John did a rewrite of Nigel’s script and then I did a rewrite of John’s script. John never `thought of putting his name on to begin with and when Nigel took his name off…that left me and I’m perfectly happy to take some of the credit or blame. Tommy Lee Wallace, director Halloween III
Hollywood executives like many business and education administrators love to expound on “out of the box thinking” when in reality they fear it. True out of the box thinking would put many of the uninspired paper pushers out of jobs. This type of thinking requires not just imagination but the willingness to take risks and go against the grain. Universal pulled a “bait and switch” regardless of whose decision to put Halloween III over the title Season of the Witch and betrayed its own filmmakers. FilmEdge.net’s assessment firmly backs up the Cynema that spoiled a truly interesting and fun horror film that could never be judged on its own merits.
This cynical switcheroo on behalf of the film’s creators and marketers sank HALLOWEEN III‘s reputation and box office fortunes alone. Moviegoers in general rejected the ‘next’ entry in the supposed anthology of films as unexpected and unwanted, regardless of what merits HALLOWEEN III had or lacked on its own. FilmEdge.net
Cynema has been clearly defined in the conception of Halloween III but is the resulting film any good? The answer is a strong yes and it deserves to be looked at simply as Season of the Witch and removed from the context of the Halloween franchise completely.
The producers, director and audience seem to agree: if HALLOWEEN III had been eliminated from the title, SEASON OF THE WITCH would have avoided the instant and fatal backlash it suffered upon release. FilmEdge.net
The film manages to defy Cynema despite its birth defect. Beware, SPOILERS AHEAD:
What Works About Halloween III
Dean Cundey: The production values are high with legendary Oscar nominated cinematographer Dean Cundey returning to give the film a similar look to the first two films, but a picture that defies its $2.5 million budget. It’s a widescreen, clean and atmospheric picture that betrays its low budget and elevates this film levels above similar horror films of its time.
Dan O’Herlihy: He would have made a great James Bond villain as well. O’Herlihy’s portrayal of Conal Cochran has just the right amount of gallows humor, corporate authority and pathos to project a truly evil man and one not to be messed with. His scene with Tom Atkins, giving background to his motives is delicious. O’Herlihy is absolute class.
Tom Atkins: He’s John Carpenter’s “Every Guy.” In a Bizarro Jaws he would have made a great Chief Brody. Atkins is able to project genuine “world weariness” and when he says “I need a drink” you believe him. Atkins plays Dr. Chalis as a broken man trapped in suburban desperation.
Stacy Nelkin: She has just enough Scooby Doo-like wonder as the distraught daughter and enough grown woman to not be totally skeeved out by her and Atkins’s hook up.
Alan Howarth’s Score: There’s real menace here, and the opening titles, despite being 80’s computer graphic-laden sets the tone for the entire film. Howarth’s synthesizer score subtly works its way into the fabric of the film in ways far superior to Carpenter’s original Halloween theme.
The Silver Shamrock Jingle: Beloved by many, annoying to some, the ditty set to “London Bridge” works with Wallace’s soothing Kentucky voice glazing it into a trancelike piece.
The Way The Story Unfolds: It pulls you in and no doubt it pulled in audiences in 1982 as they kept waiting and waiting for Michael Meyers to show. However the mystery does peel like an onion and we do want to know what the hell is going on inside the Silver Shamrock factory. The overall story is a great tip of the hat to “The Pod Movie” with “Them” trying to transform “Us.” We can identify with the damaged Dr. Chalis as he is pulled deeper into the mystery with genuine surprise at each revelation. This movie has great atmosphere and is genuinely creepy and fun with Jamie Lee Curtis providing the voice of the “Curfew Lady” and phone operator.
What Doesn’t Work About Halloween III
The Overall Story: There’s a lot of suspension of disbelief with Halloween III. Here are some questions that should have been addressed before production commenced:
Androids? We know Cochran makes novelties and has an affinity for robotics, but how did he do it, how do they drive and are they all factory workers? And if so, why does he need the town of Santa Mira? Cochran praises his creations for their obediency but wouldn’t the residents be more loyal to Cochran if he employed them?
Why the curfews and totalitarian control of the town? It’s clear Cochran has been around the block and knows human nature. He would eventually know there would be rebels (aside from the foul mouthed wino) in this town. His 24 hour blanket surveillance with cameras all over the town add nothing to the story and seem like it would be one more thing he would have to deal with and he’s already so busy with his diabolical plot.
Cochran: What is he exactly? How old is he? What was his plan and what was he planning for the day after Halloween? Imagine the aftermath, the public outcry, the lawsuits and the manhunt for Cochran as undoubtedly the mass deaths would be connected with his masks. All we get is “the world is going to change tonight” and that explanation matches how he managed to smuggle a giant block from Stonehenge across the world and into his little factory. “We had a time getting it here! You wouldn’t believe how we did it,” he chortles to Chalis. No, we probably wouldn’t.
Are people going to change because the demo we get of one of the masks bizarrely kills but hardly transforms anyone like the aliens in Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Did Cochran expect Chalis to escape? Why does he let Atkins do what he does at the end with the Shamrock labels and where are all his robot henchmen to stop it? Cochran succumbs to the Roger Ebert “Curse of the Talking Villain” when instead of doing away with Chalis, reveals his lab and all the behind the scenes specs that give Chalis time to think of a way to disrupt it. Come to think of it, why not just stick him in the same viewing room with Buddy and his family instead of the easy escape room he invariably escapes from?
The Masks: Just why are these masks so popular? What makes them so appealing to children in a sea of masks dedicated to Star Wars and other far more appealing pop icons? Why just three styles and if they are such a hot ticket item, why is the Silver Shamrock factory so run down with such a small staff? It’s clear the masks are a national phenomenon, but we never know exactly why. Why kill Buddy and his family? Cochran knows the masks work, why waste time or risk exposure with a “demonstration” to Chalis?
The Ending: Why is Ellie Grimbridge transformed? Why not just kill her and Chalis and be done with it? All of this time to set up his dastardly plan and he would risk these two to mess it up? When exactly was she transformed because she allows Chalis to mess the whole place up and wreck the lab room. Why didn’t she stop him as Cochran’s other mechanized employees tried? The final assault on Chalis in his car seems tacked on and why does Ellie decide to attack him then? The damage has been done. What good does it do now to kill Chalis? And why does Chalis go back to sit in the car? The attacking severed arm has no leverage and would not pose the problem it does in that scene. what should have been a tragic, sad moment for Chalis becomes unintentionally funny and overly cheesy and for some dragged out into a “Just end it!” moment. And…what happened to the real Ellie?
The film does make its full transformation into a B-movie in its final moments and in a way makes all of what was just listed all right. The film has the guts to end on an ambiguous, dark note, bucking the growing 80’s trend of happy, or tied up endings to satisfy the audience so they don’t have to think after the ending credits roll up.
I have to give credit to the filmmakers of part III for going back to the original concept and making something completely different, despite the fact that this entry is largely ignored by Halloween and horror film fans alike.
If you saw Halloween III and hated it there may be little that can be done. However it deserves a second look to be judged in its proper context. The final result is a fun film that dared to break from the pack and was abandoned by the studio that forced it into creation. Halloween III is the bastard child of the franchise: resented, despised and misunderstood.
Cynema won as the film returned a small profit and Michael Meyers was returned to quiet the angry masses—to be lulled back into complacency and acceptance…much like the pod movie Halloween III sought to emulate.