Movie Review: Halloween 3: Season of the Witch (1982)

Halloween 3: Season of the Witch Poster

Halloween 3: Season of the Witch Poster

[Editor’s Note: Halloween: The Ultimate Collection is now available and contains EVERY Halloween movie made! Check it out!-TMW]

Halloween III: Season of the Witch– 1982 -Directed by Tommy Lee Wallace

Starring Tom Atkins, Dan O’Herlihy

With Halloween firmly established as a bankable horror franchise after two successful outings, creator John Carpenter wanted to try something different for the third film in the series. To that end, he opted to abandon the story of Michael Myers- which had come to a fiery conclusion in the previous film- in favor of an anthology approach, with each year witnessing the release of a new movie telling an original horror story set on All Hallows Eve.  It was definitely an attempt to try something outside of the box. Unfortunately, “original” doesn’t necessarily translate as “good”.

This sorry sequel follows a doctor (the usually reliable Tom Atkins, who seems to be on autopilot here) as he investigates a plot by a famous toymaker (Dan O’Herlihy, being an awfully good sport)  to mass murder every child wearing one of a line of Halloween masks he produces. The idea here is to invoke some vaguely referenced Celtic tradition by spilling the blood of the children on Halloween night. The toymaker plans to convince the kids to gather in front of their television sets by saturating the airwaves with ads promising a “big giveaway” on October 31st.  When the kids tune in to watch, the image of an electronic Jack O’ Lantern will be broadcast, activating a laser embedded into a disc fastened to the back of each mask and frying the kids brains.

Halloween 3
Hey kid, don’t sit so close to the TV! Your head might melt!

There are some decent gore effects and cinematographer Dean Cundy returns for his third and final time in the series to give the film something of a boost by providing a spooky visual sheen. Unfortunately, that isn’t enough to overcome a plot that is so nonsensical as to not even work on it’s own terms. This is a film where the villain inexplicably opts to pursue an elaborate plan that can be defused by either turning off a television set or taking off a mask while he already has a small army of robot assassins running around, dispatching people at his behest.  Additionally, there’s never any concrete reason given as to what exactly killing the kids is supposed to accomplish, other than some rambling dialogue about “a joke on the children.” It all feels slapdash.

Halloween 3 Tom Atkins
Tom Atkins calling his agent.

Even worse, the overall production looks really cheap. Considering the success of the first two films, I would have expected the studio to put more money into making Halloween III. If they did, it doesn’t show.

This film has developed a cult following over the years, but it isn’t really deserved. Not so bad it’s good but just plain bad, Halloween III: Season of the Witch is a dreadful, poorly scripted misfire that doesn’t deserve to bear the franchise name. It also features the single most annoying television jingle ever composed.

 

* out of ***** stars for some effective make up effects. Fans can skip this one and it literally won’t make the slightest difference.

Movie Review: HALLOWEEN 2 (1981)

Halloween II Poster Art

Halloween 2 art

[Editor’s Note: Halloween: The Ultimate Collection is now available and contains EVERY Halloween movie made! Check it out!-TMW]

Halloween II -1981- Directed by Rick Rosenthal

Starring Donald Pleasence; Jamie Lee Curtis

“You don’t know what death is!” — Dr. Samuel Loomis

By 1981, the runaway success of Halloween had lit a fire under the burgeoning slasher genre, with 1980’s sleeper hit Friday the 13th picking up the ball started by Carpenter ‘s film and rolling with it. Suddenly cinemas were saturated with masked maniacsoften with a theme tying to a holiday- stalking attractive teenagers and dispatching them in increasingly inventive and violent ways.

So it was that Halloween executive producer Moustapha Akkad joined forces with Universal Studios and Dino De Laurentiis to continue the saga of unstoppable killer Michael Myers in the 1981 sequel Halloween II.

Picking up immediately where the original film left off, part II continues the story as Michael relentlessly hunts Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis), the survivor of the previous film, who has since been moved to the local hospital. Meanwhile,  Dr. Loomis (Donald Pleasence, again delivering a fine performance) is still hunting the killer, albeit with a lot more help from the local police as the murders from the first film have been discovered.

