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Wednesday, October 30, 2013

31 Days of Scream-O-Ween! - Halloween III

By David Massey


One of the more baffling choices made in 1980’s Hollywood was to release a movie about witch toymakers combining computers with pieces of Stonehenge as a weapon to kill children under the title ‘Halloween 3’. Sure, from one perspective, associating this one-off horror flick with a tried and true franchise must have seemed like easy money but the deception reviled audiences and, regardless of the films many qualities, it was a total flop. Now, 30 years later, the film has finally found its cult and Scream Factory has given the unique ‘Halloween 3 – Season of the Witch’ the stand-alone credit it deserves in a 30th Anniversary “Silver Shamrock” Edition Blu-Ray.


Halloween III – Season of the Witch
The Film:

In an effort to start a new anthology series and move the title ‘Halloween’ away from the one-trick-pony that is ‘Michael Myers’, John Carpenter and Producer Debra Hill took a risk and hired Tommy Lee Wallace, the Production Designer & Editor of the original Halloween, to write and direct the first installment. The result is a bat-shit, off-the-wall plot that had me both terrified and scratching my head as a kid.

 The film follows Dr. Challis, played by the mustachioed cult icon (only-possibly-perceived-as-studley-to-some-other-generation), Tom Atkins. After one of his patients is brutally murdered by a mysterious suited man who then self-immolates in front of him, Challis inexplicably leaves his wife and kids to follow his late patient’s hot, young daughter – what more motivation could he need - on a quest to solve this mysterious killing. The only clue they have is the jack-o-lantern Halloween mask her father was clutching when he was wheeled into the ER. The sing-song television ad (‘4 more days to Halloween…’ set to the melody of ‘London Bridge is Falling Down’) that has already played no less than 3 times by this point of the film (with many many repeat viewings to come) shares the same green shamrock logo as the mask. Their destination is an isolated Northern Californian village called Santa Mira, the headquarters of the Silver Shamrock Toy and Halloween Mask Company lead by Conal Cochran (the always imposing Dan O’Herlinhy – ‘RoboCop’, ‘The Last Starfighter’).

It’s not that the gore and horror of their discoveries are any more shocking than what we’ve already seen in ‘Halloween’ movies – in fact, the suited henchmen might as well be ‘Michael Myers’ clones based on their killing style and presence – but that the deaths are some much more ‘out there’. It’s one of those films that, if you haven’t seen, tries to unravel as a bit of a mystery and the solution to that mystery is so totally inexplicable that I don’t want to give it away. What I will say is that this, like a few of its contemporaries, was made in an era just before it became absolutely unheard of to depict children in peril; these toy-makers pull no punches in that effort using an absurd combination of witchcraft, astrology, paganism, microchips, subliminal messages, robots, snakes, bugs, and wicked Halloween masks to brutally murder trick-or-treaters and their parents. You really have to see this to believe it.


The Disc:

‘Halloween 3’, along with a few of the other titles Scream Factory has released, comes packaged in snazzy new Nathan Thomas Milliner cover art. One of the best things about this film has always been its one-sheet of trick-or-treaters in silhouette against a red sky and, instead of starting from scratch, Milliner has just integrated additional artwork to the original poster. There’s a collage-feel to it and I’m not sure if it actually gives much more insight to the madness that is Silver Shamrock’s scheme but I really dig this one.

 Both the Audio Commentary with director Tommy Lee Wallace and the new documentary, ‘Stand Alone – The Making of Halloween 3’, are hugely insightful with one producer openly stating that not including Jamie Lee Curtis and Michael Meyers was a ‘stupid idea’. I think that nearly all of those involved in its making feel, as do I, that the thing that got this film made (its billing as a sequel) was its greatest curse. Also, there’s such a genuinely humbled appreciation from Wallace that his film has finally found an audience.

 There is also an Audio Commentary with Tom Atkins and a documentary that revisits the locations of the film; both have their moments but the big surprise with this disc is that there are no subtitles in any language – very unusual.

The Features:
  • Audio Commentary with Writer/Director Tommy Lee Wallace
  • Audio Commentary with Actor Tom Atkins
  • Documentary ‘Stand Alone: The Making of Halloween III: Season of the Witch’ – New Material
  • Documentary ‘Horror’s Hallowed Grounds: The Location of Halloween III’
  • Theatrical & Teaser Trailers
  • TV & Radio Spots
  • Stills Galleries

The Specs:
  • Anamorphic Widescreen 2.35.1
  • DTS-HD Mono
  • English-Only Audio
  • Original Runtime: 1982
  • Runtime: 99 Minutes
  • Rating: R

Final Grades:

Story: A / The plot is so extreme absurd and bizarre that I can help but love it.
Presentation: A / There is a lot to sink your teeth into here and the film looks great.
Scare Factor: A / As a kid, this one game me so many nightmares mostly because I had no idea what was going on.
Gore Factor: A / There are 3 or 4 scenes in this move that still make my stomach turn.
Repeat view-ability: A / One of the few Halloween movies that is actually about Halloween!

Add Halloween III to your collection, click HERE!

Check out yesterday’s Scream Factory review, Halloween II!

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