Review: Halloween III: The Season of the Witch

Today’s review is about Halloween III: The Season of the Witch. Yes, I’m actually doing this…

This movie is a complete departure from the Michael Myers story. When Carpenter agreed to add input to this film, it was under the expression that he would be able to continue the series in a new direction. His idea was to create something more like the Twilight Zone, as an anthology of horror. The shape of evil would be something completely different, but no less deadly and suspenseful. The experiment failed colossally in its first outing. This installment was written and directed by Tommy Lee Wallace. It stars Tom Atkins as Dr. Dan Challis, Stacey Nelkin as Ellie Grimbridge, and Dan O’Herlihy as Conal Cochran. It hit theaters in 1983.

The Plot: A small store owner is on the run for his life. He’s got a Halloween mask in hand and is being chased down by men in suits with the express purpose of killing him. Narrowly escaping with his life, he finds someone who decides to help him by taking him to a hospital to deal with injuries he’s sustained. We are introduced to our hero; Dr. Dan Challis as he tries to treat the man. The only thing he mutters to Challis is:

They’re going to kill us! All of us!

He eventually is killed by one of the men in suits that were chasing him. When this man is chased, he ends up dying in a car explosion.

What we find out about our intrepid doctor is that he’s a heavy drinker with a bad marriage, in what is one of the few surprises in this film. Nancy Loomis (billed as Nancy Kyes), who played Annie Brackett in the original Halloween, played Linda Challis; Dan’s ex-wife. We find that Dan is a lout from the outset.

Tom Atkins as Dr. Dan Challis

Later that morning, we are introduced to the dead man’s daughter, Ellie Grimbridge who comes to identify the body of her father. She leaves only for a small time, only to come back and talk to Challis about going and investigating Mr. Grimbridge’s death. He agrees, pushing his kids off to another day to help her find out the circumstances. What Ellie knows is that her father went to go pick up a shipment of Silver Shamrock Halloween masks. The company started selling them to bigger retailers and that left the small businesses to fend for themselves into getting their supply.

They drive out to the mysterious California town of Santa Mira, a heavily Irish influenced community, to start their investigation. They are the subject of many stares by the locals, and decide it might be best to put themselves up in the local motel for the night, and go to the factory posing as representatives of her father’s business. This leads to the two characters becoming rather infatuated with one another. (I could make this stuff up, but I’m not this bad… At least, I don’t think I am. Please write in to in care of Big Dog and tell me if I do.)

That night, Ellie meets a woman who is also staying at the hotel awaiting the morning to go for masks. The town curfew of 6 pm is in effect, so the only place actually jumping is the motel itself. The lady tells Ellie that this is the norm, and again reiterates how strange this little town is. Challis is wandering the streets with a bottle of whiskey and is told that the factory pretty much runs the town and that they hired outside of Santa Mira, leaving a lot of folks without work.

Stacey Nelkin as Ellie Grimbridge

Later that night, the lady who Ellie was talking to finds a Silver Shamrock tag, from one of the masks, lying on the floor. Quickly retrieving it, she lies back down and starts to examine it. Discovering how odd the design is, she tries to pry something off of it only to have a laser-like beam shoot her in the face. It leaves her horribly disfigured and a single bug crawls out of her, now-gaping, mouth. When Challis and Ellie are awakened, they see a gurney being loaded into the back of a Silver Shamrock van. We then meet Conal Cochran for the first time, who assures Challis and Ellie that she’ll receive the finest care at the factory.

The morning leads them to the factory, wherein they learn that Ellie’s father did indeed show up, and he left with his station wagon full of masks. Cochran, yet again, puts in an appearance and tells them that he’ll replace the masks for nothing. We are also introduced to a family, the father of which is the best salesman of Silver Shamrock masks in the country. (Seriously, I’m not making any of this up…) They are given a tour, which both Challis and Ellie manage to sneak off during a couple of occasions. They get to see the mysterious “Final Processing” door, which Cochran will not show them. After much of nothing happens, we get to see Ellie find her dad’s car. She discovers that they’ve had it this entire time tucked away in plain sight (because the plot hasn’t been easy enough to discover at this point) and Challis takes her away so that they might plan their next move.

Back at the hotel, Ellie is left alone while Challis makes a phone call back to his hospital to get results on the exploded car. The woman left in charge of that tells him that there’s nothing there but car parts, no human tissues. He wants her to investigate Silver Shamrock and Conal Cochran. Meanwhile, Ellie is kidnapped.

Back at the factory (because Santa Mira is boring), Challis starts sneaking around, only to be caught by the men in suits. They turn out to be robots who leak something akin to concentrated orange juice. He gets dragged into the main computer hub of the factory to be shown what the final process is. The Irishman Conal Cochran has had a stone from Stonehenge stolen, and brought to America. He’s using pieces of it to attach to the Silver Shamrock tags. Showing the best-seller’s family again, and their child wearing one of these masks, they use a signal inside of their sinister Silver Shamrock commercial to kill the child by process of turning him into a series of bugs and snakes. These poisonous creatures kill the rest of the family and leave Challis visually disturbed. Cochran decides to have the good doctor tied and put in front of a TV wearing one of the masks. Of course, Challis escapes and finds Ellie. He manages to get a box of tags and sneaks around the computers enough to turn on the commercial. While it’s running, he dumps the tags from a high location over the systems causing Cochran and his men to die by their own machinations.

