Monday, September 30, 2013

Franchises: Halloween. Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers (1988)

File:Halloween4poster.jpgFittingly enough, this was the fourth Halloween that I saw, having already seen the first two as well as H2O by this point. Now that I had those three movies on VHS, I was looking forward to completing my collection of the franchise and, since I was still in that dumb mindset where I was refusing to see Halloween III, Halloween 4 was the logical one to go for next. Since I had seen H2O, I knew that it discounted 4, 5, and 6 but even so, I was still curious to see how those films panned out and so, with that frame of mind, I bought Halloween 4 on VHS in the winter of 2002, just a week after Christmas when I had actually gotten Halloween II. I had seen that VHS many times in various stores like On-Cue (anyone remember that store?) so it wasn't that hard to find when I finally decided to go for it. Even today, you see this movie a lot when it comes to shopping for the series. It's a very popular entry and for good reason. When I finally watched it, it was another one of those movies that I became a fan of instantly. I thought it more than held its own with the first two and, in fact, I liked it much more than H2O and still do. For me, this is the last really good entry in the franchise. While there are some later films that I do like, I think that the Halloween series fell from grace after this flick and to this day, it still hasn't recovered the greatness that it once had. Now, I'm not saying that Halloween 4 is perfect. As we'll get into, I do think it has its fair share of faults but still, the movie is so good and well made overall that I can easily overlook them, which is something that I can't say for some of the ones that came after this one.

On October 30, 1988, ten years after his original Halloween night killing spree, Michael Myers, who has been in a coma after nearly burning death in the enormous explosion in the Haddonfield Memorial Hospital, is being transferred from Ridgemont Federal Sanitarium back to Smith's Grove when he suddenly awakens upon hearing that his sole living family member is a niece living in Haddonfield. After killing the paramedics and causing the ambulance to crash, Michael begins making his way back to Haddonfield in order to murder her. The niece, Jamie Lloyd, who has been adopted by the Carruthers, is having nightmares about her evil uncle and is bullied by the kids at school for having no mother and for her uncle being "the boogeyman." Despite this, though, Jamie decides to go trick-or-treating with her step-sister, Rachel, that night. Little do they know, though, that Michael has returned to Haddonfield and is now searching for Jamie. Fortunately, Dr. Loomis, who also survived the explosion ten years earlier, is hot on Michael's trail and has teamed up with Haddonfield's new sheriff to stop his psychotic patient once and for all. But can they get to Jamie before her uncle does?

It's weird because if you remember back in my review for Halloween III, I said that after that film flopped and the audience wanted Michael Myers back, John Carpenter begged off the series. But, after doing some research, I've learned that it does seem like he was going to both write and direct Halloween 4. After Universal gave up the rights to the franchise due to the third film's failure, Cannon Films came to Carpenter with the prospect of reviving Michael Myers and he and writer Dennis Etchison, who had written novelizations for Halloween II and III, came up with a concept that made Michael even more phantomlike than he already was. According to Etchison, the basic premise was going to be that Halloween had been banned in Haddonfield due to the Halloween night massacre in 1978 and that, by trying to suppress the memory of Michael, the townspeople would end up bringing him back to life in a spectral form of some sort. However, series overseer Moustapha Akkad rejected this idea, wanting it to be more in line with the original film and have Michael still be a flesh and blood character. That's when Carpenter and Debra Hill said, "Screw it," and left the franchise. When they left, so did Cannon, and the rights went to Akkad, who proceeded to develop the film himself, deciding, again, to go back to the basics of the original with Halloween 4. As much as I enjoy the Halloween 4 that we got, like the anthology angle that was supposed to have begun with Halloween III, I really would have been interested in seeing how that original would have been realized. I don't know about you but the idea of Michael coming back as an evil spirit sounds really cool to me!

The man who ultimately replaced Carpenter as director was Dwight H. Little, who up to that point had only directed three films, none of which were all that successful at the box-office, as well as some episodes of Freddy's Nightmares. Since Halloween 4, his filmography has included some interesting stuff such as a 1989 version of The Phantom of the Opera with Robert Englund as the title character; the Steven Seagal film Marked for Death; Rapid Fire, which starred the late Brandon Lee; Free Willy 2: The Adventure Home; Anacondas: The Hunt for the Blood Orchid, the first of several sequels to the popular 1997 creature feature (the only one to go to theaters, though); and most recently, Tekken in 2009. Overall, I thought Little did a nice job with Halloween 4. He seemed to take it seriously, actually doing some research on the history of the holiday itself for the film's memorable opening sequence, and did try to emulate the stylish look and feel that Carpenter and Dean Cundey brought to the original with the blue lighting and shots of Michael Myers lurking in the shadows. Major credit also has to be given to writer Alan B. McElroy, who had to bang the film's script out in just eleven days in order to get it in before a writer's strike began (he actually ended up beating the strike by just a few hours!) Even though the film isn't perfect, the fact that the screenplay was as solid, coherent, and smooth flowing as it was after being written in such a haste is a true testament to McElroy's abilities. Therefore, I give that guy major props.

While it's hard to believe that he survived the explosion at the end of Halloween II and, furthermore, came out of it with only the right side of his face burned (though he probably was burned in other areas as well), it's good to see Donald Pleasence back as Dr. Loomis. Pleasence was one of those actors who was good in everything that he was in, no matter the quality of the actual film, and Halloween 4 is no exception. He doesn't have much new material to work with, granted: Michael Myers has escaped again and Loomis is just as determined as ever to stop him, so it's simply a repeat of his motivation in the original. But, he still does it very well and does manage to add some new stuff to the character. His first scene, where he bursts into the office of Dr. Hoffman, the head of Ridgemont, absolutely livid that he allowed Michael to be transported, has some really good acting from Pleasence. He gets across how Loomis knows that Michael is still a great, potential threat, even in his comatose state. It calls back to Halloween II (and, if you like, the TV cut of the original) when he said that the staff of Smith's Grove, having grown accustomed to how silent and still Michael was all the time, didn't understand how dangerous he really was but Loomis new. It's the same thing here. He knows Michael can eventually awaken from his coma to begin the bloodbath again and that transporting him gives him an even more ample opportunity to do so. He reminds Hoffman that it's Halloween again and that every day, when he looks at his scarred face in the mirror, he remembers that horrible night and adds that he doesn't want anyone to go through that again. I love how when Hoffman gets a phone call and Loomis sees the expression that appears on his face, he gets this all-knowing look and heads out before Hoffman has a chance to tell him exactly what happened. He knows what he was going to say. And at the site of the crashed ambulance, he knows full well that it was caused by Michael, that it wasn't an accident, and that, despite what Hoffman says about the condition of Michael's body, he has escaped and is fully capable of killing more people. Loomis then gives another classic line when he tells Hoffman, "You're talking about him as if he were a human being. That part of him died years ago." He also adds that he's heading for Haddonfield and that, "If you don't find him in four hours, I'm sure I will."

And, sure enough, he does find Michael after he's massacred everyone at a combined gas station and garage. Furthermore, instead of shooting Michael right away as he always did, Loomis actually tries to reason with him, pleading with him not to go back to Haddonfield. He's very sincere in this moment and it's surprising to see him act this way after he was so gun-ho about just stopping Michael in the first two films. Maybe it goes back to what he said earlier, that he doesn't want anybody else to have to go through the horror of that Halloween night, including himself given how weary he is about the whole thing. He knows from experience that he can't kill Michael, so he actually decides to try to appeal to whatever humanity is still within him. But, of course, that doesn't work either and Loomis, after getting no response from Michael, angrily says, "Goddamn you!" and attempts to shoot him but Michael apparently disappears before the bullets can hit him. Loomis continues to pursue Michael and eventually arrives in Haddonfield, where he warns the new sheriff and police department that Michael has returned. While they're at first a bit skeptical, they do decide to join with Loomis, much to the good doctor's relief. From there on, Loomis doesn't do much for the most part except remind the sheriff that what they're dealing with isn't a man but evil incarnate and, when Michael wipes out the majority of the police force, Loomis spurs a group of townsfolk to take the law into their hands and hunt Michael down, much to the sheriff's anger, to which Loomis, "These men may be the only defense you've got."

