Wednesday, October 31, 2012

HALLOWEEN III: THE SEASON OF THE WITCH (Tommy Lee Wallace, 1982, USA)

This is the night of an ancient Celtic festival as the cobwebs between the living and the dead dissolve, allowing the tendrils of death and disease to traverse this nebulous boundary between worlds. This pedophobic nightmare concerns the Silver Shamrock Corporate Empire whose only goal is to murder children, to reawaken the true meaning of Samhain, to make this gleeful holiday nightmarish and murderous…just like the good old days. This includes an explosive orgy of insects and reptiles bursting forth from the ripe craniums of Halloween mask wearing children who expect a treat but get the unkindest trick of all. 

The story may seem far-fetched and nonsensical; a stolen Stonehenge monolith, androids, computer chips the size of silver-dollars, a factory that barely seems capable of making a hundred latex masks (and not millions!), and an elaborate murder scheme that requires complex subliminal advertising, but it all fits loosely together and becomes gruesome fun. Conal Cochran, the mortal Thanatos, even captures the protagonist, a hard-drinking and cheating doctor, and repeats his “evil plans” in standard comic book exposition instead of just killing him outright. Of course, Dr. Challis escapes to destroy this brutal plot (and its author) but this is where the film’s structure rises slightly above the treacle and becomes brimstone: our protagonist ultimately fails.

Director Tommy Lee Wallace mimics his mentor John Carpenter by using subtle character movements and medium-shots; he lets the camera linger down long corridors following softly the footsteps of the reaper. He doesn't rely on quick-cuts or flashy gimmicks…but drives us crazy with an agonizing jingle. Carpenter’s electronic score creates a few scares but layers the film in a spoiled malaise, like a secret corpse rotting under a dark porch, barely recognized before it putrescent pungency alarms our senses and creates an unsettling and disturbing atmosphere. The ActoVision-like special effect of a flashing pumpkin broadcast to millions of viewers, their supernaturally powered Halloween masks firmly secured, is a chilling conclusion to this nihilistic drama. HALLOWEEN III discards the slasher convention and aims higher than it actually achieves but is still entertaining and darkly tumorous. 

Final Grade: (B)

No comments: