Combustible Celluloid
 
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With: Tom Atkins, Stacey Nelkin, Dan O'Herlihy, Michael Currie, Ralph Strait, Jadeen Barbor, Brad Schacter,Garn Stephens, Nancy Kyes, Jonathan Terry, Al Berry, Wendy Wessberg, Essex Smith, Maidie Norman, John MacBride
Written by: Tommy Lee Wallace
Directed by: Tommy Lee Wallace
MPAA Rating: R
Running Time: 98
Date: 10/22/1982
IMDB

Halloween III: Season of the Witch (1982)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Masks of Death

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Halloween III: Season of the Witch is one of the purest examples of expectations defeating actuality. By that, I mean that audiences were disappointed by what they didn't see rather than what they did see; and in their disappointment, they failed to register what it was they actually saw. This happens a lot in movies, especially when it comes to sequels and remakes. With this movie, basically, the filmmakers had the idea that they didn't want to do any more Michael Myers stories, and decided to start a new series of Halloween-themed movies that told different, new stories, each year. That idea was squashed after one movie -- this one -- when outraged fans learned that Michael Myers wasn't in it.

It didn't matter that the actual movie is filled with amusingly strange ideas, some supremely dark, horrific material, and some flat-out kooky stuff. Tom Atkins stars as Dr. Daniel Challis, a divorced dad who spends more time at work flirting with nurses and drinking beer than he does with his kids. A strange man checks into the hospital clutching a rubber Halloween mask. Before long a strange man in a suit kills him and then blows himself up in a car. The dead man's daughter, Ellie (Stacey Nelkin), turns up and decides to investigate the maker of the mask; her father ran a store that sold the masks. For some reason, the doctor goes with her.

They get to the factory, located in a small town and run by Conal Cochran (Oscar-nominee Dan O'Herlihy, from Robinson Crusoe). They hook up in the hotel room and then take a tour of the factory. Clearly Cochran is keeping some secrets. What's really happening is that he has stolen a chunk of Stonehenge, and is using bits and pieces of it inside a computer chip attached to each mask. Then he airs an insidious television commercial with an annoying jingle. When the children wear the masks and watch the commercial on Halloween night, their faces will melt and (for some reason) roaches and bugs will come crawling out from under their masks. Oh, and the guy in the suit is really a robot and Cochran has built an army of them.

Weirdly, the movie looks like a John Carpenter production. Director Tommy Lee Wallace had been a production designer and editor on the original Halloween, and Carpenter was around on the new film as a producer, an uncredited co-writer, and as a co-composer for the creepy, synth soundtrack (co-composed by Alan Howarth). Wallace uses the widescreen similarly to Carpenter, the wide composition creating a sense of false security, with threats hiding just outside of frame.

The real key to this movie is its weird imagination, bringing together all those bizarre, disparate elements, and leading up to an incredibly dark ending as the doctor tries to get all the TV stations to stop running the ad before it's too late. The movie isn't exactly scary, or even gory, but it's rather unsettling, and it's rooted in that old standby that evil corporations are out to get you, at any cost. After thirty years of neglect, however, Halloween III: Season of the Witch is starting to earn a fan base of devoted followers.

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