Eventually, when Jamie Lloyd and her step-sister have been picked up by the sheriff and are locked up tight inside his house and the state police have been notified, Loomis attempts to track down Michael himself. He acknowledges that it's probably futile, that there might be no way to stop him, but feels he has to try. It's also clear that Loomis cares for Jamie, asking Rachel at one point if she's alright when she's asleep upstairs, and when he comes across her wandering around the streets alone, he does his best to get her to safety. But even then, Loomis realizes that there's probably not much he can do to save her at this point. When they make their way into the elementary school, Loomis says that when they hear some sirens, they'll be safe. But when Jamie asks, "You don't believe that, do you?" Loomis as to admit, "No," and tries his best to comfort her. Unfortunately, he's immediately attacked by Michael and severely injured, though not killed as he shows up at the end, forcing Jamie to fend for herself. It's a bit of a shame to me that Loomis wasn't a part of defeating Michael at the end, as he was before, but it's not a major issue. Finally, not only is the ending to this movie shocking but Donald Pleasence gives off another bit of good acting when he sees Jamie at the top of the stairs after having stabbed her step-mother and he repeatedly screams, "No!" and attempts to shoot her but the sheriff stops him. The movie ends with Loomis slumped in the corner, tears in his eyes as he sees that this little girl whom he obviously cared for and tried to protect with his life has apparently become the same kind of monster as her uncle. You just feel so bad for Loomis when you see him so utterly shattered, primarily because you've never seen him like that before. You can't learn to act that marvelously; you either have it or you don't and not only did Pleasence definitely have it but he had it in spades.

Danielle Harris makes for a very likable and sympathetic little lead as Jamie Lloyd. She's a character whom you just feel for right from the get-go. She's been orphaned, misses her parents, especially her mother, very much, and even though the Carruthers do treat her with a lot of love and care, she can't help but still feel sad and alone. To make things worse, she begins to have nightmares about a terrifying man who, as it turns out, is actually her evil uncle, Michael Myers, but she doesn't know that it's him at this point because, while she certainly knows of him, she's never seen him in person. Because of those bad dreams, Jamie isn't too enthusiastic about it being Halloween and initially has no intention of going trick-or-treating that night. But that day in school, she gets picked on really badly by these mean as hell kids who taunt her by saying stuff like, "Jamie's uncle's the boogeyman!" and, even worse, "Jamie's an orphan!" Now, I just want to stop and say that all of these kids should be smacked as hard as possible. Teasing her about the fact that her uncle is a serial killer is bad enough (How in the hell did these kids learn about that anyway? Isn't that something that the family and close relatives would keep private?) but making fun of her because she has no mother? When I first saw this film, I was horrified by that! It's made even worse when Jamie is begging for them to stop but they just keep chanting, "Jamie's an orphan! Jamie's an orphan!" and she runs out of the school crying. Those hateful little brats should have been given the worst paddling imaginable for that crap! In any case, this taunting makes Jamie decide that she does want to go trick-or-treating, to be like the other kids and try to enjoy Halloween (I guess the thinking behind it is that she feels that they'll be more accepting of her if she does what everyone else does). So, she and her step-sister Rachel go to a department store to get a costume for her. However, after she finds said costume, she ends up bumping into Michael just as he puts on his new mask. Recognizing as the man she's been dreaming about, she naturally screams in terror and ends up smashing into a mirror as a result. She even tells Rachel that it was the "nightmare man" but Rachel just feels that she saw a mask that scared her very badly. Weirdly enough, you'd think seeing Michael would deter Jamie from going trick-or-treating but I guess she got over it.

One thing I definitely want to point is just how cute Jamie is. It's another thing that helps you feel for her and want to see her come out of this okay because of how adorable she is with that dark brown hair, brown eyes, and how sweet her smile is, as you can see in the above picture. She looks even cuter once she puts on her clown costume and after the nightmares and the taunting that she's suffered, it's really nice to see her having fun and trick-or-treating with Rachel. However, things start to become scary for her again when she becomes separated from Rachel when she goes off with these other kids. In fact, I know that one of those kids was among those who made fun of her so badly, which made me wonder why she went with him, and then in the next shot with her, she's all alone. Did that little bastard conspire with the other kids to go off and leave her? I wouldn't put it past him. In any case, she wanders around some dark, empty streets and alleyways by herself, all the while with the feeling that someone is stalking her from the shadows. Eventually, she does meet back up with Rachel and the two of them are immediately picked up by Sheriff Meeker and Dr. Loomis, who make them aware off-camera of what's going and they take them to Meeker's house. One moment with Jamie than I totally relate to is when she falls asleep in an upstairs bedroom of the house and when she wakes up later, she actually feels around the covers for Rachel before realizing that she's alone. I slept with my parents for a good chunk of my life and there were so many times when I woke up in bed myself and did that exact same thing. Anyway, she appears to wander around off-camera for a little bit and is eventually found by Rachel just as Michael, having killed everyone else in the house, advances on them.

You really feel bad for Jamie during this last quarter of the film, starting with her and Rachel being pursued across the rooftop of Meeker's house by Michael, which eventually ends with Rachel falling off and apparently dying, leaving Jamie alone. That's such a heart-wrenching moment when Jamie cries over Rachel and then she looks up to see Michael standing at the corner of the house, staring at her, prompting to her scream in absolute fear and run off yelling for someone to help her. Seeing that cute little girl in that clown outfit running through the yards, crying and yelling, "Help me, please! Somebody help me!" really gets me. What's worse is that every time Jamie thinks she's safe, that security is instantly shattered. She runs into Dr. Loomis, who takes them to the elementary school where they should be safe but Loomis is almost instantly ambushed by Michael and incapacitated, leaving Jamie alone again. Just as Jamie is caught by Michael and is about to be killed by him, Rachel, who was merely knocked out by the fall, comes in and manages to fend him off with a fire extinguisher. After escaping the school, they're picked up the small lynch mob made up of some locals and are taken out of Haddonfield while the state police deal with Michael. So then, you think Jamie's safe and fine but then, as they're leaving Haddonfield, Michael suddenly crawls up from underneath the truck, kills all of the men, and begins attacking Rachel and Jamie again, which eventually leads to Michael being thrown into a small open area and down a mineshaft after being blasted by Sheriff Meeker and the police.

While Halloween 4's shocking ending, where Jamie seems to inherit her uncle's evil and kill her step-mother, does seem at first to come out of nowhere, the film has actually been hinting at it all throughout its length. As I've described, long before Jamie actually encounters Michael, there seems to be a connection between the two of them. Not only does she have nightmares about him but when we first see her, she appears to see an ambulance sitting outside her house, which is gone in the next cut, suggesting that it's possibly a vision that ties her with Michael, who has just escaped from an ambulance. But it's when Jamie gets her clown costume that we start to realize that she could be doomed to become the same kind of monster that Michael is because, not only is it a callback to the costume that Michael wore when he killed his older sister at the very beginning of the original Halloween, but Jamie, while looking at herself in a mirror while holding it up to her body, gets a brief vision of the young Michael, dressed in the costume, holding a knife and everything. Right after that is when she bumps into the adult Michael just as he slips his mask on. And finally, right before the very end of the film, we have the moment where Jamie, after being terrified of Michael for the entire film, very calmly walks up to him as he lies unconscious near the mineshaft and takes his hand. That moment is undoubtedly when his evil passed into her, which leads to her putting on her clown mask, slowly stalking her mother (I like how it's a POV shot just like the opening of the original), and apparently killing her off-camera. It's frightening to think that all through the film, we were subtly told that this was destined to happen, that there was nothing that could be done to stop it, which goes back to the lesson that Laurie Strode's teacher was giving about fate in the original: fate never changes, and it certainly didn't for Jamie (even though, as we'll see, Halloween 5 really screwed the pooch on this whole concept).

