31 Days Of Horror: Halloween III

Halloween III (1982) would later become known as the entry in the series that’s not as good because it doesn’t have Michael Myers in.  This is quite a shame, ’cause it’s actually quite a fun (if daft) wee film, and I think things would have been different if the filmmakers had done what they originally intended to do with the series, which was to have different standalone stories with the common theme of being set on Hallowe’en.

Halloween III opening credits
Love those old computer graphics!

We get some awesomely of-the-time ’80s computer graphics in the opening credits, with a pumpkin lantern being drawn line by line on a screen.  This image plays a part in the story later on. </foreshadowing>

The story opens with some standard-looking men in black chasing a guy down; he manages some impressive car-hauling to kill one of them who’s trying to strangle him, and buys himself probably half an hour more of life so he can kick off the plot.  Good work!

There’s a lovely bit in the nearby petrol station (or gas station, I suppose, as it’s California) with a British news correspondent reporting from Stonehenge, where it’s been nine months since somebody stole one of the stones.  The whole Stonehenge stone-stealing plot point is utterly ludicrous.  As a teenager who had only seen the giant standing stones you get in the Outer Hebrides, I always used to say it would be impossible to steal a standing stone.  When I later visited Stonehenge in adulthood, the standing stones there turned out to be tiny in comparison to the Hebridean ones, but I still think they’d be pretty tough to steal and ship across the Atlantic/continental US (spoiler: it shows up in California later in the film) without anyone noticing.

The highlight of this film is the brilliantly silly advert jingle to the tune of London Bridge (‘X more days till Hallowe’en, Hallowe’en, Hallowe’en, X more days till Hallowe’en, Silver Shamrock‘) that is on every TV and radio station advertising the masks made by the sinister Silver Shamrock company.  I find myself singing it in the lead-up to Hallowe’en every year!

Nancy Loomis (who played Annie in Halloween and Halloween II), credited as Nancy Kyes this time, shows up as Linda, the ex-wife of main character Dr Dan Challis.  Nice to see these nods to the previous films – many of the same production staff are involved too.

Speaking of nods to the first film, thorazine is mentioned again!  In Halloween, Dr Loomis wants to use it to sedate Michael Myers before they realise he’s escaped, while in this film, Dr Challis is more successful in using it on poor, doomed Harry Grimbridge, the man who (temporarily) escaped the men in black.

The men in black just seem like regular creepy mooks to start off with, but when one of them crushes Harry’s head it’s pretty clear they’re robots.

Dan seems to have a history with autopsy specialist Teddy, which perhaps gives us some insight into why his marriage failed.

The first Halloween – or an advert for it – is being shown on TV, indicating that this is definitely a different universe in which the first film is just a story.

The creepy town of Santa Mira is really well done, with the locals all staring at Dan and Ellie (Harry’s daughter) when they arrive, and the curfew announcement over the tannoy.  It wouldn’t be somewhere you’d want to stay even if there was nothing sinister going on.

‘Relax, I’m older than I look,’ says Ellie when Dan finally thinks to ask her how old she is AFTER sleeping with her.  I sincerely hope so, ’cause she looks about twelve to his forty-five!  (I just looked up actor Tom Atkins to check I wasn’t being unkind about his age, but he was indeed forty-six when this film was made!  Stacey Nelkin, who played Ellie, was twenty-two.)

The other people staying in the motel/visiting the factory are shown to be pretty awful, but you still feel sorry for them when they fall victim to Conal Cochran and his murderous plans.

I love the primitive creepy old woman robot that Dan knocks the head off when he enters the factory to look for Ellie, although it’s really obvious she’s mechanical so I’m not sure why he thinks she’s human!

Hallowe’en falls on a Sunday in the film, indicating that it is indeed set in its year of release, 1982.

The Stonehenge stone turns out to be being held in the factory, which is still silly.  Apparently tiny chips of the stone have the power to transform rubber masks into death traps that turn kids’ heads into locusts and snakes!

The demonstration scene with the toy salesman and his family is gloriously grisly – a lot of horror films shy away from straight-up killing a child character, but there are no bones made about it here.  The purpose of the pumpkin graphic is also revealed here – it’s the trigger that sets off the death trap chips!

I quite like the round-the-US roundup of kids in Silver Shamrock masks, showing that the whole country is in danger.

The adverts say that the giveaway (i.e. the thing that kids in Silver Shamrock masks are supposed to tune into at nine o’clock) will be shown straight after Halloween finishes.  However, when Dan is tied up in a room in the factory with the TV on, it’s ten to eight, and the scene from Halloween being shown on TV is at completely the wrong point in the story if the giveaway’s still an hour and ten minutes away!

Dan blowing up the Stonehenge stone setup by chucking the chips around the place is a bit daft, but it’s also quite a punch-the-air moment.

It’s kind of obvious that the ‘Ellie’ Dan has rescued is not the real one, ’cause she doesn’t speak for the ten minutes between being rescued and being revealed to be a robot.

I quite like this early example of the ‘robot arm comes to life and tries to strangle character’ trope!  Doctor Who didn’t do this one until twenty-three years later!

I love that when Dan finally makes it to a phone and tries to get the authorities to shut the giveaway broadcast down, it’s the same gas station – and the same attendant – as in the opening section of the film!  ‘Don’t I know you?’

Did they manage to take the broadcast off the third channel before it was too late?  We’ll never know, because the film ends without telling us.

Another break from the Halloween films tomorrow!

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