July 4, 2005
Without question, "Halloween 2" is a very worthy successor to the monumentally groundbreaking 1978's "Halloween." Picking up EXACTLY where the first film ended, it traces and expands the story to withering depths. Donald Pleasance, a Carpenter mainstay (see "Prince of Darkness" for more of this amazing actor), is profoundly powerful as Doctor Loomis, and commands the screen wherever he appears. His death at the end of the movie is an immense tragedy for any sympathetic viewer. Jamie Lee Curtis is always a delight, and once again, Carpenter's brilliant minimalist synthesizer riffs virtually shape The Shape "Itself." Quite arguably, 2 is even BETTER than its progenitor/predecessor (more "thought-provoking" than "1," for those who get off on thinking that is), though obviously - the original "Halloween" stands alone upon its own classic, seminal merits.
Enter 3, which is at once problematic and yet ... brilliant in its creative, imaginative NEW storyline! Understandably, Michael Myers fanaddicts were appalled by the absence of their antihero in this third "installation." And in truth, 3 should NOT have been named "Halloween 3" at all, one because its title is very misleading to Myers fans, and two - because it owes much more to the originality and gothic story-telling of, say, "The Fog" or, "Prince of Darkness."
Yet, if we can get beyond the movie's titling debacle, we have a gem of a horror film here. Carpenter's synth work, in collaboration (as in 2) with Alan Howarth, reaches its apex, and the opening screens alone, with their intriguing computer graphics interlaced and synchronized with magnetic, hypnotic, eerie and magical, staccato sticks and stabs overlaying an ominous chord sequence from Carpenter's keyboard, gradually morphing and panning out to form the pixelated image of a jack-o-lantern, are worth the price of admission alone. So ...
Let's get back to the choice of a proper title for this flick in a moment.
A very real criticism comes NOT from the content of 3 itself, but from its transfer to DVD format which is, in a word, "poor." Especially for the viewer who chooses to watch 3 on his or her 21-inch computer screen. The picture is WAY too thin and whoever transferred it to DVD, just botched the effort badly. To enjoy 3 on DVD, I had to literally MAX OUT the picture (which of course, caused some unavoidable edge-cropping of the frame, though not lethally so) to FULLY FILL my monitor top to bottom, stem to stern. Having done that, I was then able to sit back and relish 3 with the same exuberance I had for it when it was released circa 1982.
But let's back to the title. "Halloween" proper ENDS in 2, with the closeup of the dead Myers, burnt to a toastified crisp after staggering out for his final "curtains call" from the ether/oxygen room, exploded with the help of Pleasance (also killed in the conflagration) and Curtis, who, blessedly - escapes harm and lives out the saga to tell her harrowing dual-part-all-in-one-hellish-night tale another day. Myers is dead. Dead! Dead is dead. Carpenter and Debra Hill want to make this clear as flame. And the audience knows it, applauding the surcease of one genuine, Grade-A "bogeyman." Everyone can sleep a little easier. Myers is no Jason (a very offensive, disgusting (in this reviewer's opinion) Myers ripoff to any true, blue-blooded horror aficionado), nor would Carpenter or Hill have wanted him to be. So how could there even BE a "Halloween 3?"
The fact is, there couldn't be. There can't be - Myers is consumed in the fire; The Ghost is toast. "Season of the Witch" is a clumsy title (the subtitle for 3), uncatchy and uninspired; it's the ONLY (and far insufficient) attempt to clue the audience in beforehand that this is NOT another Michael Myers picture. Too little, too jejune, too late. Plus George Romero had already used this exact same title for one of his very first films. So what SHOULD "3" have been named? Since Myers isn't in it at all (except harmlessly on the TV within the story of 3), and the 3 story is its OWN NEW STORY UTTERLY (Hill's and Carpenter's noble intention), obviously somebody (who is anybody's guess) got really, REALLY careless. The only plausible explanation for why "Halloween 3" got the name it got (much to its discredit) was to encourage box office dollars based on the boffo successes of 1 and 2 (but this effort backfired (so to speak), once initial viewers came away, feeling at once - cheated, perplexed, and ... God only knows).
But "The Fog" did fine on its own story-telling merits, as did "Prince of Darkness." Let's be creative and give 3 a fresh name it can be proud of. Scrap "Season of the Witch." Of course, 3 DOES take place at Halloween time, and has a Halloween theme, so we have to incorporate this theme into the title, WITHOUT conjuring up hopes of seeing Michael Myers resurrected from the ashes of Halliden Hospital.
How about "Druid," "Mask of the Druid" or "Night of the Druid," which encapsulates what 3 is ACTUALLY about - the use of one of the rocks (the legendary "Blue Stone"), confiscated from Stone Henge itself, to create deadly powerful Halloween masks to play "the ultimate trick" (without a treat) upon the children and parents of the world.
Where "Halloween" and "Halloween 2" neatly bookend one another, "Druid" is its own entity entirely, and giving it the leading and miserably misleading moniker "Halloween 3" has to be one of the stupidest, goofiest and downright blasphemous mistakes Hill and Carpenter, as the bonafide creators of 3, ever committed.
What they did was to condemn 3 to eternal scorn from reviewers everywhere, Amazon reviewers notwithstanding, and undercut the fine performances of Tom Atkins and Dan O'Herlihy (a brilliant monster of a Druidic priest cum "Toymaker").
"Mask of the Druid" or "Night of the Druid" or whatever BETTER name you can come up with, Constant Reader, WOULD have stood alongside "The Fog" and "Prince of Darkness" and even "The Thing" as Vintage Carpenter, rather than be condemned as it is now to the punitive denouement of "label libel."
3's soundtrack is definitely some of Carpenter's most outstanding work to date. The story involving Stone Henge is unique and intriguing. The suspense buildup of the incessant "Silver Shamrock" TV commercials is Debra Hill horror (visceral but not "gross-out") yarn-weaving at its finest. And the ending of 3 is TRULY disturbing, most effectively so with its echo-chambered, overwhelming jolt of doom, cut to black. "Stop it! Stop it! Stop it!" Tom Atkins screams over and over and over the phone, to no avail as "Channel 3" (ironically), the only remaining channel UNstopped, keeps on airing the horror-generating, televised "evilmercial" to Silver-Shamrock-mask-wearing children around the globe (or at the very least, we are led to believe, the entire United States). What follows next can only be left to the viewer's hypershocked imagination.
If only someone had screamed "Stop it!" when the titlers of "Halloween 3: Season of the Witch" pulled THEIR trick on us. Still, I insist on giving 2/3 five stars (for BOTH!) because of story. Story trumps bad titling every time, end of story. Perhaps one day 3 will be PROPERLY RETITLED, and thus be able to stand up on its own, worthy, Celtic-Irish-Gothic-Horror merits. Such a worthy, clever effort should NEVER be relegated to the dustheap of abysmal, bottom-feeding merchandising/branding. Certainly the Ancient Druidic Priests NEVER would have cottoned to such "shenanigans."