Just as great and likable of a character as Jamie is Ellie Cornell as her step-sister, Rachel. For me, and I don't say this lightly, Rachel is one of the best heroines not only in the Halloween franchise but in any of these series from the 80's and 90's. Everything about her is just perfect. First off, while she is very pretty, she's not a model type. She's the epitome of the girl next door, much like how Laurie Strode was. Second, while she does have a boyfriend, she's not a sex-crazed bimbo as characters in these movies tend to be. While she did have plans to go out with said boyfriend, Brady, that night and felt that he was ready to make a commitment, she's not lusting after him or telling Jamie, whom she's told she has to babysit, to get lost so she can be with him. She does attempt to call Brady to tell him what time she should be back from trick-or-treating with Jamie but even then, I highly doubt that she was planning to have sex with him or anything like that given her attitude about him coming over in the first place and her reaction when she finds out that he went to "little miss hot panties" after she canceled their date, telling him that she thought he was different from most men. So, that's another plus about her. Third, I like how she doesn't take any crap, like when Brady begins to get irritated about how she waited until 5:00 to tell him that they couldn't go out and she says, "Don't get angry with me!" or, best of all, when she and the girl who stole him from her are in the sheriff's kitchen later on and when she gives Rachel some shit over it, Rachel not only points out that she's a slut but flings some coffee on her shirt! The first time I saw Halloween 4, I just remember thinking to myself, "Hell, yeah!" when I saw that. Fourth, even though she's disappointed that she has to watch Jamie instead of going out with Brady, it's very clear that Rachel does care about her step-sister. She feels bad about making Jamie feel unwanted when she overhears Rachel complaining about how she can't go out because of her and makes it up to her by promising to pick her up from school and take her for ice cream. She also takes Jamie shopping for a Halloween costume when she suddenly wants to go trick-or-treating, even though it will force her to have to face Brady and tell him that they can't go out. When it's revealed to them that Michael Myers has returned to kill Jamie, Rachel tries to comfort her about it since she's not only frightened but distraught that the kids at school were right when they said her uncle was the boogeyman. And when she discovers that everyone else in the house has been killed, her first prerogative is to find Jamie rather than just find a way to get out and save herself.

Finally, Rachel is far from simply being a screaming victim. Granted, when something frightening happens, like when she's by herself at one point and sees a creepy man coming toward her out of the fog or when she discovers that Michael has killed everyone else in Sheriff Meeker's house, she does get scared but she doesn't do something stupid that gets her killed too. For instance, when she's confronted by that guy in the fog (I'm not sure if it's actually Michael or just a prankster), she does the smart thing and gets herself out of there instead of waiting until he gets up to her or walking toward him. And during the last quarter of the movie, she does everything possible to protect Jamie from Michael instead of putting herself first. When Michael's chasing them across the roof, she manages to get Jamie down to safety even though it leaves her open to attack and leads to her falling off the roof and getting knocked out. As I said earlier, when Jamie is trapped by Michael in the elementary school and is about to be killed, Rachel comes in and fends him off with a fire extinguisher. And finally, during the truck sequence near the end of the movie, Rachel manages to keep the truck going straight on the road and not crash as best as she can while Michael is lying on the hood, reaching in to get her. This culminates in a nice bad-ass moment where Rachel slams on the brakes, sending Michael tumbling onto the road and when he proceeds to get back up, Rachel growls, "Die... you... son of a bitch!" and then drives at him full force, hitting him so hard that it sends him flying through a fence and landing near a mineshaft. It doesn't kill him, of course, but that was such an awesome moment on Rachel's part that it makes me cheer inside every time I see it and is one more addition to the long list of reasons why she's one of my favorite heroines in any of these movies.

Beau Starr as Sheriff Ben Meeker makes for a more than worthy replacement for the original's Leigh Brackett, who we're told retired in 1981 and moved to St. Petersburg. He's a real take charge kind of guy, very authoritative and strong-willed, and has a real commanding presence to him overall. While he is at first a little skeptical when Dr. Loomis shows up at the police station with a story that Michael Myers has returned and that he's after Jamie Lloyd, given Michael's condition at the end of Halloween II and how he's never even seen Jamie, he's smart enough to at least listen to Loomis' pleas and not only has someone call to make sure his story is true but even says to Loomis, "Now, assuming that what you're saying is true... the hell can we do to avoid a repeat of ten years ago?" And when he finds enough evidence that convinces him that Michael is back, he has a curfew set up to get everyone out of harm's way. He admits to Loomis at one point that he's getting creeped out by the signs of Michael's presence that they're finding, which is rare for him since, as Earl says, "Martians could land on Ben's doorstep and all he'd do is spent once and get a shotgun." The real turning point comes when they discover that the entire police station and the rest of his men have been wiped out by Michael. Now that Meeker understands the full force of what they're dealing with, he does the smart thing and takes Michael's prime targets to his house and locks them up tight inside. He also does everything he can to contact the state police to help him deal with Michael, which he eventually manages to do, and when he hears that someone was killed by the lynch mob that's made up of several of the townspeople, he heads out to stop it before someone else gets shot. When the deputy tries to tell him to wait, he says, "Look, I've got a town full of beer-bellies running around in the dark with shotguns. Who's gonna be next?! Somebody's wife, somebody's kid? I can't stand by for that." And finally, he and the state police dispose of Michael in an awesome, explosive way when they empty their weapons on him, hitting him with everything they've got, and eventually causing him to fall down a mineshaft. Meeker is the best sheriff you could possibly ask for: commanding, strong, intelligent, and compassionate.

Two characters that I probably shouldn't like but I do anyway are Rachel's cheating boyfriend Brady (Sasha Jenson) and the woman he cheats on her with, Kelly Meeker (Kathleen Kinmont). Yeah, Brady did a really sleazy, ill-advised thing by heading straight for Kelly when Rachel cancels their date and even though he seemed sorry that he hurt her, he still proceeded to make out with Kelly and was actually just about to have sex with her when Sheriff Meeker and the others showed up. So, because of that, I should hate him but Jenson is so likable in the role that I can't help but still like him. For one, I like how he panics when he realizes that the sheriff has pulled up outside and, as they're putting their clothes back on, Kelly says, "If he catches us like this, he's going to skin you alive... for starters." Brady's panicked expression and movements while she's saying this just crack me up and the same goes for when, after he gives him a shotgun and a hammer and nails to board up the upstairs windows, Sheriff Meeker tells, "I catch you groping my daughter, I'll use that shotgun on you. You understand?" Brady's reaction is just priceless. Plus, even though he was cheating on her, he's still concerned about Rachel and looks in on her and Jamie to ask them if they're okay. And finally, he goes out as a hero. First, he tries to get himself and Rachel out of the house but they discover that they can't because of the front door's deadbolt and when Michael appears and advances on her and Jamie, Brady attempts to buy them some time so they can get to safety. He has to yell at them to get up to the attic and even though he doesn't slow Michael down all that much before he's ultimately killed, it is enough for Rachel and Jamie to make their way to the roof.

And Kelly may be a bitch who stole Brady away from Rachel and is not only not sorry about in the least but rubs her face in it by saying that Rachel has to, "wise up to what men want," but I don't out and out hate her either. For one, her first appearance has a really funny moment where this friend of Brady's, Wade (Richard Stay), attempts to ask Kelly out but before he can even say anything, Kelly turns around and says, "Fuck off, Wade," prompting the poor guy to turn around with this really mortified expression. For another, as I said, I always laugh when Kelly describes what her dad is going to do to Brady if he catches them making out and how panicked her voice is while saying so as she attempts to put her shirt on and is forced to hide her bra under the cushion of a chair. And finally, as shallow as it is, I think it helps that she's really hot. When I first saw the movie and it got to the part where she and Brady are making out and she takes her shirt off, I was like, "Whoa!" I've always been the type of person who has said that I care about how a woman is on the inside than she is on the outside and while that's still true... good God almighty! Hopefully, Kathleen Kinmont's a good girl in real life, which would hold up to how I normally feel. If not... oh, well.

Earl (Gene Ross) is a pretty gun-ho resident of Haddonfield who leads the posse of men determined to hunt Michael down. He's also a bar owner and when he hears that a curfew has suddenly been set up, he's brazen enough to actually call the police station to ask why, saying, "They're not closing us down without a good goddamn reason." When he doesn't get an answer, he and his buddies drive to the police station, where they come across Sherriff Meeker and Dr. Loomis and they can tell just from the outside that something serious has happened inside. Meeker tells Earl that this is police business and that he doesn't have the time or the patience to deal with him and his friends but Earl still refuses to leave without learning what's going on and that's when Loomis informs them that Michael Myers has returned. This prompts Earl and his buddies, one of whom we learn lost his son to Michael during his first rampage ten years before, to completely disregard Meeker's orders to let the police handle the situation and take the law into their own hands, with Earl growling, "We're gonna fry his ass." They then proceed to hunt Michael but they end up causing more harm than good, accidentally killing an innocent man whom one of his men mistook for the killer; said guy is immediately berated by Earl for this lethal mistake. That tragic blunder aside, Earl and his pals do save Rachel and Jamie at the elementary school and Earl, after some pleading, makes the wise decision to let the state police deal with Michael while they take the girls to safety. Of course, it ends up being rendered pointless when Michael suddenly crawls up from underneath the truck, throws all of Earl's men out of the back, and ultimately smashes his hand through the window on the driver's side and tears Earl's throat out but at least he died trying to do the right thing.

If you're a fan of the Rocky films, you should recognize Michael Pataki, who played the man backing Ivan Drago, as Dr. Hoffman, the head of Ridgemont Federal Sanitarium. He's very similar to the heads of Smith's Grove who, decades earlier, did not take Dr. Loomis' warnings about how dangerous Michael Myers was seriously. He thinks Loomis is a straight-up quack with his constant talking about how Michael is evil incarnate, even tells him that he thinks he's the one who needs psychiatric treatment, and hopes that with Michael gone, he won't have to deal with Loomis anymore. When he gets the phone call that tells him that the ambulance carrying Michael crashed, you can see the terror in Hoffman's eyes and it obviously crosses his mind that Michael himself might have been responsible. However, when he and Loomis arrive at the crash site, Hoffman immediately takes to the state trooper's explanation that it was possibly just an accident, either not to look foolish in front of Loomis or simply because he doesn't want to share in the doctor's perceived lunacy about Michael, leading him to say that even if Michael has regained conscience, he'd been unable to do anything in his weakened state. We never see Hoffman again after Loomis leaves the scene but there's little doubt that after he learned about Michael's newest rampage in Haddonfield that night, he must have felt a real jackass.

A memorable character who appears at the beginning of the film is the twitchy security guard (Raymond O'Connor) who leads the two attendants who arrive to pick up Michael down into the ward where he's being kept. He makes no apologies about how sincerely messed up and disturbing a place Ridgemont is, telling the male attendant when he exclaims, "Jesus!" upon hearing a patient scream off in the distance, "Jesus ain't got nothing to do with this place." He goes on to call it the place where "society dumps its worst nightmares," and even Hell when they arrive downstairs. One funny moment with him is, as they're going down in the elevator, he talks to them about Michael, about how he much he creeps him out, and how he'll be glad to see him gone and the whole time he's saying this, if you look at the attendants' faces, you can see that he's freaking them out. It's a nice little bit of black humor with which to start the film. And I feel I also should briefly mention the girl (Leslie L. Rohland) that Rachel is riding with when she picks Jamie up from school. She doesn't do anything special and she's only in this one brief section of the film but she's noteworthy because of her name: Lindsey. In case you haven't pieced it together yet, she's meant to be Lindsey Wallace, the girl that Annie Brackett was babysitting in the original Halloween and who ended up over at the Doyle house with Laurie and Tommy. They don't ever mention this but that is who this character is supposed to be and in an earlier draft of the script, she had a bigger part in the film. But, as often happens, everything else involving her except this one scene got scrapped.

One last character I want to mention who also has just one scene but it's a scene that leaves an impact is the whiskey-chugging Reverend Jackson P. Sayer (Carmen Filpi) who picks Dr. Loomis up and gives him a ride to Haddonfield after his car is destroyed. (Before that, Loomis thought he was going to get a ride from these teenagers in a convertible but they waited until he got right up to the car and drove off without him! Bunch of assholes.) In any case, this guy is awesome. He's really energetic and likable and the stuff that's all over his car, stickers that say stuff like I [heart] Jesus and the like, is just hilarious. Plus, he mentions to Loomis that he can tell that, like him, he's hunting evil and he has some really good dialogue to that effect as well: "Apocalypse, end of the world, Armageddon: it's always got a face and a name. I've been hunting the bastard for thirty years, give or take. Come close a time or two... too damn close. You can't kill damnation, mister. It don't die like a man dies." Loomis, knowing all too well what he means, simply responds, "I know that, Mr. Sayer." Normally, Loomis is the one who gives these kinds of speeches to people, so it's interesting to see someone else talking to him like that, making for an interesting role-reversal. And, as Loomis does (which is a rarity for him), you can't help but smile when Reverend Sayer begins singing, "Yes, we'll gather at the river. The beautiful, beautiful river." He's just such a great, memorable character and I really wish he was in the movie more. Maybe Loomis should've told him about Michael and they could have teamed up to take him down! I think that would have been kick-ass!

This image just up and says Halloween, don't you think?
The first three Halloween films were good at a establishing a mood right from their opening title sequence and Halloween 4 carries on that tradition with one of the greatest openings I think I've ever seen for a horror film. As the credits appear on the screen and then fade, we're treated to a montage of the countryside surrounding Haddonfield, with open fields, pumpkins, Halloween decorations and farm equipment all around and a sky that is a mixture of an orange, autumn sunset and gray overcast. However, as the sequence goes on, you get the feeling that something isn't right. The sound of the whistling wind and the dark shadows in some shots makes it feel like there's evil in the air, as if the environment itself is signaling Michael Myers' eminent return. The orange-colored credits blend in with it nicely and Alan Howarth's music (which I'll elaborate on later) completes that feeling that there's something sinister afoot. I completely agree with James Rolfe when he said that it captures the spirit of the Halloween season perfectly. The minute I saw that montage and heard that music, I knew that this was a film that I was going to enjoy. The area that I live in is very much a small town, farming community and there are plenty of open fields just down the road from my house that look exactly like the shots in this opening when fall comes around. And, although I can't for the life of me remember where this was, I have this image from my childhood of a scarecrow standing on top of a hill in a big field right in the ray of the autumn sunlight and that image right there is what this opening makes me think of every time I see it. Plus, the decorations that you see, like the little stuffed figure with the jack-o-lantern head and in particular the ghost that you see hanging from a tree branch just make me smile because they remind me of what Halloween was and what it meant back when I was a little tyke who loved the season. That's ultimately what this sequence means to me: nostalgia of the Halloween season and it is perfect in that aspect. Dwight Little meant for this opening to represent the harvesting aspect of Halloween, which is why you see all of those farm implements, and I can say that he did a killer job not only in that regard but in creating something that will always remind me of what the season used to be. I'd really like to thank him for that.

Little also manages to maintain that creepy atmosphere throughout the night scenes by the use of the same blue lighting technique that John Carpenter and Dean Cundey employed for the original Halloween, making this the first film since the original to use it to this extent and, as a result, makes this movie feel like a close companion piece to the original in terms of visual style. Little uses that lighting very well and the same goes for Haddonfield itself once Halloween night descends upon it. Right when the night begins, you get a great shot of the town with kids dressed up and trick-or-treating as well as a few throwing toilet paper over a lamppost and when Rachel and Jamie finally leave to go trick-or-treating themselves, you can just feel the Halloween spirit as they go from house to house and see the decorations as well as the continuous stream of other kids doing the same. It really makes you feel that it's fall in the Midwest and not spring in Utah, which is when and where it was actually filmed. One of my favorite parts of the movie as far as atmosphere goes is when Rachel and Jamie get separated and they wander around the dark, empty streets and alleys by themselves. The mix of darkness and the blue light make these scenes really creepy and Little puts some touches like a jack-o-lantern on a porch behind Jamie or some mist in spots that add to it. And as I've said, the part where Rachel sees somebody who might or might not be Michael is especially scary and even though she doesn't even know that Michael is in town somewhere yet, she does what anyone would do upon seeing that by jumping a fence and getting out of there. The reason I've said that I'm not sure whether or not that was Michael is because, when Sheriff Meeker and Dr. Loomis find Rachel and Jamie, three idiots dressed as Michael pull a prank on them and then run off laughing when they realize they fooled them (yeah, you almost got yourself shot; really funny). I used to have mixed feelings about that moment because I felt it didn't make sense due to there being no way that those guys could have known that Michael had returned to Haddonfield and that the sheriff was looking for him. But, when I thought about it, I realize that this shows how the memory of Michael's first bloodbath still haunts Haddonfield. That was such a horrific Halloween night that people would undoubtedly still be talking about it ten years later, which would have given Michael an almost mythic status in the town and, therefore, dressing up as him would be perfect for a Halloween prank. Yeah, it was stupid and in bad taste on their part but, as we now, some people are just idiots, especially on Halloween, so it wouldn't be that far-fetched for something like this to happen. In fact, Michael's status as a local legend in Haddonfield could be taken as another factor in Rachel's running away from that figure in the mist. It's likely that she grew up hearing stories about Michael Myers and, who knows, that may have been a popular method in town for parents to teach kids not to talk to or even be around strangers. She does know that Michael is Jamie's uncle and she also knows of Laurie Strode, telling Jamie at the beginning of the movie that she used to babysit her when she was Jamie's age. So, with all that in mind, when she sees this creepy man walk out of the fog towards her, Michael Myers or not, that's going to scare her even more than it normally would and she's going to get out of there as quick as possible. I really like that aspect of this film.

