Sunday, 8 October 2017

THE LEIGH SPENCE MOMENT: HALLOWEEN III: SEASON OF THE WITCH



46. “It’s almost time, kids. The clock is ticking.”

08/10/2017

Like “The Return of the Living Dead,” “Halloween III: Season of the Witch,” which also takes part of its title from a George A. Romero film, refers to the original film in its franchise as a work of fiction, appearing on TV screens before adverts for the horror mask company central to the plot – the melody of “London Bridge Is Falling Down” is grating enough, but its frequent use here is enough for the rest of my life.

“Halloween” is one of those franchises where, with every new film greenlit, save for its third, the story begins by insinuating that all was not as it seemed at the end of the previous film – there had to be yet another way the git in the William Shatner mask happened to survive. The reason “Season of the Witch” bucked this trend was because the Michael Myers story was over, and an anthology of one-off stories would take its place. However, Myers returned when the new story was not what people were expecting, when “Halloween III” wound up as the worst performing of the franchise at the box office… until the fifth one.


The plot is, essentially, an anti-consumerist retelling of “Invasion of the Body Snatchers,” even based in a carefully controlled town with the same name, Santa Mira, where the Silver Shamrock novelty mask factory looks over it all. A man is admitted to hospital, later established as a toy shop owner, saying “they’ll kill us all” – when he is killed, the doctor that sees him, and the man’s daughter, travels to Santa Mira. What unfurls is a tale of watching men in suits, androids, microchips, swarms of insects, witchcraft and Stonehenge, all brought together to wipe out large numbers of people, upon activation of a signal embedded in that bloody advertising jingle – corniness is both catchy and deadly.


If it does have the feel of an episode of “The Twilight Zone” or “The Outer Limits” – the latter especially evoked by the TV interference and lines creating a pumpkin in the opening credits – remember that this was what the “Halloween” franchise was meant to have become, and the producers of the first two films, John Carpenter and Debra Hill, intended subsequent films to have the same feel. In fact, what really sets this film apart from the rest of the franchise is the music, with an electronic score by John Carpenter and Alan Howarth that sounds as if they had a chat with both Philip Glass and Brian Eno first.

The connection with the older TV series is reinforced by the script having been written by one of John Carpenter’s heroes, Nigel Kneale, who I have previously talked about with his BBC adaptation of “Nineteen Eighty-Four” [link], and his TV play “The Year of the Sex Olympics” [link].  “Halloween III” is not horror for horror’s sake, and is reminiscent of the tone and feel found in Kneale’s other work, including the “Quatermass” series and “The Stone Tape.” However, once more sensationalist content – some gore, and some nudity – was inserted into the script, Kneale was successful in removing his name from the film. Once you add Nigel Kneale’s name back into the credits, you will easily forget about Michael Myers.

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