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Waffleween - Halloween 3: Season of the Witch (1982)


Directed by: Tommy Lee Wallace
Starring: Tom Atkins, Dan O'Herlihy, Stacey Nelkin, Nancy Kyes, Michael Currie
Evil mastermind O'Herlihy plans to use Halloween masks as a way of sacrificing children to the ancient Gods.
After "Halloween 2", a controversial decision was made concerning the future of the franchise. Feeling the slasher genre had burnt itself out, the producers decided to adopt an anthology format. The idea was that each new installment would tell a completely different story set around the Halloween season. Michael Myers would no longer feature. It was a brave move but far from a wise one. The film was slaughtered by fans and critics alike. As is so often the case though, "Halloween 3" has been reassessed and is held in far higher regard by genre fans today.
As a kid, this was actually the first film in the series I had the pleasure of seeing. I was too young to have grown up with the first two installments so presumed every movie in the franchise spun a unique yarn. Later, when I discovered the dubious joy of Michael Myers, it soured my opinion of this film. Now I actually consider it second only to the first movie as far as its series ranking goes.
Cult British Sc-Fi writer Nigel Kneale was brought on for scriptwriting duties. John Carpenter, still involved as producer, was a huge fan of Kneale's "Quatermass" scripts for BBC television and Hammer Films. Carpenter would even pay homage by adopting the pseudonym of Martin Quatermass  for his "Prince of Darkness" screenplay. Rumor has it Kneale's script was loosely based on an idea he had rejected by the BBC for being too disturbing, given its infanticide theme. Director Wallace would ultimately rewrite large parts of the script due to a perceived anti-Irish bigotry, leading Kneale's name to be replaced by Wallace in the final credits. (Personally speaking, as an Irishman I'm quite proud to have a horror villain as charismatic as O'Herlihy.)
The story owes a debt to the paranoid Sci-Fi movies of the fifties, films like "Invasion of the Body-Snatchers" and "Invaders From Mars". O'Herlihy plays a Willy Wonka type mask factory owner who runs a small California town, the inhabitants of which are replaced by robot versions of themselves if they step out of line. Atkins is great as the alcoholic doctor whose patient dies following a trip to O'Herlihy's factory. The dead man's daughter, Nelkin, persuades him to tag along to the town to investigate, leading to one of cinema's more unlikely romances.
Wallace does a great job imitating the visual style of his long time friend Carpenter, capturing the creepy atmosphere of the small town, complete with its nightly curfew and CCTV cameras. The dialogue, much of it improvised by Atkins and Nelkin, is snappy and witty without pulling the film down to any puerile depths. Carpenter and Alan Howarth re-team for another great electronic score which reflects brilliantly the escalating paranoia of the story. Sadly, this would be Carpenter's final piece of creative input to the series. (The royalty checks would be enough for Carpenter from here on.)
Though belittled at the time of its release, "Halloween 3" can now be considered one of the highlights of eighties horror, and, with its theme of loss of identity, arguably more relevant today.
8/10

Eric Hillis