Sheriff Meeker's house, where the middle of the film takes place, makes for one eerie environment for Michael Myers to prowl around in. Because of the power-outage that Michael caused throughout the town, the house is almost completely pitch black, with the only light being the blue moonlight coming through the windows and the occasional lantern as well as the glow from the fireplace. Not only does this make for plenty of creepy shadows but it also enables Little and his cinematographer to do tricks with the light, like when you briefly see Michael's face appear in a dark, far corner of the house in one shot, when you see a figure behind Brady in the attic at one point but it's revealed to simply be something with a humanlike shape, and the moment when Kelly lights a candle, discovers Deputy Logan's body when the light perks up, and realizes that the figure sitting in the rocking chair where he originally was is actually Michael. Speaking of the attic, it's pretty creepy-looking in and of itself because of all the junk they've got crammed up there, including that aforementioned human-like object, which cast some eerie shadows in certain spots. It comes across like it's actually haunted when Brady sees that thing because the door it's behind creeps open without being touched at all. This is also where Michael, after being unarmed for the entire film up to this point, finds a butcher knife that he uses for the remainder of the film. (Why was Meeker keeping knives up there to begin with?) Speaking of houses, the Carruthers' house is quite eerie too in some spots, like when Michael is climbing the stairs and sneaking into Jamie's room at one point as well as when Loomis and Meeker enter the house later on and discover that Michael killed the family's dog (why does Michael hate dogs so much?) And we can't overlook how frightening Jamie's room looked during her nightmare about Michael, where it was almost completely dark and every once in a while, there would be a flash of lightning that would illuminate Michael. The idea that he was underneath her bed and reaches out to grab her is pretty scary in and of itself, playing into the "monster under the bed" fears we all had when we were kids. Finally, I'd like to briefly mention the area that Michael is thrown into after Rachel rams into him with the truck. For a long time, I thought this place was a graveyard but, when I think about it, it didn't make any sense. Why would there be a mineshaft in the middle of a cemetery? Graveyard or not, though, I've always liked the way this area looked. While you can't see much of it because of how darkly lit is, it has an interesting feel to it with the trees, the bits of fence here and there, and the mineshaft in the middle with everything that's connected to that. All these structures are probably why I thought this place was graveyard but, nonetheless, I think it's a nice place for Michael to be gunned down by Sheriff Meeker and the state police.

If I have one gripe with the actual look of Halloween 4, it's that it doesn't quite have the same classy feel to it as the previous ones, especially the original. A reason for that could be that this film was shot in the 1.85:1 aspect ratio rather than the 2.85:1 that Carpenter had used on the original, which the directors of the first two sequels also employed. The reason given for this change was the budget, although that doesn't make a lot of sense given how the budget for this movie was $5 million, which was far larger than the original's $300,000 and twice that of the $2.5 million that Halloween II and III each had. Maybe inflation had caused the price of the larger type of widescreen to increase over the years but, in any case, while it's still a widescreen film, the lack of the 2.85:1 aspect ratio is noticeable if you watch all of these movies back to back (which I have done several times before and is something that I will never do again). Not only does it feel just a smidge less classy from the previous films but it also looks a little more gritty and less polished. Again, if you watch these movies in a row, it's likely that you will notice that Halloween 4 looks just a little bit rougher than its predecessors, especially the original. I'm not saying that these technical differences completely ruin the movie for me because that would be just nitpicky and silly but it is noticeable.

Ironically, the one major aspect of Halloween 4 that I have the most conflicting opinions on is Michael Myers himself. I've always found it really hard to believe that this is the same character that I saw in the first two movies. Before I get into that, though, I have to address the issue that, like the original film, more than one man played Michael here. For the first half or so of the film, Michael is played by stuntman Tom Morga, who also played both the real Jason Voorhees and the imposter in Friday the 13th Part V: A New Beginning. While Morga didn't have much to do since, when he played Michael, it was in the scenes where he just stood around (although he did get to kill a couple of people), he was perfectly fine and would have been suitable for doing the whole film. However, for some reason, Morga was replaced about halfway through filming by George P. Wilbur, who receives sole credit for having played Michael, although Morga is credited for having done stunts (I actually met Morga at a convention recently and when I asked him why he was replaced, even he wasn't sure what the reason was although it seemed it had to with a miscommunication problem between the director and the producers). Whatever the reason was for the replacement, I think Morga was much more appropriate than Wilbur. If you've seen his performance in Friday the 13th Part V, then you'd know that Morga not only has the appropriate build for Michael Myers (tall and slim) but he's able to move like him as well. In fact, Roy, the Jason imposter in that film, was dressed in a jumpsuit that's very similar to the type Michael wears and, like I said, Morga created some very similar mannerisms in the performance: the slow, methodical walk, the way he turns his body, the head movements, etc. That could be attributed to Dick Warlock, who was the stunt coordinator on that film. He probably gave him some pointers, although the parts in that movie where Morga moves quickly make me think of Nick Castle more than Warlock. Plus, in the moments where Tommy Jarvis has hallucinations about the real Jason, Morga is able to stand perfectly still and there's even a shot where Tommy looks out a window and sees Jason standing in the yard that's very similar to the part in the original Halloween where Laurie looks out the window and sees Michael staring at her from the next yard. My point is that, to me, Morga had the right stuff when it came to playing Michael and he should have been kept on for the entire film.

George P. Wilbur, on the other hand, may be a very accomplished stuntman and I'm sure he's a great guy but when he takes over as Michael Myers, things seem a little off. First, I guess Wilbur's not a very big guy because they put shoulder pads in the jumpsuit (which are very noticeable and are a tell-tale sign as to when the change took place) to make him look more massive but, unfortunately, that makes him look far too bulky. Wilbur's walk also seems very awkward and stiff, not like the fluid movements that Nick Castle employed or the slow, creepy walk that Dick Warlock created. I really wish that Morga had gotten to move more when he played Michael but, like I said, he didn't get to do much except stand around and look menacing. You don't get any full-body shots of him walking either, which you do get with Wilbur, so that also makes it harder to compare the two performances. For that matter, even though I'm pretty sure of when the change took place (again, if you pay attention to Michael's shape throughout the film, you'll notice that after he kills Kelly, he becomes bulkier and has a larger stomach as well as there being a change in his walk, indicating that's when Wilbur took over), I've heard that Wilbur did do some stuff for very early in the film where Michael was played by Morga. He mentioned that he had a hand in the nightmare scene, although I think that was mainly some insert shots of Michael's hand (huh, he had a "hand" in the scene) coming out from underneath the bed to grab Jamie's foot because he talked about how he would have some fun and grab people's feet when they would walk by the bed in-between filming. I don't think he did the full body shots of Michael in that scene because that looks more like Morga to me. In any case, as accomplished as a stuntman as Wilbur might be, I just don't think his body shape was right for Michael and the shoulder pads they put on him didn't help either.

