It's easy to get entrenched in a specific point of view, to an extent beyond the weightiness or even usefulness of the original argument that occasioned it. I'd wager we can all think of times-- whether we were discussing politics, religion, or the whether the responsibility for one party's having nearly dipped her ass in the toilet water is more appropriately assigned to the party who left the seat up than to the party who couldn't be bothered to even take a freaking LOOK at the thing before plopping right down*--where the question itself takes a back seat to the emotional investment both sides have in their stated, taken positions. Heels get dug in, battle lines get drawn, and the war rages independent of the larger considerations of right and wrong.
In such cases one runs the risk of becoming intractable, locked into not only a point of view but a moment in time, so that even when circumstances, tastes, or experiences bring new interpretations to the old data, one feels he cannot, MUST not abandon the argument into which he's poured so much time and energy. It takes an epiphany, a special kind of leap to climb out of the trench and reconsider things with a fresh, open mind. And, as it is often said, it takes a big man to admit he was wrong.
I am, if nothing else, a big man.
I decided shortly after my first viewing of Halloween III: Season of the Witch, more years ago than I'd care to admit (so long it might actually pre-date the film's production in a weird Dr. Who kinda way), that I just didn't like it. It wasn't because of the lack of Michael Meyers--while I do like the big guy, I'm not as emotionally invested in him as many around the horror blogosphere seem to be. It just failed to click for me, failed to coalesce into anything that stuck in my brain and said, "Hey, check me out--I'm awesome." Apart from a few clips on the requisite Halloween retrospectives and the occasional internet paean to the third flick's undiscovered genius, I thereafter avoided giving Halloween III much thought at all. When it did pop up, my thoughts usually ran, "Oh yeah, that's the one I don't like," and promptly dismissed it.
Well now I'm older, hopefully wiser, and definitely more understanding and forgiving of cinematic craziness than I was in my younger, overly serious days. So after listening to the Duke wax poetic on Tom Atkins's moustache for the umpteenth time, receiving a sealed command to the effect from the Administrative Offices of the Tenebrous Empire, and generally failing to find anything else appropriately holiday-themed and MAD sounding for my Halloween viewing this year, I decided to put the past behind me, swallow my pride, and give Halloween III another chance.
Internets: I was wrong.
Black Christmas, a young John Carpenter had Hollywood by the tail, not to mention a trailer full of empty Marlboro cartons. Dutifully cashing in with the relatively quick, right-where-we-left-off sequel Halloween II (a movie that unlike H3 I have *always* liked), the most successful indie filmmaker in history hatched a new and exciting plan for the series--rather than focusing on The Shape, each sequel would focus on the holiday of Halloween itself, delivering a new spook story every year or so, raking in the holiday horror bucks and allowing the directors and writers to flex their creative scary muscles while not being tied to any one set of characters or situations.
It's actually a very sound plan--a sort of "movie series as extended anthology" of the kind attempted by the HBO Tales from the Crypt movies.* But while we can safely blame Dennis Miller for the failure of that latter day series, John Carpenter's scheme was doomed by its progenitor's massive success. The Halloween brand was already locked in moviegoers' minds as "The One with Michael Meyers," and audiences proved unwilling to go along with any plan that did not involve his unsmiling, paleface-Shatner mug. The plan was abandoned and other writers and directors brought back The Shape in a series of profitable but largely bad sequels, leaving John Carpenter to pursue other projects while not sitting home smoking or cashing his steady royalty checks. Therefore Halloween III: Season of the Witch now stands as the only cinematic evidence of what might have been.
*The similarity of these movie-making schemes has led some conspiracy theorists to suggest that The Crypt Keeper is in fact an aged, tobacco-withered John Carpenter himself, trying to give the plot another go. Extensive investigations in comparative photography have not yet ruled out the possibility that the two entities are one and the same.
evil Druids from Ireland, who have stolen a piece of Stonehenge and are using chips of the magic rock along with modern technology to turn each mask into a Black Magical Head-Bomb! When triggered by a special television broadcast on Halloween night, the masks will kill all the little ghoulies watching by turning their brains into venomous snakes, spiders, and flesh-eating beetles, which will then presumably kill everybody else. Local alcoholic divorced doctor Dan Challis (Tom Atkins) uncovers the mask company's wicked scheme and must fight the CEO's army of superstrong clockwork automatons to prevent all the little monsters (including his own kids!) from getting a treat that would make Charlie Brown's rock-bag look good.
And there's no Michael Meyers. Get over it.
Revisiting H3 after all these years, I can see where it lost the younger me. It starts off silly and just gets progressively more insane until energetically leaping over the line into gleeful batshittery at the end. It does not operate by the same rules that apply to real life, or even cinematic life. It works instead by what La Belle Dame Tenebrous has called "kid logic." For instance, the villain's motivations are never quite clear--basically he's doing this because he's eeeevil, and that's good enough. The logistics of stealing a massive slab of granite from one of the best-known archeological tourist attractions in the world (and somehow smuggling it to a small rural town in California completely under the radar) are brushed aside with a throwaway line of dialog. ("We had a time getting it here--you wouldn't believe how we did it!") And the automatons--entirely gearwork and oil, they somehow have the power to crush skulls and rip heads off spines--that's one tightly wound mainspring! And with a single anonymous phone call, an unknown doctor is able to change the nationwide programming of 2 out of 3 major television networks. To the younger me, it's all just too many pills to swallow.
Of course the older me is ADDICTED to those pills.
Because the thing about Kid Logic is, while it's not heavy on explanation or logistics, it excels at the spooky, stick-with-you idea or image. Why would anyone give a known killer--in an asylum--a razor-sharp hook for a hand? I dunno, but think of that thing hanging on your door handle. It WORKS. Same thing here--only turned up to eleven and set on FIRE.
It helps that the kids themselves are the targets of the wicked, deadly scheme. Baddie Conal Cochran (an excellently elegant and creepy Dan O'Herlihy) is not screwing around here. HE'S COME FOR YOUR CHILDREN. I mean, clockwork guys ripping the heads off hobos and battle-axe women with blowed-up faces are creepy enough, but GRAPHIC CHILD MURDER? That's above and beyond. I would posit that Lil' Buddy Kupfer's icky demise in Testing Room A (why are they testing on the DAY of the event? It doesn't matter) is directly responsible for the continued dismal sales of Jack-O-Lantern masks in the United States to this day.
In lieu of plot summary, I offer you this catalog of awesomenesses, taken chronologically from my viewing notes. Please feel free to add your own geekery over favorite moments in the comments:
H3, I apologize. 2.75 thumbs. I'll be seeing you again...
"You don't really know much about Halloween... you thought no further than the strange custom of having your children wear masks and go out begging for candy... It was the start of the year in our old Celtic lands, and we'd be waiting... in our houses of wattles and clay. The barriers would be down, you see, between the real and the unreal, and the dead might be looking in... to sit by our fires of turf. Halloween... the festival of Samhain! The last great one took place three thousand years ago, when the hills ran red... with the blood of animals and children."
358 days till Halloween, Halloween, Halloween...