So the Halloween films are on the tip of tongues of most movie goers this October (Laurie Strode herself even admitted she’s never had so much attention), and I must admit, I’ve always found this series of films a corner of curiosity in the horror world.
You’ve got shitty sequels, remakes that have no idea what they’re doing, and films, like the new one, which skip a lot of the aforementioned shitty sequels for that very reason.
At the heart of this mess however, there is a great tragedy to it all. That being that the original Halloween film is to a lot of people, myself included, a masterpiece in horror cinema. It’s dark, atmospheric, it has some incredible acting, and to this day remains scary which is a medal only a few films have kept.
A lot of that scare is down to the William Shatner face wielding Michael Myers who, even if you’re not a fan of horror, I’m sure you’ve heard of. In the 1978 classic, he is the embodiment of the boogeyman, that dark figure looming in the shadows, ready to pounce when his prey is alone. In a nutshell, he’s pretty freaky. Having said this, he really didn’t age well and he’s not really one of my favourite bad guys.
Don’t get me wrong, he’s still a beast but let me put it like this: Jason became a cyborg in space, Freddy took up one-liners, Leatherface got Matthew Mcconaughey for a relative (not kidding) and Michael just kind of stayed the same. (He did bang his niece in part 6 though).
Now, I haven’t seen the new film so for all I know, it’s fantastic and Michael is back on form, but I want to talk about the most underrated sequel in the series, part three. Why? Well, for one, Michael Myers is nowhere to be seen.
See, back when Halloween was made, my boy John Carpenter had an idea of a Halloween series which didn’t follow one particular story, but a whole bunch of them. Each film would be a different spooky happening on Halloween night. The first was about a real life monster terrorising a small town and its baby sitter community. The next would be well who knows because then the big wigs got involved and kind of strong armed the story to follow Michael Myers again we got Halloween 2 which is just a flat pancake of plainness, devoid of the passion from part one. Not a bad film, but just not the same.
So here comes Halloween III: Season of the Witch, a complete one eighty on the whole Michael Myers story and a film which, while not perfect, should be talked about more. This is a film that is full of small ironies which make it a big part of this tragedy I mentioned before.
For one, you could argue that this film is the first sequel in the ‘true’ Halloween series, being that it’s the first to follow the tracks of its original conception. It’s still a very Halloween film, technically even more than the first as like I said its about killer Halloween masks that are designed to murder every child on the holiday.
I won’t lie though, the plot is a little silly, I mean these masks are generic as hell (a skeleton, a witch and a pumpkin), and they’re not even well designed. Remember the Goosebumps episode ‘The Killer Mask’ where the mask tries to effectively fuse with its wearer? Remember how terrifying that mask was? It made sense because you knew a kid would want to scare someone with it, but here, they’re pretty lame.
It’s acting is also quite strange at times, although admittedly a lot of the acting makes sense with the story, being that a lot of the bad guys turn out to be robots. Aside from that however, you have got Tom fucking Atkins in the main role, a seriously under-talked about horror actor who is a frequent face when it comes to John Carpenter.
(Although in another small irony, this is the first Halloween film without him at the helm).
As the story of this goes on, it really hits home the shame that there weren’t more of these kind of films and all we ended up getting was laziness pretty much. For instance, these killer masks melt the brains of the kids wearing them – straight up MELT THEIR BRAINS. And we get so see the effects of this first hand. A television flashes an advert with the catchiest death tune you’ve ever heard and the mask starts doing something? Not really sure what but the kid’s head is in bits on the floor and all sorts of creepy crawlies come peeking out. Oh, and snakes too.
It’s quite horrifying, especially when this is a fate intended for as many children as possible at the hands of ‘The Old Man’ from Robocop. He has an army of human looking robots at his side who like to crush people’s skulls, and he just really has a gripe with kids on Halloween. It sounds daft, but there is a certain atmosphere to this film similar to that you’d find in the best Goosebumps episodes – you know, that feeling of hopelessness and dread of being somewhere that’s out to get you. It all goes back to that Lovecraftian idea that being alone can be the most frightening thing, especially when you’re up against something which seems to have infinitely more power. Here, it just so happens to be an old guy and his robots, handing out tricks instead of treats.
Turns out he just really likes Halloween and wants to commit a mass sacrifice, paying homage to the pagan roots of the festival which he does through technology. It’s actually not a bad idea and it’s a nice modern re-telling of something out of a fairy tale. Instead of luring the kids into his candy house in the woods to cook them in the oven, he gets them to watch television and melt their minds.
Of course, it’s very 80’s so I love it. You’ve got that kicking synth, the goofy gore, and that air of focus on the importance of technology, without really actually knowing what the future of it would be like.
Overall, this film doesn’t get enough credit, and I do think it’s down to the fact that the popularity of Michael Myers got in the way of any recognition it could’ve gotten when it first came out. Audiences were confused as to why there was no Michael and as soon as producers heard that cry, Michael Myers returned and the series never looked back. If perhaps this was the direct sequel following the original, it may have stood a better chance, but alas poor Yorick, it was not meant to be.
What I can say for Halloween 3 however, that it’s certainly in the top three best entries of the series, and while number one will always go the classic, and I haven’t seen this new film to judge, I’d said it’s a solid number two. Take that however you like, but I would definitely give it a chance if want something different to watch this Halloween.