Since I've been mentioning Jason Voorhees and Friday the 13th a lot in here, I think now's a good time to point another mistake I think they made with Michael's character here. Not only do the graphic kills in this film (although, to be fair, they are few and far between) feel more appropriate for a Friday the 13th movie but most of the time, Michael feels a lot like Jason here as well. That not only has to do with the size and shape of his body during the latter part of the film but also with how strong he is throughout it. They made Michael way too powerful here. You don't want him to be a wimp, yes, but in the first two films, they managed to get across how much of a threat he is without going over the top. When Michael lifted Bob up by the neck in the first film and when he stabbed Jill in the back with the scalpel and lifted her entire body as well as smashed through doors in the second, that was enough to let you know that he's much stronger than a normal human. Here, though, he's jamming his fingers into people's foreheads, shoving gun barrels all the way through them, and crushing their skulls. That's way too much and feels like stuff that you'd expect to see Jason doing. If you've seen my reviews of those movies, you'd know that I am a big Friday the 13th fan as well but that kind of stuff is not what I want in a Halloween movie. I will give them this, though: Michael does do some of his trademark stalking from the shadows and his habit of appearing and disappearing when you least expect it. I like that, at this point, they still recognized that Michael was a different character than Jason. However, that's in the first half of the film and during the second half when George Wilbur played him, he really starts to feel like Jason. And how appropriate because he would become even more similar to his hockey-masked counterpart in the next two films to the point where the only thing that distinguished them was the mask.

