Halloween 3: Season of the Witch

Holidays often get cobbled together from disparate elements. Christmas is one part winter solstice celebration and one part organized hooray for baby Jesus with a dash of Germanic tradition (i.e. Santa Claus) thrown in for good measure. Easter has its roots as a pagan festival celebrating the arrival of Spring (thus the Easter bunny) but it is now associated with Jesus' resurrection. And Valentine's Day - well, that's a weird mash of genuine emotion, marketing savvy and crass commercialism.

So it is fitting that Halloween 3: Season of the Witch feels like a Frankensteined together mess of a movie. The title alone is a red flag, because the Halloween Franchise is all about a serial killer named Michael Myers who has no relationship whatsoever with witchcraft. He has no magic powers, he performs no spells, he owns no cats, brooms or cauldrons - he's all about brute force and machetes. Also, he has no relationship at all to the coming and going of the seasons. And also Halloween isn't really a season, it's one day in a particular season. In other words, this movie's title is basically promising you that it will be full of nonsense, non-sequiturs and garbage.

It definitely lives up to it's title. Halloween 3 has literally nothing in common with the rest of the franchise other than the fact that it takes place on October 31st and has a synth-heavy score from John Carpenter. Those movies were about a serial killer stalking horny teens in the night, but this movie doesn't feature any of those elements. (Well, it does have a few scenes that take place at night - but a surprising amount of this movie is set during the day.) Instead this movie is about an Irish madman named Conal Cochran who runs a factory that makes Halloween masks that have been outfitted with computer chips and Stonehenge rock chunks that will fatally fill children's heads with bugs and snakes the instant they overhear a subliminal message that's being broadcast on live television.

That sounds like a mouthful... But we aren't even done throwing insane things into the grab-bag. Because even though Cochran is supposed to be a centuries old warlock from another dimension who wants to bring witchcraft back to Earth all of his henchmen are killer robots who look like secret service agents. I'm not quite sure what robots and warlocks have in common, if anything; I would imagine that if you threw a cocktail party where both were in attendance they would dance around each other awkwardly before leaving early. But in Halloween 3's world they not only co-exist peacefully, they work side by side in a factory that mashes pagan rocks together with malevolent circuits in a specific ratio that somehow magically produces mouth-spiders in masked toddlers. Or something. I'm a little fuzzy on some of this movie's specifics.

 That's a pretty ominous way to initiate a shareholder's meeting

That's a pretty ominous way to initiate a shareholder's meeting

At this point you're probably thinking: well, that's enough batshit-ness for one film... but there are still more gonzo beans that we have yet to fish out of this stew. You see, the hero of this movie is not a tougher than she looks teenager as it should be. Nor is it someone who is sworn to defeat sorcery in whatever form it takes. Nor is it a computer genius who can't stand the thought of a madman rubbing rock-dust on delicate circuit boards. No, this movie's main character is a middle aged alcoholic doctor named Daniel Challis and he has absolutely no business being in this movie.

Challis' character is introduced in a roundabout way. The first scene of the movie features a middle aged man being murdered by one of the mad mask-maker's robots; we later discover that he was a local merchant who found out what Cochran was plotting and tried to throw a monkey wrench into his nonsensical mind control scheme. Challis is merely the E.R. doctor who examined the merchant's body once it was discovered, and the instant the corpse was was shipped to the morgue his involvement in the story should have been over. But for some reason when the merchant's daughter Ellie arrives on the scene with the intention of investigating what happened to her dad she doesn't go to the police for help. And she doesn't hire a private eye, either. No, she contacts the doctor who pronounced her father dead and basically implies that she will sleep with him if he'll help her uncover the truth. And of course he does, because he's a creepy old man and she is young and nubile.

Which means that the good guys are part of a hard boiled detective story - albeit with a doctor in the gumshoe role for some reason - while the bad guys are in a story about space-age technology working in tandem with ancient paganism to produce explosive mind control. Not only does that mash up of genres not make any sense, its math is obviously wrong. Halloween three is basically the Half Sharkalligator Half-Man of movies, in that it is amalgamating non-existent ingredients into an utterly incomprehensible whole.

And yet - despite all of its wacky ingredients Halloween 3 doesn't feel like an out of control blast of insanity. In fact, it still manages to creep by at a snail's pace! Generally overstuffed films like this throw something new at you every few minutes, but Halloween 3's action plods along until it's time for Cochran to give another the-villain-explains-the-plot-for-no-reason speech, at which point he then tells them two (or three) completely contradictory narratives at once. Which means that the film ends up having several different tones in addition to several different plots: at times its a slow burning detective story, other times its an over-the-top comic book movie, and on rare occasions it actually manages to feel a little bit like the horror film it was meant to be. It is such an incompetent shit-show that it can't even be a fuck-up properly.

Still, I have to admit that it is thematically appropriate for this movie to be called Halloween even though it has nothing in common with the other films in the franchise. After all, Halloween is our most disorganized, sloppy and bizarre holiday. The mischievous celebrate it by tricking, the nice by treating, and the boring just go to bed early. Some people will head out on October 31st dressed to frighten in a monster mask; others will wear a pop-culture inspired costume in an attempt to be clever; others just want to titillate in their sexy nurse get-up... And yet, they might all end up at the same party, drinking the same punch. Halloween is the ultimate it-is- whatever-you-make-it holiday. I just wish the makers of this movie hadn't decided to make it garbage.

Winner: The Cat

Halloween 3: Season of the Witch on IMDB