The One Without the Shape

Halloween III: Season of the Witch

If you watch enough Slash flicks you realize a simple fact: the killer can never stay dead. Friday the 13thOne of the most famous Slasher film franchises, the Friday the 13th series saw multiple twists and turn before finally settling on the formula everyone knows and loves: Jason Voorhees killing campers 'round Camp Crystal Lake., Nightmare on Elm StreetThe brain-child of director Wes Craven, A Nightmare on Elm Street was his answer to the glut of Slasher films that were populating the multiplex. His movie featured an immortal character, Freedy, with a powerset like none other, reshaping the expectations for Slasher movies to come., and Child's PlayAlthough some might have thought that the idea of a killer doller slasheer flick couldnt' support a multi-decade spanning franchise, Chucky certainly proved them wrong, constantly reinventing his series, Child's Play to stay fresh and interesting three decades later. all feature kills that continually come back from the dead (with the usual caveats that, yes, Mrs. Voorhees was the killed in the first Friday the 13th and, unlike her son, stayed dead). If a Slasher series goes on long enough the killer either has to become some kind of magical being (if it didn't already start out as one) or the series has to twist itself in knots trying to explain how a guy that lost his head in the last movie is still alive in the next one (and yes, that eventually happens in the HalloweenThe franchise that both set the standard for Slasher horror and, at the same time, defied every convention it created, Halloween has seen multiple time lines and reboots in its history, but one thing has remained: Michael Myers, the Shape that stalks Haddonfield. series).

But before we can get to that, Halloween had an interesting idea on how to continue a series after the Slasher killer is dead: you don't. Instead of creating yet another adventure of Michael Myers, the series tried to go the anthology route with the idea that what viewers wanted were horror stories set around Halloween under the guidance of John Carpenter. It's a noble thought and with a good flick as the third entry in the series, perhaps this film series could have actually continued in anthology form. Sadly, Halloween III: Season of the Witch was not that movie.

The problems with Halloween III realistically start before the credits even roll. Think about it: we had no one but two movies dedicated to Michael Myers, both of which took place on the same night and, in essence, made it seem like this series was all about the Shape and his killing spree. After Halloween and Halloween II, audiences has certain expectations for the series. I'm not saying an anthology series couldn't have worked, but the series needed some kind of connective tissue to hold it all together. The movies going forward would have to have been set in the same reality, have the same rules, the same consequences, and events of the previous movies, one way or another, needed to be reflected in the later movies as the series progressed. A shared continuity, essentially.

Halloween III eschews all that. From an early shot of Halloween playing on a TV, the movie clearly establishes that this film takes place in a different reality and that everything we knew about the previous films was null and void now. That's a bold stance for the film to take, and while it certainly had to be freeing for the producers -- "we can take this anywhere we want now!" -- it also meant that the audience that showed up for something, anything in the vein of the first two films was immediately going to be disappointed.

But then, just about everything in this movie is disappointing. Instead of a creepy killer slowly stalking a group of girls in the shadows, with a sweet young woman as our lead character, we get a bitter alcoholic doctor that can't even relate to his kids and ignores everyone around him. The movie digs itself into an immediate hole giving us the least sympathetic protagonist it can with his only saving grace being he's not as terrible as his shrew of an ex-wife. He then gets himself mixed up in a mystery involving killings, masks, and a creepy company, Silver Shamrock. And then it all culminates in a plot about the evil company making their masks to kill all the kids in the world via the power of Stonehenge and spread fear and mischief because... reasons. Even the movie can't come up with a justification for it so it doesn't bother trying. Then it just ends.

There are a number of ways this series could have gone, but I have to admit that an evil corporation (who, let's note, make their own androids to do their evil bidding) using the pagan power of standing stones was not a direction I expected. It's a stupid direction, but a novel one, and if the movie could have doubled down on the ludicrous nature of the story, to go all in on how ridiculous it was, it might have just worked. It could have been the Gremlins 2 of the Halloween series -- dumb but funny and at least it was enjoying itself. Instead it's just tedious.

Bear in mind there's barely any action in the film at all. There are very few deaths (right up until the end of the film, where they all clump up at once), and the kills we do get are lackluster and, often, make absolutely no sense. Worse, though, is that there's no motivation for any of the carnage we get. Michael works as a killer by his presence, his darkness, and his obvious need to kill. He never speaks and he's never given any real justification for what he does, but it works because that shadowy nature of his character makes him scarier. The killer is a presence that drives the film and his kills, grounded in his reality, thus have impact.

Because Silver Shamrock has absolutely no reason to go on a killing spree with their latex-death-masks we never get invested in anything they're doing. This is a successful company who, despite only making three masks -- a skull, a witch, and a pumpkin -- manages to get a mask in the hands of every kind on the planet. They are clearly a billion dollar company (back in the 1980s, no less) and could have anything they wanted because they have a license to print money. The only reason that is given to us for the carnage we're about to expect is "because" and then the movie skulks off to get back to the dour business of evil Stonehenge magic.

Even here, if the film could have at least gotten through this plot in quick order so we could enjoy the carnage that was about to unfold, it might have been something. None of it makes sense, but the image of a kid wearing one of the masks, falling over before his mask rots away and his head dissolved into bugs and snakes is certainly something. If we got to see that, writ large, while the hero desperately tries to get to his kids before they, too, die tragically, that could have been awesome. Instead, we have an hour and a half of dancing around the story before there's something of a climax (with terrible special effects) at the factory. The hero makes it to a phone, calls the TV studios and, right before the carnage can happen, the credits roll. It's all tease and nothing to show for it.

I can forgive a lot from a horror film -- remember, I actually like Gremlins 2, so there's a baseline we can use for my level of enjoyable camp. What I can't forgive, though, is tedium and that's all we get from Halloween III: Season of the Witch. It's a half-baked idea without any thought or motivation draped over a film that sets up one really good sequence and then doesn't even have the budget to pull it off. Considering where we ended up, another adventure of Michael Myers would have been better, this despite the fact that he was blow up and burned to death. And, with the next film, that's exactly what we got...

The Killing Floor:

First Sin:

Drinking. Our hero is pitched as a bit of an alcoholic, and get gets his drink on when he can. He's the hero, though, so it's hard to say it's his sin.

First Kill:

As we eventually learn, a whistle-blower for the evil Silver Shamrock tries to get the word out that the masks are evil, but he's taken out (in the relative safety of a hospital) by one of the evil robots created by our evil overlords. He's suffocated and then, somehow his cranium is broken is this, supposedly, kills him. I'm not sure I understand exactly how the man died -- he shouldn't have from the wound inflicted -- but he died all the same.

Final Body Count:

Eight. The whistle-blower (that should have lived), a drunk, some random woman, a family of three, a lab tech, and a tycoon. Dozens of the evil robots also die, but they shouldn't count once we learn they aren't actually living humans.