Halloween II is something of a mixed bag. It definitely nails some terrific scarescinematographer Dean Cundy (who shot the original and would later go on to film dinosaurs for Steven Spielberg in Jurassic Park) returned to film this one as well, so it looks and feels a lot like it’s predecessorbut John Carpenter returned only for writing duties with his long time partner Debra Hill, allowing Rick Rosenthal to take over at the helm.

Rosenthal actually does an admirable job considering whose footsteps he has to follow,  but the film relies heavily on the standard slasher cliches, with obvious set ups for creative kills replacing the layered suspense of the previous movie.  Also, Jamie Lee Curtis has zero character development. Forget the smart, strong woman from the original.  Here Laurie spends the majority of the running time in a drug induced haze.

Still, there’s an undeniable sense of danger and urgency as Michael relentlessly pursues his victims and, once again, his perpetual silence and ability to shrug off physical trauma are employed to maximum effect. The kills are fairly spectacular as well, with a scene involving an overheated sauna a particularly horrifying standout.  Plus, Halloween II earns points for having an actual ongoing storyline rather than being a mindless retread, which gives the events unfolding onscreen a little more weight than one normally sees in this type of film.

It’s not quite the equal of the previous film, but if you accept that it’s a bloodier, more traditional slasher flick instead of the suspense masterpiece the original was, Halloween II is hell of a lot of fun.

**** out of ***** stars. A worthy, if somewhat inferior, follow up to the classic.

Check out the Halloween 2 trailer:

Movie Review: HALLOWEEN (1978)

Halloween DVD Cover

[Editor’s Note: Halloween: The Ultimate Collection is now available and contains EVERY Halloween movie made! Check it out!-TMW]

 HALLOWEEN (1978)

Halloween DVD Cover

“I met him, fifteen years ago; I was told there was nothing left; no reason, no conscience, no understanding; and even the most rudimentary sense of life or death, of good or evil, right or wrong. I met this six-year-old child, with this blank, pale, emotionless face, and the blackest eyes… the devil’s eyes. I spent eight years trying to reach him, and then another seven trying to keep him locked up because I realized that what was living behind that boy’s eyes was purely and simply… evil.”

     –Dr. Samuel Loomis

 

If horror fans are going to talk about the genre as it relates to Halloween, then there is no calendar year of greater importance to that discussion than 1978. That was the year a young filmmaker named John Carpenter released his third film, a terrifying essay of almost non-stop suspense titled Halloween.

 

For those of you who may have been off the planet for the past few decades,  John Carpenter’s Halloween tells the story of a psychopath named Michael Myers, who breaks free from a sanitarium on October 30th, 1978 and – pursued by Sam Loomis, his long time doctor (the late, great Donald Pleasence turning in a superb performance) –  cuts a path of death and destruction back to his hometown of Haddonfield, Illinois, the same locale where he murdered his older sister Judith as a little boy back in 1963.

 

Once he returns home, Michael dons an eerily expressionless white mask, picks up a large butcher knife and embarks upon a reign of terror that would alter the course of horror film history and elevate the slasher genre as a box office force to be reckoned with.

 

The genius of Halloween is that it’s all about fear.  The film is more interested in getting under the viewer’s skin than grossing them out. There’s violence, but no overt gore. The chills come from watching the silent killer play sadistic cat and mouse games with his victims, a trio of local babysitters (including a young Jamie Lee Curtis, in her first major role)  he targets from afar early on and proceeds to hunt for the remainder of the film.

 

Michael Myers is presented here as pure, unstoppable malevolence, the absence of reason in the face of pure evil. He is death incarnate and rightly earns a place as one of the legendary cinematic nightmares.

A huge hit, Halloween spawned multiple sequels, the first of which would bring the killer back to terrify audiences in 1981.

 

***** out of ***** stars. I still consider this the greatest American horror film ever made, with only The Exorcist seriously challenging it. If you’ve somehow never seen the original Halloween, treat yourself this October 31st.  But don’t watch it alone.

Check out the Halloween trailer: