Stars: 4 of 5.
Running Time: 98 minutes.
Tag-line: "..and now the earth will run with blood again!"
Notable Cast or Crew: Tom Atkins (THE FOG, NIGHT OF THE CREEPS, LETHAL WEAPON), Dan O'Herlihy (TWIN PEAKS SEASON 2, ROBOCOP), Stacey Nelkin (THE JERK TOO, BULLETS OVER BROADWAY), Michael Currie (THE DEAD POOL, DEAD & BURIED), Ralph Strait (THE BEASTMASTER), Joshua John Miller (TEEN WITCH, RIVER'S EDGE), Essex Smith (CUTTER'S WAY, STIR CRAZY), and a vocal cameo by Jamie Lee Curtis. Music by John Carpenter and Alan Howarth. Produced by John Carpenter, Debra Hill, and Moustapha Akkad. Cinematography by Dean Cundey (THE THING, JURASSIC PARK). Special Effects by Jon G. Belyeu (EXTERMINATOR 2, THE GOONIES, TANGO & CASH).
Best one-liner: "I do love a good joke and this is the best ever: a joke on the children."
Judging this movie as a legitimate sequel to HALLOWEEN would be like judging FRANKENFISH as a sequel to JAWS. That being said, HALLOWEEN III is a surprisingly enjoyable dollop of Carpenter-Lite. Though collaborator Tommy Lee Wallace is credited as writer/director, even the non-fan can see Carpenter all over the place here. Now, I don't mean to presume anything about Mr. Wallace's authorship of the film, but, let's look at the facts- Carpenter produced. Carpenter did the music. Carpenter did an uncredited rewrite of the script. The cast and crew are populated with Carpenter cronies (and was even directed by one), including cinematographer Dean Cundey, who had already worked alongside Carpenter on five separate occasions. As such, calling this a "Carpenter film" is not exactly a stretch, and I'd go as far as to say it's essential viewing for not only Carpenter fans, but fans of 80's horror in general.
In terms of the backlash, clearly it revolves around the lack of Michael Myers; and, if you believe the urban legends, it resulted in crazed fans attacking the screen and demanding refunds, the likes of which hadn't been seen since the day Buñuel and Dali unveiled UN CHIEN ANDALOU. But you can't really blame Carpenter for trying to shake things up- he was disillusioned by the looming shadow of sequelitis, and, instead of endless riffs on the same, already tired, in fact, deceased (Michael Myers) motif, he envisioned a series of films which he could outsource/return to when he pleased, the only common link being that they took place on Halloween. Unfortunately, this didn't quite work out for him– HALLOWEEN III was a critical and financial failure. But allow me to present to you now twelve reasons why HALLOWEEN III: SEASON OF THE WITCH is worth watching:
#1. Carpy's synthesized scare-twangs. Used to great effect in ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK, there's so many of them here, it's as if a 5-year old hopped-up on smack was let loose at the sound board during post. The word 'insane' doesn't even begin to describe it.
#2. The theft of Stonehenge, pixelated pumpkin graphics, black-gloved killers, eye-gouging, skull-crushing, and a man setting himself on fire. And all in the first 15 minutes! No, this wasn't made by Italians. And, believe me, the lunacy is by no means confined to the first quarter-hour:
And I like the way he wipes those gloves on the curtains.
#3. Babe magnet Tom Atkins.
In Carpenter films (i.e. this, THE FOG), eligible young ladies are drawn to Mr. Atkins like moths to a flame.
They fight being consumed with desire for his sheer perfection, but in the end, they fall like so many waifish, smitten dominoes. Umm....what?! Not to knock Tom Atkins. I mean, I like Tom Atkins. I like him A LOT. But I don't think he should reside in Plato's cave as the quintessence of the male specimen. Atkins even gets a bare ass shot here. I have two words for you, Carpy: 'MAN CRUSH?'
#4. Tom Atkins' alcoholism. Tom Atkins plays Dr. Challis, an alcoholic... I guess. I suppose he probably drinks too much, but it's not exactly a textbook case Evidently the novelization delves deeper into his dipsomania, but I've yet to read it for myself. In lieu of nuanced characterization, however, HALLOWEEN III offers a few brilliant surface elements which would seem to suggest problem drinking. For example, characters say lines like "Sierra Mesa still makin' you drink your ass off?," he requires a sixer of Miller High Life before leaving for a road trip:
Then, despite still having the sixer, upon arriving in Santa Mira, he expresses his intentions to obtain more alcohol before it gets too late (for the record, it's like 5:00 PM):
And then later, after having obtained said hooch, he sighs with disdain when a homeless man inquires whether or not he could have a sip from his bottle:
#5. And why not- in a trifecta of sheer Tom Atkins panache: the way that he emotes.
And we're not talking 'bad acting' or 'poor directing' or any of that jazz. It's a return to a more demonstrative mode of expression, and I like it. (See also: the original TWILIGHT ZONE series.)
#6. Finally a movie that villainizes the Irish as a race. And I love that in their evil little Irish town, it's just a lot of nondescript buildings with freshly painted signs that say things like "Shamrock Savings Bank" or "Dublin Inn."
Let the Irish lilts commence!
#7. In the tradition of police state announcements in ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK (Debra Hill) and the automated chess game in THE THING (Adrienne Barbeau), Carpy gives Jamie Lee Curtis a voice cameo as the dystopian voice of Santa Mira which encourages its residents to follow the curfew and restrict their activities to indoors after dark.
#8. The villain's motive- he really just wants Halloween to be taken SERIOUSLY again. Well, this movie is certainly the perfect vehicle for that sentiment.
#9. Dan O'Herlihy. Maybe you remember him as the 'Old Man' in ROBOCOP, 'Grig' in THE LAST STARFIGHTER, or as 'Andrew Packard' on TWIN PEAKS. He's an unbridled, intense, exquisite Irishman and one of the best character actors of the 1980's.
When he reads a line, he's not doing it for a paycheck, or just to get to the next, more important line– his eloquence is in the moment, and as such, he lives for every last fiendish syllable.
As the final act of HALLOWEEN III slides into James Bond territory, he carefully takes us from point A to B to C with spiffy menace and practical jokery. It's solid stuff.
#10. Dean Cundey's genius cinematography. The man is talented. And even as a Carpenter apologist par excellence, I would say that he submits imagery that perhaps outshines the material, channeling a little Tonino Delli Colli here and a little Dick Bush there, to great effect.
#11. The Silver Shamrock TV ads.
You could make a drinking game of this at your own risk. Regardless, they're cloyingly asinine, set to the tune of "London Bridge is Falling Down," and, depending on how you choose to count 'em, play between 15 and 20 times throughout! Some things you just gotta see for yourself.
They even drive Tom Atkins to drink:
#12. The abrupt, nutty, 100% Carpenter-style finale that's extremely and apocalyptically satisfying.