Halloween Marathon: 1982

I’m doing this because I haven’t seen them all and have a lot of work to do and need something to watch. It’s been about 20 odd years since I watched this original, so let’s delve back in…

Previously – 19781981

Movie: Halloween III: Season of the Witch

Released: 1982

Cast: Tom Atkins, Stacey Nelkin, Dan O’Herlihy, Michael Currie, Ralph Strait, Jadeen Barbor, Garn Stephens, Dick Warlock

Plot: Dr. Challis is witness to an unusual murder where the victim is clutching a latex Halloween mask. Through investigation, he discovers a plot to use science and magic to attack America’s children.

Review: This is some first rate lunacy. The plot revolves around an Irish toy-maker using a factory of androids to make best-selling Halloween masks. They all contain a microchip imbued with magic taken from the slab taken from Stonehenge and smuggled to the USA. Here he plans on using a TV broadcast to transmit a spell that turns all the mask wearers heads into bugs and snakes. The origin story of this radical departure from the series is well known, the fruition of a plan to turn the Halloween brand into an anthology series based around the titular holiday. The popularity of Michael Myers lead to a direct sequel being made, with the first ‘new’ story turning up in the third film.

From that perspective it kinda fits the bill. The tone is very much in the realm of The Twilight Zone or The Outer Limits. Or possibly two episodes of those shows mushed together. There’s a well paced mystery element and you’d have to be pretty detached from reality to foresee where it’s going to end up when the murderous suicidal robots, ranting lunatics, creepy small town and ever-present ear-worming jingle of the Silver Shamrock commercial. For all the silliness, it does manage to land a hit when the time runs out for the heroes. The consequences of our toy-maker’s scheme are certainly horrifying, and the panicked screams of our lone survivor hero are haunting.

There are a few moments in the slow-burn mystery that work very effectively. The blank-faced android killers (one played by Dick Warlock, who previously played Michael) are creepy in their own right. Seeing one crush a man’s head with his bare hands before emulating himself sets a disturbing tone near the start of the movie. The small factory town with curfews and security cameras on every corner is also a nice setting for a creepy mystery. Intentional or not, the ear-worm nature of the Silver Shamrock jingle contributes to the ticking clock aspect of the plot.

But for every effective aspect of the film there’s at least one poorly handled or unintentionally creepy part of the story. Right at the forefront is the sexual relationship between the two leads. Dr. Challis (Atkins) is a 47 year old alcoholic divorcee and deadbeat dad while Ellie (Nelkin) is a 23 year old dealing with the violent death of her father. Why we’re forced to endure several unnecessary sex scenes between them is the biggest mystery of the movie. Making the whole thing feel ickier is that actress Stacey Nelkin was involved with a 42 year old Woody Allen whilst she was in high school, and the director based Manhattan on their relationship. Although Challis and Ellie are our heroes, Challis is a pretty gross character all round, openly groping his colleagues and underlings in the hospital where he works.

If there’s one thing that breaks the suspension of disbelief in this story it’s the weird obsession every kid has with the Silver Shamrock masks. We see that there’s a media blitz of advertising, and the vague promise of some prize giveaway, but this doesn’t go nearly far enough to explain this cultural phenomenon. The idea that every kid in America is deadset on wearing one of three generic Halloween masks rather than…well, literally any other costume…is hard to brush off. When the entire plot hinges of every kid wanting one of these masks you need to do a bit more to explain the appeal.

It’s unlikely that Season of the Witch would have had any success if it wasn’t linked to the previous Halloween movies, as it’s just not polished enough to be scary. It’s a fun bit of oddball horror, but also entirely skippable. With the attempt to rebrand the franchise as an anthology declared dead, the next movie would bring back the popular stalker for good.

Rating: FOUR out of TEN