Michael: Be honest. how does it look?
Loomis: Uh...
Speaking of the mask, I absolutely hate the way it looks in this film. Many people talk about the mask in the next film as being one of the worst and while I agree that that one's not too good either, I think this one is worse. It looks so generic and cheap, and it has a really dopey expression on its face. I know that latex rots over time and that they had no choice but to get a new mask (that also makes sense in the story since his original mask was melted at the end of Halloween II) and that this mask started out as another Captain Kirk mask but still, couldn't they have found one that looked a little more like the original or at least tried to make this one look like it? I've never understood why it's always been so hard in all of the other Halloween movies to make the mask look like the original. They just could never get it and I don't know why. It doesn't feel like Michael Myers to me if he doesn't have that creepy original mask (it's even more disappointing when you see the original mask on the posters and video covers for this film and then watch the movie itself to discover it's not that at all). And while we're on the subject of the mask, let's talk about one of the biggest discrepancies with it that occurs in the film. Everyone should know what it is: the brief moment where Michael attacks Dr. Loomis in the school and the mask's hair is a white/blonde color. While it's never been a really big issue for me (I originally thought it was just due to the lighting), I have wondered why it looked like that. There have been all kinds of theories, with the most plausible one being that they shot that scene after Rachel blasted Michael with the fire extinguisher and the foam is why it looked that way, but I've done research to try to find a concrete reason for it and I haven't had much luck. I've heard some say that the mask was a stunt mask that they had to use because the main one went missing and they had no choice due to the limited shooting time, which does make sense. I've heard others suggest that was the mask that was used throughout the film, just that they hadn't converted it yet (why would they use a non-converted one, though?) And IMDB's trivia section says that it's actually the original mask from the first two films and that it looks like that due to seven more years of aging. Looking at an image of it, it does kind of look like the original. But, that would mean that this was shot at the beginning of filming and wouldn't they have had enough sense to take one look at the mask's condition and realize that it wasn't going to work? I don't know. In fact, there are a little of mysteries about the mask in this film because it seems to look quite different in the scene where Michael kills Kelly and the mask that he picks up at the drugstore doesn't look like the one he actually puts on and wears throughout the film. If you want to know more about the weirdness of the mask in this film, check out MichaelMyers.Net, which has a great and informative section devoted to it. Maybe one day the truth about the masks in this film will come to light but for now, the issue remains one of the most interesting enigmas of the Halloween franchise.
While it's nowhere near as gory as Halloween II, Halloween 4 does have a couple of gruesome makeup effects and some intricate kills. While Moustapha Akkad intended for the film to be more along the lines of the original, after viewing the initial cut, he and the other producers decided that it needed a bit more of a visceral punch and they contacted John Carl Buechler and Magical Media Industries to create some juicer kills. That said, it's still not that grisly of a film in retrospect. Before we get to the kills, though, let's briefly touch upon the makeup used to create the burn scars that Michael Myers and Dr. Loomis have from the explosive ending of Halloween II (in reality, there's no way that either of them would have survived that, especially Loomis, but that's what suspension of disbelief is for). The scars that you see on Michael's arms and hands look really nasty and convincing. The close-up of his hand during the POV shot where he's roaming around the Carruthers' house and makes his way up to Jamie's bedroom lets you see the burns in all their gruesome detail and it's a really nice makeup job (although, for some reason, his right hand seems more badly burned than his left one). I can't say the same for the scar on the right side of Loomis' face though. For one, it doesn't look realistic. It looks he's got some clay stuck on his face rather than a scar. And for another, the makeup guys had a lot of trouble keeping it consistent. When he arrives in Haddonfield, it looks completely different from how it did when you first saw Loomis as well as the scenes in-between. The film's budget and schedule could be why they had trouble keeping the makeup consistent but, still, you don't have to be paying all that much attention to notice how it keeps changing.
The first kill in the movie is actually one of the ones that Buechler and his team came in and reshot: Michael wakes up from his coma, grabs the male paramedic's head, slams the back of it into the wall numerous times, and then, for the coup de grace, jams his thumb right into the poor guy's forehead! Ouch! While I still say it feels more like a Jason Voorhees kill than a Michael Myers one, the actual makeup effect, as brief as it is, is well done. After that, there aren't any real graphic kills in the movie for a while. In fact, a lot of them happen off-camera, like when Michael kills the mechanic in order to take his suit after he escapes from the ambulance. It appears that Buechler did actually create an effect where you see the crowbar go down his throat but it wasn't used in the final cut of the movie. They opted for just the shot of Michael thrusting the bar downward instead (and, by the way, doesn't Michael look pretty freaky with those bandages around his head?), although you do have the classic slasher move trope where somebody, Loomis in this case, finds the body hanging from some chains in the garage. You also see that Michael killed a waitress in the restaurant section, again, mainly going for the bloodless approach of the original. And, like the original, Michael kills a dog: the Carruthers' pet, Sundae. Fortunately, they don't show him do it, they just show the body but, again, why does Michael have such a problem with dogs? And then there's Bucky (Harlow Marks), the hapless electrician who makes the mistake of threatening to call the police on Michael when he catches him prowling around the substation he's working at. Michael, of course, doesn't take too kindly to that and proceeds to stalk the guy, grab him, and throw him into one of the transformers. Not only does it barbecue the guy but it causes a massive power outage in Haddonfield, plunging the entire town into darkness for the remainder of the film.
Once again, you don't see Michael massacre everybody at the police station but you see the aftermath, including a grisly corpse that's missing an arm. The same goes for the death of Deputy Logan much later on. The last time you see him alive, he's talking to Sheriff Meeker right before he leaves to go deal with Earl and his posse after he heard they killed an innocent man by mistake. Then, later on, when Kelly brings Logan some coffee, she lights a candle that illuminates his corpse sitting in the corner. Like a lot of these off-camera kills, you're not exactly sure how Michael killed him but given the crumpled condition of his body and the position of one of his hands (right behind his head!), you can imagine that it wasn't pleasant. Speaking of Kelly, I really think they missed an opportunity for Michael to kill someone in a way that's surprising and  completely out of character. Michael has Logan's shotgun and actually aims it at Kelly, like he's about to shoot... and then he stabs her with the barrel and pins her against the wall! Why the hell didn't they just have him shoot her? I don't care if it would have been out of character, I think it would have been really cool and would have shown that Michael knows how to use all weapons, not just knives and other stabbing implements. And I also don't buy that it would have made too much noise either. Kelly's loud gasp and the smashing that it made when he shoved the gun barrel through her and the wall should have been heard by some people too, especially Rachel since she was right in the next room, but nope. Whatever. Even though Brady's death, where Michael lifts him up and crushes his skull with his bare hands, isn't all that graphic in terms of how it looked, Sasha Jenson's agonizing yells and the loud snapping sounds that you hear when Michael finishes him off is enough to make you wince.
When Michael climbs his way up from underneath Earl's truck and attacks the guys sitting in the back, it's once again a series of bloodless kills. Michael mainly just throws them out, although you do see him stab a couple and then throw them out onto the road. After he gets rid of all of them, Michael then proceeds to commit what is undoubtedly the film's goriest kill: he smashes his hand through the driver side's window, grab Earl's neck, sink his fingernails into it, and tear it open. Good God, is that horrific and, according to John Carl Buechler, when they filmed that effect, Moustapha Akkad got caught up in it and dropped his want for a fairly mild kill, yelling, "More blood! More blood!" Who could blame him, though? The effect looks great and it makes for a grisly end to a string of murders that weren't all that graphic for the most part.
Halloween 4 has its fair share of interesting and exciting sequences, starting with the nightmare that Jamie has about her uncle during her first appearance. It's a really good scene that starts out fairly spooky, with the darkness of the room, the thunder of the storm happening outside, and Jamie having that feeling that she's not alone. In fact, the scene pulls the Nightmare on Elm Street adage of not letting you know when the dream begins or, in this case, that it even is one. After Rachel takes Jamie back to her room after finding that she's still up very late at night, Jamie goes into her closet and pulls out a picture of her mother, Laurie Strode. After looking at it for a couple of seconds and sobbing, she walks over to her bed and when she passes by her mirror, we see Michael appear in it when the lightning flashes. After saying a prayer, Jamie sees the closet door inexplicably creak open. She walks over to it, finds a doll lying in the floor inside it, and puts it back up but when she walks back over to her bed, she hears a creaking sound and sees the closet slowly open again. Anybody who remembers being scared of the dark or being alone in their room at night when they were a kid can definitely relate to this. Now, Jamie knows that something's up and right when she's about to walk back over to the closet, Michael's hand comes out from underneath the bed and grabs her foot. He tries to pull her under the bed but she manages to get loose and run to the door. Even though I still don't care for the mask, the shot where Michael sits up in the dark by the bed and the lightning illuminates him is pretty scary. Poor Jamie is screaming bloody murder for someone to help her as Michael raises to his feet and we can tell that he's holding a knife. Just as she gets her door open, Michael is suddenly on the other side of it, waiting for her, and raises the knife and approaches her as she screams in terror. That's when her foster parents race to her room and we see that she fell asleep while in the closet and that it was all a dream.
It's an effective scene and the fact that it's happening to a child makes it all the more frightening. But, I do have a question about it: how can Jamie be dreaming about her uncle if she's never seen him? Moreover, how is that she's dreaming about him wearing the exact outfit and mask that he would acquire and wear the following day? I'm guessing that Jamie knows of Michael, given how those mean kids at school know about him and the way she reacts to their taunts (in fact, we later see that she actually has a picture of him when he was a little boy, though why she would have that, I have no idea but I guess they didn't tell her who it was), but still, how could she have a nightmare about such a concrete and accurate image of him? I would hope that nobody ever made her look at a picture of him as an adult dressed in his outfit and even if that was the case, wouldn't she be dreaming about him wearing the original mask? Even if we're going with the psychic link between the two of them that's established in Halloween 5 (which I doubt was even a thought during the making of this film), again, how could she be dreaming about him like this when he hasn't assembled that costume yet? As effective as the scene is, I think it would have been even more so had the scene portrayed Michael in a more abstract way, like maybe have him just be a terrifying shadow or a dark silhouette, like he is at several points during the scene as it is, and you could still have him grab her foot from under the bed because that's a palpable childhood fear. If it had been done this way, I think it would have been just as scary and also made a little more sense. But, at the end of the day, I'm just nitpicking again.
Another scene that I like is when Dr. Loomis first encounters Michael at the connecting garage, gas station, and restaurant. Loomis pulls into the place to fill his car up and after doing so, walks into the garage to pay but finds that the mechanic has been murdered. Quickly, he runs into the restaurant to call for help but finds that Michael has killed a waitress in there and has smashed the phone behind the counter and cut the line on a payphone on the other side of the room. That's when Loomis turns around and sees Michael standing in the hallway leading to the kitchen. This is where he actually tries to plead with Michael not to go to Haddonfield, even offering himself up to Michael instead. But, when he gets no response, he shoots at Michael, only for the next shot to reveal that Michael's suddenly gone. I used to wonder whether or not Michael was even there or if Loomis was hallucinating because, in the shot of him in the hallway, it looks like Michael is wearing the mask even though he wouldn't get it until he arrived in Haddonfield. More than likely, though, he's still wearing the bandages that he had across his face (which I think he should have kept since they're far scarier than the mask he finds) but the shot of him is so far away that, even looking at it up close, it's kind of hard to tell. The way he disappears is also what made think that it may have been a hallucination on Loomis' part but, Michael's suddenly disappeared many times before so I shouldn't be all that surprised by it here (plus, there was probably a backdoor in that kitchen that he used to escape). In any case, after Michael disappears, Loomis hears him outside and rushes out there to confront him. But, he definitely didn't expect Michael to come crashing through the garage in the mechanic's tow-truck! As brief as it is, I really like this part. Loomis attempts to shoot Michael again but Loomis has to dive out of the way when Michael hits the gas pumps, causing a huge explosion that destroys his car as well as a telephone pole. Loomis has to crawl away and find some method of getting to Haddonfield to stop Michael.
One curious moment that involves Michael himself is when, after Rachel and Jamie go trick-or-treating, he sneaks into the Carruthers' house and goes upstairs to Jamie's room, where he finds her box full of pictures. I think the purpose of him doing this was to find a picture of Jamie so he knows who to look for but if he knows that this is where she lives and if he was indeed stalking around the house when Rachel was waiting for Jamie to put her costume on, then wouldn't he put two and two together and realize that the little girl that comes downstairs and goes off trick-or-treating is her? Eh, maybe he needed to be sure. In any case, it's interesting to see Michael look through Jamie's pictures and see photos of his sister as well as Jamie sitting on the shoulders of a man that I can assume is her dad (some have suggested that it's Jimmy, who was originally meant to have survived Halloween II but, as we know, that's a very tricky subject). However, amongst these pictures, Michael finds that picture of himself as a little boy, wearing the clown costume that he would wear when he killed Judith. Seeing this photo seems to affect Michael in some way because he stares at it for a few seconds instead of simply glancing at it as he does with the other pictures and he actually puts it facedown before moving on. It's a curious moment and makes you wonder what was going on in Michael's head when he saw that and why he reacted that way.
The last quarter of the film has quite a bit of exciting and suspenseful action, starting with the chase that begins inside the house and leads to the roof. As Brady holds Michael off, Rachel and Jamie head up into the attic and attempt to block the stairwell with a bunch of discarded furniture and other junk. However, that proves to be useless in stopping Michael who, after dispensing with Brady, makes his way up there and effortlessly throws the obstacles out of his way. After he grabs a sharp butcher knife from a tin can full of them, he pursues Rachel and Jamie onto the roof. What makes this scene work is the fact that not only do the two of them have to deal with the intensely slippery and, in one instance, loose shingles on the roof, but they have to contend with Michael, who doesn't have any trouble at all in walking on the roof. At one point, Rachel has Jamie slide down the chimney and she herself just barely manages to avoid being stabbed by Michael. Her dodging causes her to tumble down to the chimney as well as and once she gets herself oriented again, she ties a cord around Jamie and lowers her off the roof onto the ground below. But, Michael attacks again, causing Rachel to lose her grip on the cord and Jamie, as a result, falls halfway down. Rachel ends up tumbling off the edge of the roof and grabs onto the gutters as Michael attempts to stab her. She tries to move along the edge of the roof as Michael continues to swipe at her but she eventually loses her grip and falls to the ground, knocking herself out. Really great scene and the use of the Halloween theme, of course, just adds to it.
While the scene at the elementary school doesn't have much to write home about (although it did serve as the inspiration for a scene that would appear in H2O and I think it's also the source of an interesting and well-known but unused bit where Michael is reflected many times in some mirrors), it leads into an awesome climax involving the redneck Earl's truck. Rachel and Jamie have been picked up at the elementary school and Earl and his friends are taking out of Haddonfield to safety. But then, Michael suddenly climbs up from underneath the truck (although, how he got under there and how nobody saw him that entire time is a good question) and starts attacking the guys in the back. After throwing them all out of the back, Michael proceeds to smash his hand through the window and kill Earl. With the truck now having no driver, Rachel is forced to push Earl's body out and take the wheel herself. Michael continuously reaches his hand and grabs and pulls at her sweater while Rachel swerves the truck from side to side in an attempt to fling him off. But, as hard as she tries, Michael holds on and continues to try to grab her, managing to tear her sweater a little bit. At one point, his face slams against the windshield (that effect looks really bad and the mask looks like it's got a silly smile on it) and Rachel slams on the brakes, sending Michael tumbling off and onto the road. But, he immediately gets to his feet and that's when Rachel drives towards and hits him full force, sending him flying through and making him crash through a bit of a fence while Rachel frantically tries to stop the truck as it runs off the road. That's when the state police arrive and Jamie, despite Rachel telling her to stay in the truck, gets out and holds Michael's hand. After they tell her to get away, Michael rises back up behind her and Sheriff Meeker and the state police unload every bit of ammo that they've got into him. They shoot him again and again and again, causing him to recoil and flinch like mad, until he falls backwards down the mineshaft and the thing caves in on top of that. Given how resilient he's proven to be when it comes to surviving things, I don't know why everybody, including Dr. Loomis, thought that was the end of him but whatever. It makes for a very exciting action sequence to end on.
With no involvement from John Carpenter, Halloween 4 became the first Halloween film where Alan Howarth was completely on his own when it came to composing the music. That said, though, he mainly just created new versions of Carpenter's original themes, which he would continue to do in the next two Halloween movies that he would work on. You hear many different many different versions of the legendary main theme, such as the first version that you hear when the paramedics are wheeling the comatose Michael to the ambulance, which is quite loud and urgent; the version of it that you hear when Dr. Loomis tries to stop Michael from escaping at the gas station, which you also hear at the end of the ending credits, that's a bit slower than the first one and has some noticeable new beats to it; a very slow, understated, and eerie version when Michael is watching Rachel from outside the Carruthers' house, which is really creepy; the slow and rather methodical version when Michael chases Rachel and Jamie on the roof of the house; the fast, frantic version during the climactic truck scene; and the slow but loud and horrific version at the end when Jamie has apparently been taken over by her uncle's evil. There are other versions of the main theme in the film as well but those are very brief and short and not worth dwelling on really. Jamie, naturally, adopts her mother's theme, which has a new sound to it that's more childlike and sad to it, fitting with the feeling that this little girl no longer has her parents and is now being stalked by her evil uncle. You also hear several versions of the Myers House theme during the section at Sheriff Meeker's house, one which has a several subtle, synthesizer sound to it and another that's much slower and more detectable. Howarth creates a faster version of the Shape Stalks theme, which actually sounds like it's skipping a couple of notes from the original one: instead of going, "Dun, dun dun" it's more like, "Dun, d-dun." And, finally, you hear a nice reprise of the music that played when Michael killed Judith at the beginning of the first film that plays when Jamie finds her clown costume, when Michael sees the old picture of himself as a little kid dressed like that, and, appropriately enough, when Jamie stalks and attacks her mother at the end of the movie, which is a nice touch and it builds up into the reprise of the Halloween theme very well.
Howarth, however, does create some new pieces of music as well. He puts in some new synthesizer stings for jump scares and other creepy, atmospheric sounds and he also composes some new themes. One is during the nightmare that Jamie has about Michael early in the film. It starts off with the sad reprise of Laurie's theme as Jamie looks at the picture of her mother but, as the scene goes on, it gets sinister, particularly when Michael is reflected in the mirror by the lightning flash. The music drops off for a while (although on the actual soundtrack, there's a lot of stuff that I don't remember hearing at all in the actual scene; must have been deleted material) until Michael's hand grabs Jamie's foot from under the bed and we're hit with a sharp sting of music that leads into a loud, frantic theme with frightening cues in the background and more stings whenever the lightning illuminates Michael and when he suddenly appears at the door when she opens it. A really creepy theme that you hear is when Meeker and Loomis discover that everyone at the police station has been utterly massacred by Michael. It's an incredibly creepy, atmospheric piece of music with noises in the background that sound like low wind blowing, breathing, and some synthesizer noises that are indescribably creepy in their own right. It gets across the feeling that Michael is not a human being but, as Loomis has often described, evil in the shape of a man. A similar theme is heard when Loomis discovers that Michael has killed everyone at the garage and restaurant, with noises that sound like chains clinking, a loud, frightening noise when Loomis discovers the mechanic's body, and a low drone in the background with occasional pings when Loomis finds the decimated restaurant and confronts Michael himself (you can hear a soft, slow version of the main theme playing in the background when Loomis approaches and talks to him). But my favorite music that Howarth composed for the film is, without a doubt, the intensely chilling theme for the amazing opening credits. It's a low drone that sounds like a combination of wind and breathing (sometimes, it's hard to differentiate the actual wind from the music), with an occasional sound in the background that sounds like a bird shrilly chirping, and some sounds on top of it that range from sounding like vocalizing noises to an eerie beat that sounds like, "Dun, dun, dun." As the scene transitions to the ambulance heading to Ridgemont, the music becomes more and more definable, with an ever-present beat that builds to music that hints at the Halloween theme. The first part of the ending credits has another version of this theme that's just as creepy, with more wind noises, more chirping, and much more of that, "Dun, dun, dun" music over it. However, after a while, it soon gets really quiet and becomes a subtle symphony of another bit of music that sounds like the Halloween theme and you hear that pinging again. I'm telling you, just listen to this theme by itself and you will feel like you're in the presence of pure evil. It's that creepy.
I really enjoy Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers. It is a flawed film, with a lot more stuff that you can nitpick and a look and characterization of Michael Myers himself that I'm not too fond of, but the good elements far outweigh the bad in my opinion. You've got a lot of really likable characters, Donald Pleasence is still on form as Dr. Loomis, a lot of exciting and suspenseful sequences, some impressive makeup effects in a couple of scenes, a really creepy score, and a well-done atmosphere and look to the film that very successfully gives you the feeling of the Halloween season. It's another film that I've seen many, many times, and I really enjoy watching. I'd put it right up there with the first three films as being good all-around. Unfortunately, though, as I said at the beginning, I think this is the last really good Halloween film. While do like some of the films that came after this, the series really started to go downhill with the next one and, in my opinion, it hasn't recovered to this day.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Franchises: Halloween. Halloween III: Season of the Witch (1982)

