Sunday, 1 November 2015

Halloween III: Season of the Witch (1982)

"Eight more days 'til Halloween,
Halloween, Halloween.
Eight more days 'til Halloween,
Silver Shamrock"

Halloween III: Season of the Witch or, as a mate of mine calls it "The shit one that doesn't even have Michael Myers in it"

It's a viewpoint that I know many people share.

Yup, there's a lot of idiots out there.

Following the closing credits of Halloween II it seemed that, and perhaps it should have been that, the possibilities of Myers, Laurie Strode and Dr Loomis etc were now well and truly exhausted. To that end, John Carpenter and Debra Hill envisaged producing an anthology series of films under the Halloween title in the manner of The Twilight Zone, with each new film focusing on a different aspect of the Halloween season. Somewhere out there, there's an alternate universe where this film was a success and that dream was realised and we didn't have to endure endlessly interminable adventures of Micheal Myers, most notably Halloween: Resurrection!

In seeking this new direction, Carpenter approached one of his heroes, the veteran British sci-fi author Nigel Kneale who had so impressed Carpenter with the Quatermass series. Kneale turned in a script which was big on ideas and low on gore. It was, as he himself claimed, not a film script that included "Horror for horror's sake. The main story had to do with deception, psychological shocks rather than physical ones." This move did little to enamour money man Dino De Laurentiis, who immediately instructed the inclusion of more graphic violence and gore. These additions naturally displeased Kneale, who left the project, requesting that his name be taken off the credits. It was left to director Tommy Lee Wallace to rewrite the script  and claim the sole writing credit and regrettably the behind the scenes ructions do show in the finished product. At best, the ideas and concepts on display are sometimes flawed and sketchy, and at worst, they're frankly a bit ridiculous. I mean, you only have to write out the plot for the film to realise how silly it is; fragments of Stonehenge are contained within the circuit of the logo on a range Halloween masks which will kill anyone wearing the mask or those around them at 9pm on October 31st! But c'mon, this is popcorn horror - do we really come here for rational, cohesive, tightly and intelligently plotted entertainment? I know some people baulk at the Stonehenge plot point, querying just how a huge chunk of it could be secretly transported across the Atlantic, but this is just nitpicking that misses the gag inherent in Kneale's script because, after all, no one knows how the ancient druids managed to transport the bluestone of Wales some 200 miles to the site of Stonehenge!

It's a shame Kneale walked away really because although it is clear he felt the violence and cheap frights were ramped up, I do feel there's something a little more innovative in the way in which Tommy Lee Wallace uses them. They're more bizarre than horrific or disgusting and maintain the film's (and Kneale's original) theme of deception, or at least a kind of twisted practical jokery, with Dan O'Herlihy's malevolent, slightly subdued Willy Wonka style figure an effective villain of the piece pitted against The Fog's dependable Tom Atkins and the very pretty Stacey Nelkin. Basically, if you like your scares more along the lines of Invasion of the Bodysnatchers than the usual tropes of the slasher genre, then Halloween III: Season of the Witch is the film in the franchise for you. Indeed its heavily redolent of Don Siegel's classic, even setting the majority of the action in the fictional Californian town of Santa Mira, the name of the town from that seminal B movie. Tommy Lee Wallace certainly imbues his film with that effectively chilly sense of extreme, unnatural perfection, albeit with the occasional nod to human quirks just to go about undetected (the sneezing android in the lift is a great moment) and as a critique on how Western consumerism ultimately smothers the origins of every tradition it's quite a winner.

In short, this film is great fun and has been unfairly maligned for too long.

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