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Halloween 3: Season of the NeoPagan Book Report.
God, I love Halloween. The holiday season, that is. I'm not quite sure when it comes to the Halloween movies series. For those not totally into horror movies (not that such people actually visit the site that often), in 1978 John Carpenter made this low-budget independent film called "Halloween" about a psycho killer wearing an inside-out William Shatner rubber mask. It ended up being some sort of psycho-successful film that would inspire lots of copycats, some debatably more popular (Jason Voorhees from Friday the 13th) and still others infinitely less popular. A couple years later, a direct sequel was made, which was still sort of successful back in the day. And then...then part 3 came out. Apparently, John Carpenter's plan was that after Michael Myers (the nut in the Shatner mask from the first two films) died, the movie studio would churn out some sort of Halloween-themed horror movie in time for the October box-office season. What they ended up making was a Halloween-flavored lemon that made everyone change their mind on the matter. So, let's be frank: This flick is really, really bad. It's not a bad mystery film, but as a horror it's something else. You see, the film's very intriguing. You don't know what's going on and you want to find out. It's got style and suspense. That's a good thing, right? The problem is that I think that the director didn't know the different between a "good mystery" and a "rubber vomit company with robots that makes children cough up crickets with the power of Paganism mystery." There's more to it than that, but the sign of a good mystery is that, when all is revealed, you enjoy the film more. Lots of films have great mystery qualities, from The Usual Suspects to The Sixth Sense to the illustrious Fight Club. Halloween 3 revolves around a strange mystery that penetrates your frontal lobe like an over-friendly frat boy full of jello shots and diet pills. Man, I don't miss college at all. Anyway, today I'm going to walk you through the tooth-extraction that is Halloween 3: Season of the Witch. Even better, I should be getting a personal pan pizza by the end of this one, because today's article is also....a book report.
While I was in Jacksonville (Florida) this summer, I stopped by the best bookstore in the world. Chamblin Bookmine is this giant warehouse filled with a maze of used books about everything. It's huge and it's like something from a movie...you really can get lost. Whenever I go, I always find some hidden corner that I'm certain no other human being has seen for over a decade. So anyway, while I was browsing for more out of print Koja books, I found something magical. Halloween 3: Season of the Witch....the book. Oh man. Books based on movies. It's that weird reverse logic that I never understood. I can fathom the whole "I'll wait until the movie comes out" ideal...it takes less time and less processing power. But who wants to read an expanded script about a cheesy horror movie? The answer ended up being me, as I bought the damn thing for about a dollar. And let me tell you....it's surreal. The book is pretty much a scene by scene walk through of the movie, with some creative flourishes thrown in here and there. So it's clear the book was written for people who couldn't see the movie. I think. I really don't know. Why the hell do they make novelizations of popular (or wannabe popular) movies? They still do this. Why? Who buys these things? I digress. Let's take a quick look into the kind of stuff to prepare yourself for before we take a look at the real horror here.
You got to like sequels that talk about their progenitors as horror classics and quote film critics' comments in them. When they wrote this (and this is word for word in the film as well) did they think they needed to remind people how good the original Halloween was? I don't know either. I'm done...we'll get back to the book later. Let's do this.
Instead of my doing this the usual way, let me just walk you through the initial mystery the film presents. The thing that's almost awesome...but in the end sucks mightily (in an unpleasant manner).
An old man evades some guy in a suit and ends up in the hospital, insane and clutching a Halloween mask. Some random commercial makes him go apeshit crazy and start mumbling about "They're going to kill us all."
Old man nutjob is taken care of by Doctor Dan Challis, played by Tom Atkins. In case you were wondering, Tom Atkins has spent most of the last three decades playing either doctors or detectives. Seriously, if you look at his track record it's kind of bizarre. Then again, at least he hasn't spent three decades playing janitors and submissive bedwetters. Anyway, some guy in a suit (think Mr. Smith from the Matrix only without the designer-brand sunglasses) comes in and pretty much crushes the old man's skull. He then walks calmly to his car. Where he covers himself with gasoline....
...decides to have a cigarette....
...and kills himself in a blazing inferno of doom.
And there's your mystery. I've seen worse, and I'd be lying if I said I wasn't curious about what the heck was going on. Why was the old man killed? Why did the killer hold a Buddhist protest? What the hell does that mask have to do with anything? As you might have guessed, when you do know the answers to these questions you're going to feel very dirty for wondering about them in the first place.
