Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Halloween 3: Season of the Witch (1982) (Movie Review)

     1978’s “Halloween” is one of the great horror movie classics, and one of my favorites to re-visit during the season. Having said that, I always felt that a movie baring the title of the holiday could have more to offer, beyond just a killer in a mask. While the series has expanded with 10 more additional “Halloween” movies, they unfortunately continued to revolve around the exact same formula of a single masked killer with a knife. 
In my opinion, it’s a complete waist, as I feel a series baring the title HALLOWEEN should have so much more variety to it. There was however one exception, a sequel in 1982 titled “Halloween 3: Season of the Witch”, and it attempted to aim the franchise in a new direction … like an anthology series, with different Halloween themed stories told in every film. It was a great idea all-around, and with an exciting title like “Season of the Witch” … holly cow, this should have been October gold. Initially upon release, this film was panned by fans and critics alike, but then things changed over time. It started to build a cult status as a sequel that’s not as bad as its reputation suggests. Now days, there’s a devoted group of fans that regard this as a modern classic to watch around Halloween. Unfortunately for me, I’ve never been one to jump on the band wagon for this film. I really wanted to love this sequel, and I certainly admire the attempt at shifting the franchise in a new direction, but man … this is a terrible movie. 

      A more fitting title for this sequel would have been “Halloween 3: Night of the Sacrifice”, as it features no real “Witches” to speak of … what a disappointment. The actual premise of this October venture is absolutely ludicrous to say the least. Dr. Dan Challis is trying to solve the mystery of a murdered patient. Along with the patient’s attractive young daughter, their investigation leads to a corporation called Silver Shamrock Novelties, who are distributing an exciting new brand of Halloween masks. It’s eventually revealed to be the base of a secret cult, led by a scientist who’s rigged his company masks to kill all the children who wear them on Halloween night. Basically, he’s trying to bring the holiday back to its sacrificial origins. The one good thing about this ridiculous set-up is its commentary, how the holiday has become a consumer product, one that’s literally devouring the children. Aside from that … this is a boring, BORING film. It takes a long time for the villain’s plot to be exposed, and everything leading up to said reveal just feels like padding. There’s nothing mysterious enough to hold my interest, nor is there anything really exciting enough to keep me engaged.  

    All my biggest problems begin with our two lead characters, who are both terrible people. Our lead hero is apparently board with his current wife and kids, so he goes on this mission with this good-looking young woman for no other reason than some excitement. Also, aside from being married, this guy is constantly hitting on other woman, gets plastered at a bar, and twice has sex with this girl who’s twenty-four years younger than him.
Truthfully, I hate both of these characters, and if I don’t care about the leads, then it’s virtually impossible to get a thrill from the horror elements that take shape. Like I said, the mystery surrounding the costume store isn’t very engaging, as it never drops useful hints, and when the evil cult is finally revealed, it’s so late into the picture that it’s impossible to care. Another thing, this movie is not scary … like, at all. I’m not going to pretend that the original “Halloween” really scared me either, but it was consistently thrilling to experience, and the suspense was heightened by a chilling atmosphere. This movie by contrast just meanders its way through a one-note direction, and it confuses atmosphere for a repetitive creepy music tempo. Yeah, the classic franchise theme music is replaced in this film with an admittedly cool synthesizer track, which gives the movie an identity, but it also gets old after a while. Speaking of repetitive music, let’s talk about that super annoying Silver Shamrock Jingle … holly cow, I hate that jingle. It’s so annoying that it drills into your skull, and makes you go cuckoo. Then there's that odd running gag with the original 1978 "Halloween" movie playing on all the TV screens ... yeah, that's a strange in-universe joke.    

     Another thing I hate about this movie is the villain’s methods of combining technology with supernatural oddities. Yeah, this evil organization uses some form of science as a means of channeling sorcery, and the two just don’t go hand-in-hand at all. 
The main threats of the movie come in the form of these boring robot’s that resemble old people in suits. They have enhanced strength, but they’re still dull, not very exciting obstacles … oh, and they apparently run on pumpkin juice. Even the main villain is just a generic looking old businessman in a suit, and it spoils any excitement when we keep looking at him as the figurehead of this cult. The violence on display ranges from over-the-top gruesome … to just plain silly. There are some admittedly inventive supernatural deaths that occur, but they’re also ludicrous in concept, to the point where nothing can possibly come off as disturbing. There’s a scene with a kid and his parents being used as test subjects, and once again, the scene loses all tension, as we see the villains set them up in their studio, thus, we know something bad is obviously going to happen to them. The ensuing scene with the kid putting on a pumpkin mask, and getting his head transformed into a compilation of bugs and snakes is … just … plain … SILLY!     

    If there was anything positive to say about this movie … it looks great, like … this is a terrific looking movie to watch during October. The colors, the decorations, the costumes, the masks … there is simply Halloween on display in every frame of this film. I loved the opening title card sequence, which features a flashing Jack' o' Lantern as a backdrop. Truthfully, the overall look of the film did a better job putting me in the mindset of Halloween then the original did. I’d go even further to compliment cinematographer Dean Cundey, who’s a real talent behind the camera, and both his frame work and shot compositions are done with a professional touch. Also, while the film fails to generate any kind of suspenseful atmosphere, it at least captures the essence of the season. I think that’s why some fans are more forgiving with this movie’s faults, as it still feels like something to enhance the mood of the season. Unfortunately for me, that’s just not enough to make this something I’d choose to watch on Halloween.     

      The ending is unforgivably stale, and one that pails in comparison to both the nail-biting cat and mouse climax or the open-ended final scene of the first movie. After our hero’s escape their bondage, they destroy the main base of operations, and the villain has a hilarious death as he dissolves in a beam of light … with a big dumb smile. However, the broadcast still went out, and it’s a race to cut-off the signal before the kids watch the program and get slaughtered. The girl at some point is transformed into one of those pumpkin-juice powered robots, all with no explanation, which is really annoying. Then the movie just abruptly cuts to the credits, without any closure of what happened to either the kids wearing masks, or if the broadcast was ever stopped … in other words, it was all for nothing.  

    I know some still like this movie, some that even enjoy making this movie an annual holiday special to watch, and kudos to them … everyone has their personal taste in candy. As for me, I’ll just stick with the original 1978 “Halloween” classic instead. Again, I give this movie credit for trying to aim the franchise in a direction that was more fitting to the title, but it just didn’t stick with me as a good standalone movie to watch during October. It certainly looks great, and is highly decorative, but I’m not going to call this a good Halloween film just for that. It’s still relentlessly slow moving, mostly forgettable, the plot is outlandish, and the characters are just plain horrible all around. While I’m a fan of the first movie, I’ve honestly never cared to watch any other films in the series, save for this one, and in the end … that’s really all I’ll ever remember it for.

I give 1982’s “Halloween 3: Season of the Witch” … 1 ½ stars out of 5.  


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