Thursday, October 29, 2020


For our most recent episode of Myopia Movies, we watched 1982's Halloween III: Season of the Witch. For those not familiar with the franchise background, that was when John Carpenter decided that the series should be an anthology of Halloween-themed horror stories in the vein of Creepshow or Tales from the Crypt rather than follow Michael Myers the way Friday the 13th (mostly) follows Jason Voorhees or Nightmare on Elm Street follows Freddy Krueger. As a result, the film isn't a slasher movie at all--it's a straight-up mystery in which an alcoholic doctor Daniel Challis (Tom Atkins) allies with Ellie Grimbridge (Stacey Nelkin) to investigate her father's murder and finds an ancient Celtic conspiracy.

Although in the episode itself I gave Carpenter credit for wanting to be creative and not just do another Michael Myers story, a good idea executed badly undermines the credibility of the whole concept in many people's eyes. Although it made money, the film was not well-received critically and the franchise was shelved for six years, bringing back Michael Myers for Halloween IV in 1988 and continuing with him as the main villain ever since. So much for that road not taken.

Thing is, although I advised people not to bother watching the film, the concept actually isn't so bad. The main problem that I had is the performances aren't anything to write home about (they're not bad, but they're not really impressive either) and in particular I had problems with how convoluted the villain's plot is.



The film's villain turns out to be Irish businessman Conal Cochran (Dan O'Herlihy, aka Grig from The Last Starfighter). He is upset with the commercialization of Halloween and the loss of its real meaning, much like how many conservative Christians are similarly vexed about Christmas. He's stolen part of Stonehenge and made tiny pieces into microchips placed in all the Halloween masks his company makes. Those who purchased the masks are encouraged to watch a "special giveaway" at 9 PM Halloween night in which a TV signal will trigger the masks to supernaturally kill the children, causing their bodies to spill out poisonous snakes, spiders, etc. to attack anybody nearby. Like 3,000 years before, the planets are in alignment and it's time for a mass human sacrifice. And to silence inconvenient witnesses and protect his sinister factory in small-town California, he's built an army of what I kept calling "Irish Terminators"--silent androids with orange goo "blood."

Although the Marvel villain Doctor Doom combines both science and sorcery to make himself a very dangerous foe (I'll discuss later how Cochran could have pulled it off), this just came off as needlessly complex. I actually kind of liked the macro plot--a cranky Druid annoyed that people have forgotten what Halloween is really about could be used as a commentary on the loss of the meaning of Christmas, commercialization of religious holidays in general, or, unlikely given when the film was made, Internet woke militants' concerns with "cultural appropriation." However, as-is, there are way too many wheels in motion. 

To simplify it, the androids could be replaced with cultist thugs, since having robots on that level means that not only is Cochran a powerful sorcerer but also a mechanical engineer decades ahead of his time. One or the other--both is overkill and kind of getting into Gary Stu territory. And rather than the whole "pieces of the Stonehenge made into microchips," he could have performed some kind of magic spell (mixing blood of murdered homeless people into the molten latex?) to make the masks attack their wearers when the planets are in alignment. Or simply ditch the supernatural angle completely and mix plastic explosives with the masks so they'd all explode when triggered by the TV signal. Combining science and magic the way he did it just came off as really clumsy and clunky and in either the all-magic or all-technology scenario, you still get a mass sacrifice of children on Samhain. A full technical solution could even be used for humor--Cochran could comment on how rationalistic science allows him to honor the gods in a way his superstitious ancestors never could.

And then there's what happens to Ellie--just after she and Challis have escaped the exploding factory, she's revealed as a robot herself. Either the real Ellie was killed or locked away somewhere soon after the "Irish Terminators" detained her and Cochran dashed together a fake one on the fly or she was a robot all along. The first idea makes more sense given that Ellie is talkative and sexual in contrast to the silent robots and what is later revealed to be Robo-Ellie never talks after her "rescue." However, then we get into the issue of just how long it would have taken for Cochran to make an Ellie-bot once he realized she was after him. Cochran could've been building the "Irish Terminators" for years before implementing his plan, but he only had a couple days to create something that would fool Dr. Challis for for potentially a long period of time. Dr. Challis, for the record, is the father of two school-age children, a medical doctor, and someone who despite the huge age difference manages to get to know Ellie very well if you know what I mean, so he should be able to spot an imposter pretty quickly. 

It might've been better to pull a Terminator 3 and have the real Ellie escape imprisonment on her own while Cochran's robotic goons hunt Challis and battle her robotic duplicate (who in the actual film for some reason doesn't try to stop Challis from sabotaging Cochran's plan) or simply have Challis and Ellie masked and tied up together in front of the television that will broadcast the death signal and then both escape. Seriously that just came off to me as yelling, "PLOT TWIST!"

Of course, as I mentioned earlier with Doctor Doom, a villain who combines science and sorcery effectively can be very cool. In that case, it would've still a good idea to ditch the Stonehenge bit (the movie even points out how hard it would be to steal a five-ton rock), but make the "Irish Terminators" into supernaturally-reanimated zombies or robots controlled by ghosts summoned from the Otherworld. Think Warcraft II Death Knights (dead Orc warlocks' souls possessing fallen human warriors). Seriously, "Druid Ghost Terminators" sounds like something out of Rifts and that would be kind of cool. Maybe someone can see them being created through animal or human sacrifice, plus having reanimating power of supernatural origin means they don't don't need to be as technically complex. I haven't seen O'Herlihy in anything other than The Last Starfighter so I'm not sure if he's capable of pulling off an Irish Doctor Doom though.

And what was with the title? There aren't any witches in the movie. I'd have called it Halloween III: Samhain Eve or something like that.

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