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'Halloween 3': Who Needs Michael Myers?

Second Chances #4

Hello, and welcome back to Second Chances where I talk about things that deserve another shot.

There are few horror movies that have been more influential than John Carpenter's 1978 classic Halloween.  The story of babysitters terrorized by the psychopathic Michael Myers on Halloween night became the template for almost all the slasher flicks that came out afterward.  It was also a massive success, taking in $70 million worldwide on a budget of only $300k.  Naturally, sequels were wanted by the studio, but Carpenter and his co-producer Debra Hill didn't want to rehash the Michael Myers story over and over.  So they struck a deal with the studio.  The second would continue from the original's cliffhanger, and the follow-ups would present new stories.  That deal gave us Halloween 3: Season of the Witch.

Halloween 3 did profit at the box office when it first released, but its $14 million take upset the studio as it didn't come close to the earnings of the first two films.  Audiences were even more upset.  The critics and audiences' complaints at the time could be summed up in three words...

"WHERE'S MICHAEL MYERS?!?"

Apparently people back then weren't as savvy as audiences today as none of the trailers made any allusions to this being a Michael Myers story. It was perfectly clear that this was meant to be treated as a stand-alone tale, and it wasn't meant to be the only one. Carpenter and Hill wanted to turn the franchise into an anthology series like what Tales from the Crypt would do later. Each movie was meant to have its own story with the holiday and assorted cameos tying them together. However, since the third failed in the studio's eyes, Carpenter and Hill were thrown out, and the dismal rehashing of the Michael Myers plot began. It's a shame, too, because the third movie was insane in all the best ways!

The plot revolves around masks sold by the Silver Shamrock Novelties company.  A guy is taken to the hospital clutching one of the masks and screaming, "They're gonna kill us all!"  When the guy is murdered in the hospital and the murderer kills himself outside, the attending physician Dan Challis (Tom Atkins) and the victim's daughter Ellie (Stacey Nelkin) go to the mask factory in the isolated town of Santa Mira to investigate.  Their appearance draws the attention of the head of the plant Conal Cochran (Dan O'Herlihy) who has a plan for the ultimate trick to go with the kids' treats.

Unlike all the other Halloween films which revolve around slasher cliches, the third takes a lot of cues from the sci-fi horror of the 50s.  The movie feels very much like a double length episode of The Outer Limits.  There are also hints of inspiration from Invasion of the Body Snatchers.  This is a movie that combines robots, witchcraft, and cyber nightmares in a creative way.  While it is VERY farfetched, it's also very engaging.

The performances are quite good all around.  There is a clever cameo by Nancy Kyes; she played as Dan's ex-wife here and as Laurie's friend Annie in the first two films.  Jamie Lee Curtis also provided a cameo as the curfew announcer in the town of Santa Mira.  However, the stand-out performances came from the three leads.  Tom Atkins is one of those "Hey, It's That Guy" bit-players, but he really gets to show his stuff here.  You really start to feel his desperation by the end.  Stacey Nelkin also gave a very energetic performance as Ellie, though she didn't seem comfortable doing the out-of-nowhere sex scene in the middle of the film.  The one who stole the show, though, was Dan O'Herlihy as Cochran.  I'm surprised he didn't do more villain roles in his lifetime as he knocked this one out of the park.  He was just so delightfully demented!  In fact, he also gave one of the greatest villain monologues ever in Halloween 3!  While, to me, he will always be the Old Man from RoboCop and Grig from The Last Starfighter, his performance as Cochran will be right up there as well.


Tommy Lee Wallace did a great job with his directorial debut here.  I can't think of a shot that didn't work.  There weren't that many kills compared to the rest of the franchise, but this movie made them count.  The effects got pretty disgusting, particularly one moment when a woman tinkered with a broken mask.  (No, I can't show it.  Watch the movie yourself.)  I also can't ignore the outstanding score composed by John Carpenter himself.  Synthesizers had never sounded so unsettling.

If you're one of those who regularly skips Halloween 3 because it doesn't have Michael Myers, stop doing that.  This may sound sacrilegious, but Halloween 3 is actually the ONLY Halloween movie I like!  I generally don't like slasher flicks because they're too cliched, but Halloween 3 is an entity unique unto itself.  There's just nothing like it, and it should be enjoyed on its own.  Man, don't I wish the anthology idea was successful!  If this insanity was the FIRST idea Carpenter and Hill had, imagine what else they would've come up with given the chance!

Any other movies that deserve another shot?  Let me know, and Happy Halloween!

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