Thursday, October 10, 2013

Halloween III: Season Of The Witch (1982)

Halloween III: Season Of The Witch
Director: Tommy Lee Wallace
Starring: Tom Atkins, Stacy Nelkin, Dan O'Herlihy, Nancy Kyes, Wendy Wessburg
Rated: R

Where do you want to sleep, Dr. Challis?

That's a dumb question, Miss Grimbridge.

We've come to the infamous black sheep of the Halloween franchise.  Season Of The Witch.  The film I just covered, Terror Train, has more in common thematically with the Halloween franchise than this entry.  And now in retrospect, it looks like the odd one out, but had the film garnered acclaim and greater financial success, it would have been the norm and not the exception.  That topic will be tackled later today, as I'd like not to retread things here.  I'm going to focus on Halloween III and my experience with this film.

I waited forever to check this film out.  I don't think it was until the late 90s that I actually finally took the plunge.  I had been forewarned.  Michael wasn't in it and it had nothing to do with the rest of the movies.  So...why the hell watch it?  Plus everybody said it was terrible.  Why? Cuz there was no Michael Myers.  I left it out, and I have no clue how I was able to do that for so long, given how OCD I am about keeping up with franchises.  ESPECIALLY one I frickin' love.
My not even graduated from high school self decided that I would give this thing a shot.  Back then, I thought it was weird.  But one little dumb fanboy thing pissed me off and made me not like the movie.  These kind of things tick me off with a lot of people in the internet age, and I'm guilty of having done stuff like this in my youth...but..alas.  In Halloween III, in a background kind of thing the original Halloween is advertised and later plays on a TV.  For some reason, I took this as "We're so much better than the first one, its just a crummy movie in our universe".  And I took offense to that and turned my nose up and was a snob.  If I could go back and slap myself, I would, trust me.
So, I put Halloween III away and never touched it again.  Badmouthing it like every other person for all the wrong reasons.  I had thought the movie was a bit strange, but it wasn't my main focus of the bashing.  It wasn't for a many number of years that I would give this movie a return visit on my own.  A small cult following for the film had continued to grow, but I wasn't giving in.  I "remembered" what I'd seen.  I never owned it on VHS or DVD ever (I do own it on Blu-ray now).  When I finally revisited the film, I had to agree, it was not as bad as I had thought before.  And to be honest, this movie was getting labeled as the worst film in the franchise.  And I must say it is far from some of the depths with which the series would go.  If you're putting Season of the Witch as last place in last place in your Halloween rankings, you've probably got some pretty silly reasoning. 
Over time, I have come to enjoy this film much more and there is plenty I have found to like.  For one, Tom Atkins is the man!  I have no idea what my fascination with this actor is, but he's just awesome.  He looks like some high strung high school Algebra teacher from the 80s/90s and has one of the greatest mustaches in entertainment history.  The man absolutely owns his part of Dr. Challis.  The one thing I love about him and the script is that this man starts out an alcohlic divorced deadbeat father and doctor and a complete dirtbag flirt.  And throughout this movie, the man STAYS that way.  While he's trying to save the world, he's an alcoholic dirtbag trying to save the world.  Just watch all the details, this man pleads for no redemption.

One of the worst problems with him in the lead is the totally miscast/awkward relationship he has with Stacy Nelkin in the movie.  Yes, guys, she's smoking hot...but to shack up with Tom Atkins so quickly?  Damn.  And let us mention the uncomfortable and awkward sex scene we are subject to.  Just, wow.  This man bed Jamie Lee Curtis in the The Fog and now Stacy Nelkin in Halloween III within hours...seemingly without trying.  Yeah, Tom Atkins is "the man".  But, while I find this discussion point humorous it is one of the troubles with this film.
Another thing I've come to enjoy with Halloween III is the film is kept within the retrospective production family.  Aside from having Nancy Loomis cameo as Challis' ex wife and Jamie Lee Curtis provide the phone operator voice, the production crew remains relatively intact.  They even carried over Dick Warlock (who played Michael in II) over to play a role and coordinate stunts.  Tommy Lee Wallace, who did set design and created Michael's mask in the first movie now directs.  Most importantly, Dean Cundey returns to shoot the movie.  And in look and tone, Halloween I-III actually form a very nice kind of trilogy.  Cundey's work continues to be outstanding in this film.  While you may not be a fan of the content, at least the film looks marvelous.  While he didn't direct, John Carpenter did compose the score for the film and its one of his all time best.  I love the score for Halloween III.  It'd make great fun for a haunted house or trick or treating (hint hint, Brett D).  
Oh...yeah, that's right.  That damn song!  It's probably what the film is known most for.  Call it annoying, call it dumb.  But there's two things it is 1) Memorable and 2) Effective.  If you can't get it out of your head, that's because its doing its job.  The song was meant to be stuck there, to torment you, to haunt you, to get on your nerves.  Most of you could sing it right now.  

The plot of this movie is pretty batshits crazy.  I'll be the first to admit that a lot of it doesn't work and can't completely make total sense in the grand scheme of things.  But here's my trick, I decide to let this movie make its own rules and let it play by them.  The more I've watched this film, the more I've been able to zone out and just let it do its thing.  Its a goofy little film that has the best intentions, and I have some fun going along for its ride.  Its a B-grade Invasion of the Body Snatchers film and I can kinda have some fun going with that.  I definitely recommend the 70s remake of that over this if you're choosing between the two.
As mentioned before, this film has gained plenty of notoriety over the last 10 years or so.  People have come out of the woodwork liking it.  People have changed their opinions.  Is it really true?  Have we overlooked Halloween III: Season Of The Witch for the last 31 years?  That's a tough question.  I will say yes, but hear me out.  I think Halloween III is much better than its reputation was for over the years.  It is clearly not the worst film in the series.  Is it the best?  For me, no.  I think the series hitting unbelievable lows finally got people to look back, myself included and realize that its not that bad of a movie.  And because of that, i think its started to become a little bit overrated for some of the people who may have never seen it before.  Its a goofy movie that has plenty of problems and stuff that doesn't work/make sense.  But it is a film you can have a wonderful time with despite those things.  If you go in with your fists up, don't even bother with the film.  Heck, its not part of continuity, there's no pressing reason to see it.  But, if you like John Carpenter's work and you're willing to give this movie some sort of a chance, you might like it.  
I've spent most of this article praising the movie, but I feel I owe it for some unfair bashing I did for years of it.  I still have issues and reservations with this film, but they're not very deep.  I've actually found enjoyment in the movie the more I've watched.  I don't skip it any more when doing a marathon of the series.  Its a welcome part of the Halloween family in my home.  Sorry it took so long.

But, they do deserve some backlash for people being pissed about no Michael Myers.  Their ad campaigned certainly asked for it.  They didn't do anything to inform people it was different and having a III slapped on can be misleading.  And the tag line follows suit of the previous two films.  Take a gander.

Next Time: "Double Scoops!" 

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