The most annoying thing in this flick is the theme song. Sure, there's your traditional horror movie music, but that's not what I'm talking about. Every ten minutes or so this television/radio commercial comes on about the Silver Shamrock's Halloween Mask Prize giveaway. Silver Shamrock is a novelty joke company...you know, the kind that makes rubber vomit, plastic bats & spiders...that sort of thing. This year they've got these Halloween masks that apparently are the "Tickle Me Elmo" of the 1982 Halloween season. Oh, and the damn movie won't stop playing their commercial jingle. Sung to the tune of "London Bridge is Falling Down":
"HAPPY, HAPPY HALLOWEEN, HALLOWEEN, HALLOWEEN, HAPPY, HAPPY HALLOWEEN, SILVER SHAMROCK!"
The song gets in your head and swallows the soul. Sadly, the Silver Shamrock theme song ends up being the truly scary part of this film, and the only thing that gives me the willies something fierce.
Here's a quick plot outline so I can just get to explaining the crapitude of The Season of the Witch: Dr. Dan starts banging the daughter of the crazy old man. The crime-solving duo (OMG, Tom Atkins is a detective AND a doctor) go to a small Irish town in California where all the Halloween masks, like the one the father was holding, are made. Things go poorly with evil corporations and the occult, which pretty much puts you put to speed.
Mystery #1: What the hell was up with that guy lighting himself on fire?
Answer: He was a robot. No. Really. I'm serious.
Apparently all the people working in the rubber mask factory are robots, working for their evil boss. The robot in question was ordered to kill someone who "knew too much" and then destroy himself. The movie does reveal this, but tries to move past it very quickly. Because it's not a good idea to start thinking about how/why a rubber puke company would build perfect androids out of plastic and clock parts. The hero finds out when he fights one towards the end of the film.
What the heck is up with 1980's robots all looking human and then puking up some sort of mystery fluid when they die? Of course, this guy might have just been phlegmy, so that doesn't prove he's a robot.
When our hero fists the guy's abdomen and pulls back a slimy hand filled with wires, THAT proves he's a robot. So yeah, the Silver Shamrock company has a bunch of robots in their employ. Now, a lot of people would say that this film just went into science fiction territory. I'm inclined to agree, as I can think of very few "true horror" films where robots or aliens or something are just a footnote, while everything else is suspense-filled reality.
The robots end up killing people throughout the film. The scariest (pictured above) is also the most homoerotic. When two men push you down to your knees, sandwich you with your head at crotch level...I really don't know what to think. Makes me want to talk about college again, but that's probably not a good idea.
You also can watch the robots excavating rocks from Stonehenge. Again, what the hell? This film is a horror film that is (so far) about killer robots that have stolen one of the pieces of Stonehenge and are now mining it for minerals. What is going on? On an unrelated note, you have to respect how "budget-minded" it is to only have robots that look like normal people. That's a particular stroke of genius. No one's ever thought of that. In this film's case I think it's a good thing, because if people saw OBVIOUS robots doing all this stuff someone would have set the movie theater on fire in protest.
Mystery #2: What the Hell is up with those masks?
Answer: Each mask is packed a chunk of Stonehenge in it that makes kids explode with a cricket infection.
They really milk the mystery of the masks for as long as they can. One curious woman finds a circuit board in the back of the mask, plays with it....
Gets hit with a laser of pure Druid energy...
...and her face melts, causing crickets to start jumping out of her mouth like it was a tiny clown car at the circus. The edit "NO" is there due to the smashed out teeth/face wound she's got going on. While it's not pornographic, it's a very, very gross effect. Like something you'd find on Rotten.com or Goregasm.com. Not that I know offhandedly where to find pictures of dead murder victims (as opposed to living murder victims) online or anything. Stop judging me. Point is that now we know the masks are evil and make people get icky pretty quickly. So what's the heck is going on?
If all the workers of the Silver Shamrock corporation are robots, meet the human being running the show. Mr. Cochran is the jolly trickster who's got an evil plan to bring back the magic of Samhain by killing millions of children with his masks. So let's take a step back. This film's really about an evil NeoPagan millionaire gag manufacturer who builds robots who strip Stonehenge for it's magical properties? That pretty much answers all my questions, but man, I feel like a total dork for giving a crap now. Mysteries are supposed to be cool when they get solved, they're not supposed to make you want to take a crap on your DVD player. Right?
The movie does seem to have a weird moral, though (besides the whole "don't trust a rich Irish guy who makes evil masks and robots" thing). "Commercials can be very bad for you." Towards the end, Cochran (rich Neopagan, remember?) takes a small family, locks them in a room and plays his special Halloween commercial for them. The kid puts on his mask and does as the commercial tells him, and "watches the magic pumpkin..." Things do not go well.
