Somewhat marginalised because John Carpenter had the audacity to actually want to do something original with the Halloween franchise; Halloween III could of used a tad more love from fickle slasher lovers back in the 80’s. It’s Michael Myers-free story was supposed to kick start a new beginning for the Samhain obsessed series with the aim of the franchise morphing into an anthology format with a brand new story coming into cinemas every Halloween. Needless to say if Halloween III had been released, say, under it’s subtitle – Season Of The Witch – then maybe crowds wouldn’t have recoiled from the movie like it was straight up Catfishing them – “a Halloween movie WITHOUT The Shape” they unreasonably reasoned? “Without Michael we RIOT!”
Luckily, this being before the internet, we were spared of numerous adult virgins furiously blogging #notmyhalloween and demanding people to sign petitions to refilm the movie and decades later, now the dust has settled, Michael Myers or not, Halloween III is a damn decent movie.
It’s utterly bonkers of course. It’s plot, a delirious conspiracy thriller of featuring robot assassins and killer fright masks is nothing short of staggering nonsense, but at least it shows more imagination and style than 80% of the psycho-with-a-knife pictures that were out at the time.
An exhausted and terrified man runs out of the night and collapses from utter panic with a Halloween mask clutched him his hands. However, after being taken to the hospital he is murdered by a black gloved assasin who, instead of smothering him with a pillow or something, casually gouges out his eyes and then calmly sets himself alight in the car park while horrified Doctor, Tom Atkins watches. That’s right you lucky bastards, Tom fucking Atkins is the star of this movie and BECAUSE he’s the star of this movie he insists on getting to the bottom of this mystery (which has totally nothing to do with the fact that the dead dude’s daughter is cute as a bag of bunnies). Getting leave from work and teaming up with said daughter, Dr Tom traces where the mask found on the murdered man was made and heads to the insular town Santa Mira, home of Silver Shamrock Novelties, and blends in with the clutch of other store owners visiting for the holiday season.
After a smattering of surprisingly graphic accidents/murders (but only if you watch the harsher edit) it becomes apparent that malicious old goat and Silver Shamrock owner Conal Cochran (Robocop’s Dan O’Herlihy) has a horrific Halloween prank to play on the children of America as his company’s super popular mask line is rigged to slaughter the little tykes when activated by a secret trigger hidden in their TV commercials. Dying in excruciating agony while snakes and bugs crawl from their ruined faces thanks to a fragment of Stonehenge lodged in the mask (I told you this movie is fucking nuts) is not exactly a pleasant way to go thanks to a horrific test run performed on an obnoxious family so the race is on for Tom Atkins to launch his moustache into action and thwart this heinous conspiracy before every moppet wearing this particular breed of Halloween apparel vomits up snakes all over their living room carpet.
Halloween III is not the most refined or well thought out horror of the 80’s but it comes with a blue collar sense of style and it’s definitely a hard worker. Where else are you gonna get a vagrant having his head pulled clean off by Cochrane’s human-looking clockwork G-men? Or a misfire from one of the masks blowing the mouth off a woman because she’s fiddling with it with a bobbi pin (child proofing isn’t exactly high on Silver Shamrock’s list of priorities as you’d expect)? This brings us to another plus of the movie: the sheer level of mean spirited spitefulness the movie routinely inflicts on it’s cast as the stone-cold tone gives some legitimately creepy chills here and there. John Carpenter, who writes, produces and (along with frequent collaborator Alan Howarth) composed the sinister synth score helps to layer dread everywhere (along with a few outlandish twists along the way) and director Tommy Lee Wallace (who went on to helm the 90’s TV version of It) does a decent job of keeping things on track but it’s paunchy, silver fox Tom Atkins who keeps things as watchable as they are. His everyman, no-bullshit demeanor hoists the film over it’s more implausible moments and the scene where he pleades with the people at the TV station to pull the lethal ad campaign brings legitimate goosebumps. His final, screamed “STOP IIIIIIIIT!!” and one final channel plays the ad as it rises in pitch is one of the greatest unrecognized horror endings of the 80’s and sticks in the memory as long as the insidious earthworm of the Silver Shamrock jingle (if you’ve heard it, you know it).
However, fun is fun and should be celebrated but that doesn’t stop Halloween III from being pretty stupid, and those who have a low tolerance for a movie where someone slowly figures out that clock springs found in a burnt out car MUST equal a robot man must have been behind the wheel are just going to have convulsive “oh, fuck off” moments all throughout the runtime.
Small and imperfectly formed, Season Of The Witch – sorry… Halloween III: Season Of The Witch may lack a certain white masked knife wielder but has enough kooky 80’s charm to carry it through on it’s own merits.
“Shapeless”, but still has form.