Halloween III (1982)

Rating: 4 out of 5.

GENERAL INFO:
Director:  Tommy Lee Wallace
Studio:  Dino De Laurentiis Company, Universal Pictures
Starring:  Tom Atkins, Dan O’Herlihy, Stacey Nelkin
Tagline:  The Night No One Comes Home
MPAA Rating:  R
Genre:  horror, thriller, mystery, mad man, evil scientist
Scare score:  B+
Rating:  C+

Plot overview:  At the beginning of the film, we see a distressed Harry Grimbridge (Al Berry) running away from a mysterious car and a group of men in suits.  When he later arrives in a hospital, he is brutally murdered by one of these suited men while still clutching a Silver Shamrock mask; his killer later commits suicide in the parking lot.  Extremely suspicious about the night’s events, both Dr. Dan Challis (Atkins) and Ellie Grimbridge (Nelkin), daughter of the recently deceased man, follow a trail of clues back to the Silver Shamrock factory.  As happenings around town become more dangerous and suspicious, Challis and Ellie realize they’ve stumbled upon a massive plot that could kill millions on Halloween night.

Okay, okay, so Halloween III: Season of the Witch is like the awkward and challenged sibling that no one likes talking about.  Still, I’m dedicated to the series and to my marathon, so it had to be done.  While this is the only Halloween film that doesn’t revolve around Michael Myers, and therefore the only one to stray from the general slasher/ stalker plot, it’s still related in certain motifs.  First of all we have the basic concept of the mask: how the wearer hides him or herself from the world, or in this case what hides itself inside.  Secondly and perhaps even more basic than the mask we have Halloween and Samhain as the day in which all the horrible action takes place or is planning on happening – this series really is focused on Irish mythology and curses, huh?  Next, late in the film we are treated to some of the original music from the first two films, although we do not hear the main theme.  Lastly, astute viewers will have enjoyed the brief allusion to Halloween as it appears on TV, therefore fictionalizing all of the first two films’ events and setting this movie in a different and maybe more real (or not) universe.  While this film, then, is certainly different, that doesn’t mean it’s automatically worse.  It does that on its own accord.

The plot has a few holes, but if we accept it’s ridiculousness we can enjoy a silly ’80s horror film.  From the beginning we are shown on the news that a pillar has been stolen from Stonehenge: could this possibly relate to the plot later on?  Otherwise we have an unexplained murder/ suicide tracing back to a suspicious toy factory and factory town filled with security cameras and odd men in suits.  And I know I can’t be the first person to realize this: but when we realize the diabolical plan seems to be taking plan nation-wide at a certain time.. we just have to remember America is a bigger country than that.  Lastly, in most horror movies the killer’s motive isn’t necessarily always clear – and in fact sometimes it is terror for the sake of terror or for fun – but in this movie, I’m like, ‘Yo dude, what’s your next step should this whole plan work out?’  Even if it goes smoothly, it would only be a matter of time til everyone finds you and stops you from doing anything else.

With Tom Atkins in the lead role I sometimes felt like I was watching Lethal Weapon or even an episode of Magnum P.I. instead of a horror film.  He and his mustache are very ’80s, but I guess I still enjoyed watching him try to solve the mystery and foil the villain.  His chemistry with Miss Nelkin, who I think I liked more, is enough to keep us rooting for them as they meddle too far into a plot involving toys and world domination (or something like that?).  I can’t imagine that feminine critics like this film (not that they could be fans of too many horror movies) because we’re (a) presented with a male protagonist who is a doctor with a drinking problem; (b) a helpless but strong-willed female protagonist searching for papa who ends up sleeping with the leading man after a few hours of spending time with him;

*SPOILER ALERT*
(c) said female doesn’t make it out alive, and (d) sadistic masculine audiences are, at the finale of the film, presented with our male protagonist physically beating a robot version of the leading lady to death; (e) lastly, the main villain is a charming old man (representing patriarchal capitalism) whose main goal is to murder millions of children; not only is he worse than the conditional love of a father, he stands against everything maternal.

Still, Mr. Conal Cochran (O’Herlihy) presents us with a really great antagonist.  Again, his evil plot is a little too sci-fi for me, but he has done a lot for himself as far as creating an army of robots with superhuman strength and then harvesting the ancient and evil powers of Stonehenge goes.  I like his character though, not only because of his accent but because he really is just a polite old man on the outside, when in reality he has to be crazy and is clearly very controlling as we see the cameras all around the factory and town; he is almost omnipresent.  Also, the man is hellbent on murder just millions of kids: like how mean can you get?

It doesn’t take a genius to see the film’s obvious criticism on American consumerism and capitalism running society.  When Cochran reveals his whole plot, the biggest problem he has with the children is that society has perverted them by turning a glorious harvesting of crops and living sacrifices such as Samhain once was into a commercial holiday (run by the mask and candy companies), aka modern American Halloween.  The Silver Shamrock jingle – which may be the one thing you remember about this movie years after seeing it – is a perfect example of the monotony and sheer annoyance of modern advertisements.  There’s a lot of ‘modern’ technology involved in this film, too, if you care to draw any warnings from that.

What this film lacks in sturdy plot or credibility it makes up for in gruesome murders.  Those robot guys are ruthless!  Unlike our friend Michael who loves his knives, in this movie we see death by electric screwdriver, bugs, snakes, crazy laser beams, and of course a few murders at the hands of the very strong robots.  I like when that one nurse jokes about how a normal person doesn’t just gouge out someone’s eyes and then crack their skull.  Oh, really?  I thought that was the normal procedure.  Anyway, this movie is hardly ‘scary’ – though filled with jumpy moments – but these deaths certainly helped its score in that department.

Final critique:  Okay, so this isn’t the best film in the Halloween series.  A lot of fans were let down when this came out because they missed Mikey Myers – but hey, if they were trying to make an anthology I say go for it.  Luckily they realized what the fans wanted, and they also realized with Myers they really had a horror gold mine.  Most people could handle watching this movie because it isn’t that scary.  Squeamish viewers should cover their ears or eyes during some of the murder scenes, which are creative, a little frightening, and pretty gross.  At the end of the day, you have to give this film some credit for its association with the Halloween franchise, for an attempt at a wild plot, and for some pretty foul deaths under a really evil antagonist.