Gah. So the commercial makes the mask melt onto the kid's face and causes crickets, spiders, and snakes to poor forth from the poor young one's orifices. The parents are slightly miffed at this, and die at the fangs of their son's Druid-fathered babies (the snakes, people, the snakes). The thing is that in the movie, the father is pretty much this chunky fat guy who gets bitten and dies. You don't like his character and you knew he was going to die the moment he showed up in his flash shirt and annoying wife. The film doesn't care for him and Dr. Dan seems to be the only guy troubled by his demise. The author of the official Halloween 3 book, however, chose this moment to shine:
While the eroticism of the line "out of Little Billy's throat came the writhing extension of something long and impossibly thick, sheathed in slime, like a swollen, blackened tongue" is without question, make sure you don't overlook the enormous volume of paragraphs about how "Fatty the Dad" dies valiantly. In the film he's a chubby dork you want to see die, but in the book...in the book he "raises his fist in a last spastic gesture of defiance as his physical body...and all that he had worked for and dreamed...degenerated before his eyes into a churning, formless mass of unleashed chaos." Freaking Christ, Jack! The dorky comic relief character gets bitten by a snake. And dies. The book does take some creative liberties when it comes to romanticizing the death of goofy characters you want to see die, obviously. I would love to see the author's take on other films. I bet he could write ten pages about how King Kong stepped on a cab driver. "The merciless stench of the encroaching gargantuan ape foot was upon him, challenging all his senses as his very soul strengthened itself valiantly." God bless such people.
By the end of the movie, Dr. Dan is captured, escapes, and sabotage's the Silver Shamrock's master control, which is a mini-Stonehenge built out of computer terminals. That's actually kind of cool in a weird way. All the people I MEAN ROBOTS die, a sacrifice on Samhain, which activates the huge chunk of the real Stonehenge that's across the room.
I think the film was a little confused when it came to its own mythos, as I'm fairly certain sacrificing robots isn't something that should summon dark forces from beyond. I would say they weren't robots, except they all coughed up robot spoo as they died from magic special effect doom.
Evil Neopagan millionaire stands between them and gets blasted by pure Druid energy himself. While other films would have this kill him horribly or turn him into a monster, the director of this bad boy decided to do something different.
Cochran turns into a glowing dummy. You'd think that making a goofy mannequin of the guy would mean he's about to blow up, but no. He fades away, with a goofy smile on his face. I've no idea what just happened. I'm sure it's very pagan, whatever it was. Or not. I don't know.
You'd think the movie would be over. But no, this weird mix of high technology and witchcraft isn't quite there yet.
Man, Jack Martin wrote some great erotica in a past life. "Her mouth spewing white fluid" and "His hand connected with something long, something hard"...I'm totally scared. The last (sort of) scare of the film is finding out that Dr. Dan's girlfriend was turned into a robot while he wasn't looking.
Isn't that scary? Yeah, I didn't think so either. Apparently, robots were really scary back in the early 1980's. I originally thought this film must have come out after The Terminator, but no. This debuted two years earlier. So I have no idea why they decided to follow-up with the robot theme even MORE than the honestly spooky "Druid magic filling your children with crickets and serpents" thing.
The ending is awesome for two reasons. Firstly, it means the film is over. No more goofy plots about robots who celebrate Samhain. Secondly, you get to see evil WIN. I'm a huge fan of films that offer no hope or comfort when they end, mostly because that's a harder decision to make than letting the hero save the day while flying on a magic unicorn made of candy. That's a little weird, but you get what I mean about the lengths of ridiculousness that most films go to to let the good guy get the girl and the happy ending.
Super Tom Atkins gets on the phone, calls the television station and demands that they not play the special "Silver Shamrock" commercial that will make all the kids in the world have their body cavities explode with vermin. Even stranger, some weirdo on the phone screaming I'M A DOCTOR I'M A DOCTOR YOU'VE GOT TO TRUST ME actually gets the station to pull the commercial. Like that'd happen. Ever. Of course he can't get the commercial pulled from channel 3, so the film ends with him screaming that it's too late and begging for the television station to stop playing it.
The end. All the children die. The moral:
Don't watch commercials. They'll make you die, horribly. Or, as Jack Martin would write it: "make you degenerate into a churning, formless mass of unleashed chaos."
Happy Halloween. Watch out for rich Neopagans, robots, rubbers masks filled with chunks of Stonehenge, and Jack Martin in general.
PS: There will be a contest once Halloween comes closer. While it'll most likely be about free Art, whoever wins will also receive my copy of Jack Martin's "Halloween 3". Because you know you want it.
copyright 2006 jared von hindman, except for images and text used via Fair Use purposes. Well, they're images of text, so I'm not sure how that falls under the "please don't sue me" law. Hopefully I won't find out.
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