Ed. note– Halloween in November continues all the way down to the last day of the year with my breakdown on why HALLOWEEN III sucks hard.– P.F.
Somewhere out there, there’s an alternate reality where HALLOWEEN IV isn’t the return of Michael Myers. HALLOWEEN V isn’t the revenge of Michael Myers. Hell, HALLOWEEN H20 doesn’t even usher in the return of Laurie Strode. In that reality, the HALLOWEEN franchise is a collection of flicks based around the mythology of Halloween, and not some masked guy from Haddonfield, IL. In that reality, HALLOWEEN III doesn’t suck. But we don’t live in that reality; we live in this one. And in this reality, HALLOWEEN III sucks.
Before I get into why HALLOWEEN III sucks it big, I’ll dispel one myth. Every time someone defends this flick, the argument is, “If it weren’t called HALLOWEEN III, people would like it.” These folks think that people genuinely hate the flick because it doesn’t feature Myers, Dr. Loomis and Laurie Strode. They defend it by saying it’s a high quality horror flick that unjustly draws bias against it because it takes a different path. Maybe some fans stayed away upon its release in 1982 for that reason, but that’s not why the rational among us hate it. We hate it because it sucks. Erase the word “HALLOWEEN” and call it by its subtitle, SEASON OF THE WITCH, and I have news for you: It still sucks.
There is a multitude of reasons it sucks. Let’s dive right into them, shall we?
The Silver Shamrock song
A few years ago for Halloween in October, I did a whole Piece by Piece post on this. It’s easy to forget that the flick has a classic John Carpenter score, reminiscent of his work with Ennio Morricone on THE THING that same year, because THE SILVER SHAMROCK SONG IS THE MOST ANNOYING TUNE EVER RECORDED. Lest you forget this, it plays ad nauseam throughout the film, just about every second Carpenter’s score isn’t. Even Dr. Dan Challis, the film’s protagonist, notes about halfway thru the runtime that this ultra-infuriating jingle won’t go away. You’ll never want to hear kids singing “London Bridge” again. GFY, Silver Shamrock tune. GFY.
The drunken, ass grabbing protagonist
It’s a shame Conal Cochran wasn’t a woman, because then Dr. Dan Challis could just have nailed her and saved the children. Challis may be one of horror’s least sympathetic protagonists. He’s constantly drunk—so much so, that the staff at his hospital tells Ellie she can find him at the local dive bar, and they’re right! When he doesn’t have a beer in hand, he’s got an ass cheek in one. Challis wants to nail every female he comes across, and feels free to get handsy with many of the movie’s gals. Tom Atkins’ moustache is sexier than most men, but the flick is asking me to root for an intoxicated ass grabber who knows neither sobriety nor boundaries, and I just can’t do that.
As if the idea of a corporate exec’s lust to wipe out all the world’s children with Halloween masks weren’t insane enough, his security detail of gray suited androids pushes things further over the top. Led by horror convention superstar and John Carpenter favorite Dick Warlock, his synthetic thugs keep watch over Santa Mira, free to rip the heads off or crush the skull of anyone who might try to leak their master’s dark secret out to the world. Just don’t punch them in the stomach, or they’ll bleed Orange Julius. I get the thematic link that, as Conal Cochran explains, they’re an extension of his toymaking and mask producing. But I also get that this plot was bonkers enough without the androids. What should come off as scary instead comes off as one more goofy extension of this goofy movie.
Challis probably nailed an android
There’s a twist after Challis thinks he’s saved Ellie from the evil town: She’s an android! A pretty persistent one, too, as Ellie-android tries to murder Challis, even after he’s busted her into pieces. Oh, Challis and the children of America are still screwed, but he makes it past his rather comely android friend.
But wait! Ass grabbing Challis seduced Ellie earlier in the flick! Which raises the question: Did Dr. Dan Challis have sex with an android?