Dan O’Herlihy as Conal Cochran

While driving off with Ellie, we discover that she has been made into a robot, who then tries to kill Challis. Challis stops the Ellie-bot (Are you crying from boredom yet? I was at this point!) He runs to a gas station that we saw at the beginning of the film and gets on the phone to the TV stations trying to stop them from running the final commercial. He stops all but one station. The final scene has children in the Silver Shamrock masks watching the screen as Challis yells for them to turn it off. Mercifully, the credits roll.

The Good: I don’t know that there’s much of a point to write about that here. I’ll give you this; you wait long enough you’ll see the end credits.

Okay, I’ll be fair to one piece only. The scene where the kid crumbles to bugs and snakes is truly a horrific scene. You don’t really see his face underneath the mask, but the imagination can fill in those gaps nicely. It’s terrifying to say to the least, and to me is probably my second favorite moment outside the credits at the end. This one almost makes it to the Bad list as well. While I didn’t have a lot of attachment to the family, and the kid was sort of the typical bratty, I didn’t want to see an 11 or 12 year old kid die this gruesomely. His parents could have bought it and made the point just as easily as them watching their child get reduced to bugs and snakes before they died.

The Bad: Where as the Good left me wondering what to say, this one is more a “where do I start?” situation. If we start right at the beginning of the movie, then the opening scene is an Atari graphic of a pumpkin being built with music that, unlike the original Halloween, is uninspired. There is nothing about this that screams I’m about to watch a Halloween installment. What it makes me want to do is put this down and plug in my Atari Flashback.

Dr. Dan Challis isn’t a heroic character to follow, I’m sorry. Most of the movie I was hoping that he would get killed by one of the robots. I’ve never cheered harder for a plot device to pull off a kill in my life than this one. There are so many movies these days I do not sympathize with the victims, this guy leaves me colder than that. I feel worse for Anakin Skywalker after the Jedi Temple than I do this drunken lout of a doctor. He didn’t go to Santa Mira to help this girl find out about her father, he went there for exactly what he got.  Next to the mask turning kids to bugs and snakes, this is the most frightening part of this film! Seriously, Tom Atkins is playing at being this Tom Selleck knock-off and doing a poor job at that. I don’t know how old he was, but she looked to be late teens early 20s and the pairing of them looked like some old perv hitting up the high school girls. This went no place I wanted it to go, and I’m sure others will agree to that.   Yes, I will admit he was curious as to why Mr. Grimbridge died, and he got more suspicious once he saw the kind of town that Santa Mira was.   I’m sorry, don’t buy for a minute that the cute 20 something wasn’t the main reason for going.  That’s more in his character than caring doctor looking out for dead man’s daughter.

A stone from Stonehenge goes missing, this guy has it, and all they preface that there was quite a story behind that. TELL IT!!! This is the most interesting part of the film! What did it take to steal that from the Salisbury Plain? I want to know what sort of bull explanation they came up with that got it shipped across to America. What could they have possibly said to customs? Private jet? That must have been a private military jet, as no small aircraft could carry one of those stones. It drives me crazy at this point that we could have seen something far better if they would have only allowed us to see that movie vs. the one we got!

I can’t say enough on how horrible these robots are. They act the part, but the bleeding orange juice bit is too much. It made me laugh every time, because even for a horror flick it’s ridiculous. They needed their mindless automatons, and instead of giving us the silent type of Michael Myers we had in the first two films, we get these as a substitute. What’s even better in the ridiculous category? After Challis busts into the factory to find Ellie, he finds an old woman knitting away and asks where they have taken the girl. The old lady doesn’t answer, so he grabs her a little too roughly and her head falls off. When Cochran and company show up, he tells him that it was an antique from Germany. He would have to find another one because he couldn’t possibly repair it. Let me understand this, he can get a section of Stonehenge and built a robotic army, but this is beyond his capability to repair? It wasn’t even that badly damaged! What wonderful writing! (Insert dripping sarcasm here.)

The Overall: I picked this up for .99 cents. I paid .99 cents too much for this movie. There isn’t a story here, the characters are deplorable. The only one that has any sort of real charisma to them is Cochran and Challis’ friend from the hospital. The villain has cooked up a plan that might actually be worth something, if not for the stupidity on how it’s to be accomplished. The friend is there for a few bits, and shouldn’t be more engaging than the main cast!

This movie was an experiment to make the shape of evil into something other than Michael Myers. The shape of a festering turd did not work for this purpose. In a couple of scenes where you can actually see the original Halloween on TV, makes you wish you could go back there. For the suspense freak, you’re never going to get that sense of spooky. For the gore-hound, you’re in for a huge disappointment too. The anthology, and even this story could have been shortened to make sense and put onto a half-hour TV show vs. an hour-and-a-half movie. There was nothing here to demand the big screen. It really didn’t have enough meat for the small screen. What it needed was a writer.

0 out of 5 stars. This movie’s one scare wasn’t worth the mental beating I took to get to it. If you want to see this, then watch it expressly for the purpose of seeing where they were trying to go with Halloween. My recommendation, don’t watch it.

If you are a fan of the series, regardless of this entry, then go visit Michael Myers home on the web!