents and kill them too. How about that? Michael Myers couldn't kill his entire family for the Thorn cult within the period of six films but Little Buddy did it in like 5 minutes.

Clearly, Little Buddy is the far superior pawn of a cult. Good job, champ!
So yeah, the commercial will air at 9pm Halloween night and all the kids watching who are wearing their masks will have this happen to them. But, here's the one glaring problem I see with this plan. Yes, kids enjoy dressing up. Yes, many of them dig cool masks. But, speaking as someone who recalls what being a young trick or treaters was like, why in the hell would kids keep wearing the mask after getting home? Those things get hot as hell. The massive amounts of head sweat I accumulated in those masks made it difficult to breathe sometimes. And then there's also the fact that it's often had to see in those masks, which means you'd likely take them off to watch the big giveaway. Not to mention the fact that you'd have a plethora of candy waiting to be eaten. Then there's the kids who have an 8pm bedtime, because that is a thing. Yeah, most kids aren't going to be  wearing those masks when this happens. This entire plan is kaput.

"But I have harnessed the ancient magic of the drui.."
Shut up, Conal, you're donion rings. This plan has more holes in than a Slumber Party Massacre. As far as the rest of the story goes, he leaves Challis tied up, he escapes, tries to warn his ex who just assumes he's drunk, finds and frees Ellie, then he presses a bunch of buttons and causes the robots to all die. Cochran gets fried, they escape, Ellie turns out to be an android that he has to kill, and the movie ends with him trying desperately to get all the TV stations to turn off the giveaway before a bunch of kids die....except they won't, because no real kids who just spent hours trick or treating would be wearing that sweaty mask that impedes their ability to eat candy.

"Holy shit, he's right."
Now, other than that bit that I debunked, the movie does still leave some questions. Where's the real Ellie? Is she dead or possibly still in the factory? How the fuck did Cochran get a piece of Stonehenge there? Will Little Buddy get sequels where he goes up against LL Cool J  and Busta Rhymes? Is Tom Atkins as handsome in person as he is on film? I mean, come on, I need answers, people!

I feel like my head might explode if I don't get something. Or it's just gas.
This movie is a fair bit different from the other films in the series in that it isn't a slasher film. But, in a very odd way it's actually kind of perfectly in line with how silly the Halloween series became after Michael Myers was brought back. Not intentionally silly, mind you, but silly nonetheless. I've seen a lot of hate dished in the direction of this film for how different it is and for it being almost nothing at all like a Halloween film, but I really think people need to chill and think...at this point, it was the third film of what was going to be an anthology series. Michael Myers was dead as fuck. This movie is actually probably more in line with what Halloween as a series was going to be. Hell, given the state of the series that actually came along, I would argue we may very well have been better off. Maybe some of the great horror movies we know today would've been Halloween entries?

Much better than the actual ninth Halloween film, Mr. Robert Zombie.
Now, is the movie a bit like a lot of horror movies of its time that weren't slashers? Sure. But is that really a bad thing? I think that the major reason this film gets hate is just because it's not a slasher film. I guess I can understand that, as it was released during the big slasher boom era and that was a hard time to be different. People wouldn't probably shat in A Nightmare on Elm Street told a story that wasn't about Freddy Krueger killing teenagers. But it does make me happy to see that after all these years, there are many people who love and appreciate this movie now in a way that no one seemed to before. Although people do still say I have an unnatural obsession with Tom Atkins. As if! It's totally natural. Anyway, I hope you all enjoyed this slightly extended Horrorfest. I'll see you all again next year when I dedicate all of my time once more to the pursuit of all things spooky. But right now I am going to go prep for something a bit different. So, until Little Buddy gets a sequel where he haunts the toy factory as it is being reopened, I'll be here trying to get the feeling back i nmy ass. Later days, bleeders.

"It's finally over! Now he can review another Chyna movie."

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