The issue here is the flick never clearly establishes when she went from human to android. Was she always an android? If not, when did she get replaced? And if she was, was it before she had sex with Challis? I’m pretty sure we never get an answer because director Tommy Lee Wallace just wanted to throw in one more scare. But because it’s unresolved, I’ve always thought Challis nailed an android. Instead of asking her mid-coitus, “How old are you?” he should have gone with, “Are your batteries Duracell?” Not that that necessarily would have stopped him.
Anyone who knows the original INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS well is aware the tale of Dr. Miles Bennell and the pods takes place in Santa Mira, CA. I briefly met Tommy Lee Wallace at a con, and given that film is one of my horror faves, I had him confirm this is supposed to be the same Santa Mira here. He explained he loves that movie, and wanted to do a throwback to it, and also that the security guards replacing humans was a nod to the pod people. I have to applaud Wallace for his motivation in naming the town. I just find it horrifying that the poor people of Santa Mira had to end up in a movie that sucks this bad.
Let’s talk a little about Conal Cochran’s plan. He apparently has amassed a fortune from making gag gifts and Halloween masks, all for the purpose of wiping out all the kids in America. The logistics of his plan involve getting every kid to wear one of his three masks, then to watch a television edit of Carpenter’s own HALLOWEEN simultaneously, so he can zap them and fill their heads with snakes and insects. The engine to this plan is one of the rocks from Stonehenge, which he has burgled and transported to Santa Mira, CA.
This needs some breaking down. If he has the factory to mass produce masks, he really should have made more of a variety. Not every kid is going to want to be a pumpkin, a witch or a skull. So the kid who wants to be a vampire or a princess will survive Halloween. I get that one of the messages in the flick is an attack on advertising (hence, that annoying repetition of the Silver Shamrock song), but let’s be honest, this is a ridiculously humongous stretch. Then there’s the logistical nightmare of getting every kid in the U.S. to watch the commercial at the same time. The flick tosses out the idea of time zones, and how a kid in New York isn’t likely watching HALLOWEEN at 5 pm. It also glosses over that kids may want to take a bathroom break or make a ham sandwich during a commercial break. The doozy, though, is the piece of Stonehenge. Carpenter uses a cheap writer’s trick in Cochran’s explanation (“Hey, we had a Hell of a time getting it over here, bet you’d like to hear how, but I’m not going to tell you!”) when it would have been much cooler to hear Cochran explain away just how expensive it was to pay UPS to ground deliver his package. This plan is on a level that would make a James Bond villain blush. It’s also full of more holes than a wheel of Swiss cheese.
The machinery of the plan is insane enough, but Cochran’s motive is even stranger. This whole, elaborate death machine is so he can play a prank on the children. He exposits this pretty dark history of Halloween’s origin to Challis, which I admit is pretty cool, and Dan O’Herlihy manages to make it creepy, even as ridiculous as it is. But when I explore what he’s suggesting—genocide by Halloween mask, all for laughs—this is one of the weirdest underlying cause for a master plan of evil ever set to film.
It’s also one of the dumbest.
If I were to tell a diehard horror fan I wrote a movie that involves killer Halloween masks powered by Stonehenge in a plot to wipe out all the children of America, that fan would laugh at me. And I’d deserve it. I wouldn’t get 100 bucks on GoFundMe to film this in X Chris’ backyard. But because this flick has John Carpenter’s and Deborah Hill’s names attached to it, it not only got made on a real budget, but Universal freakin Studios released it. And a pocket of horror fans think it’s a good horror flick only tainted by being called HALLOWEEN III. They’re willing to overlook all the dumb stuff I just talked about, look me straight in the eye, and tell me they like this film.
I’m never one to rain on anybody’s joy. If you’re one of those fans, I hope you dig HALLOWEEN III next time you watch it just as much as the last. And if you ever want to get in a debate about why I feel it’s a trash fire, please engage me and I can elaborate on those points I made above. You won’t sway me, but I promise I’ll listen. As for HALLOWEEN III: SEASON OF THE WITCH… It’s Official! You Suck!