Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The Night No One Comes Home

Some films just can't ever seem to get a fair shake due to audience perception.  Its inevitable that sequels disappoint the fans who made the originals popular, taking into account that many sequels are rushed and poorly put together, but some sequels get flack when they aren't really bad.  Not as good sure, different sometimes, but not bad.  Horror fans are the worst at this as they love to say what is most important to them in their films, but then rate newer films on a different set of standards entirely.  In this case, the horror sequel simply cannot win.  Once again, I reiterate that many sequels are truly terrible, but not as many as the vocal community would have us believe.  This is of course acknowledging the sequels that follow the same thread from one film to another and allows us to know what to expect...but what of the sequel that is unrelated to the previous film?  These don't happen often, but when they do fans tend to have a special store of hatred saved up for these.  These are the films that fans would probably love if they were named as originals, but since there's a two, three, or four in the title they are automatically trussed up and burned in effigy.  Halloween III: Season of the Witch is one of these casualties.  It is a smart and almost subversive film that pokes fun at Halloween traditions and also at advertising.  It also acknowledges that John Carpenter meant to kill Michael Myers off at the end of Halloween II and was intended to be the start of a yearly series of films that played with American Halloween conventions (Michael Dougherty's recent  Trick 'r Treat would have been cheerfully at home in this series) so that the sequels didn't get stale with always having to bring Michael back from the dead (or explain why he hasn't yet died).  Unfortunately, the fans cried foul and we were given a few more decent sequels featuring old Pale Face as the series descended into one of the bigger embarrassments of the horror world (for anyone who cares, I think the good post III sequels are 4 and H20, with 5 and 6 being fun incoherent messes....the remake and the remake's sequel I admire for trying to do something different, but I do not care for because they crept too far away from what Halloween was).  But this isn't a post about Myers, this is about The Season of the Witch...so let's put on our Silver Shamrock masks and watch the Magic Pumpkin....watch....watch...

The story begins a mere 8 days before Halloween in California.  Everything seems normal for Dr. Dan Challis until a gas station attendant brings in an exhausted man who begins raving when he hears a commercial on the television advertising Silver Shamrock Halloween masks.  Dan thinks that the man is simply exhausted and sick, but begins to suspect other forces at work when a man walks into the hospital, breaks the man's skull with his bare hands, and then lights himself on fire in the parking lot.  He finds out that the man, Harry Grimbridge, had a toy shop and a daughter named Ellie in her 20s.  Ellie suspects that something happened to her father while he was in the town of Santa Mira collecting more Silver Shamrock masks directly from the factory (the masks have been selling like hotcakes this year thanks to the catchy commercials).  The two of them agree to head to Santa Mira where they find that the entire town population is Irish and works at the Silver Shamrock factory for Conal Cochran, an apparent legend in the manufacture and sale of novelties.  Everyone seems friendly, yet there is a strange and suspicious air hanging over the town.  Soon Ellie and Dan find themselves on the run from Cochran's henchmen as they try to unravel the mystery of Silver Shamrock's masks and how they tie in to a plot to kill the nation's children on Halloween Night.

I initially didn't care for Halloween III because I watched it as a teenager and resented the idea that Michael Myers was not in it...as many did upon its initial release...but I grew to like it and to almost prefer it to the original Halloween (sacrilege I know) due to its chilling story and 'nationwide' stakes.  I usually watch it every October because, as Carpenter and Debra Hill intended, it stands on its own and acknowledges the commercial side of Halloween which is often featured in movies set on the holiday but usually in just decor and not the actual marketing used to sell Halloween to people.  It also reminds me of a time in the US when Halloween was an event rather than a holiday that was overtaken by the steamroller of Christmas before its day is even over.  When I was a kid around that time, Halloween programing was either made or recycled for the channels I watched and stores, restaurants, and radio stations all got into the act to enjoy the spooky and silly aspects of the holiday.  Now, people go trick or treating and have Halloween parties because its something that's done every year...but not because its special.  Hell, some kids don't even dress up anymore.  Its really sad because it takes the piss out of a great Fall holiday that I used to look forward to yearly.  I strongly believe that if this film were remade nowadays (and I think it should be...I've got a great script for it too) it would be even more relevant than it was in the 80s.  Halloween really has become a sad joke and needs to be revived and respected, which is the driving ideal behind Cochran's whole plan.  I think if you're a horror fan and you've avoided this film because of its non-association with Michael Myers, you owe it to yourself to give it a chance just once.  Oh...and regardless of if you love it or hate it...just try getting that damn Silver Shamrock Song out of your head.

(to the tune of London Bridge is Falling Down)
Four more days till Halloween,
Halloween, Halloween
Four more days till Halloween
Silver Shamrock!

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