File:Halloween 3.jpgI don't think I've ever been more puzzled by the plot description of a movie than I was when I first read the small plot synopsis of Halloween III: Season of the Witch in the synopsis glossary that was at the end of our cable provider's guidebook for October of 1999. I can't remember exactly how it summed the plot up but it was something along the lines of, "An evil mask-maker plans to murder thousands on Halloween night." Since I had just seen quite a bit of both Halloween I and II, I was quite confused by that, needless to say. I thought to myself, "What does that have to do with Halloween and Michael Myers?" I was even more confused by Halloween 4 having the subtitle, The Return of Michael Myers, and how every sequel afterward dealt with Michael as well. I didn't get why, in the middle of an entire series about this un-killable, knife-wielding boogeyman, there was an entry that had nothing to do with that whatsoever. After getting over my initial bewilderment, my reaction then became, "Well, that sounds stupid. I'll never watch that one." And for over a decade, I stuck to my guns. Even after I had learned the reason for why Halloween III came to be, I still wanted nothing to do with the movie. I just avoided it like the plague, refused to listen to what any of its supporters had to say, and even when they played in on AMC, along with Halloween II4, and 5, during their annual Monsterfest marathon, I still wouldn't watch it. To this day, I honestly don't know why I acted so childishly about it. It could have because, since I thought Michael Myers was such a great villain, it felt stupid for there to be one film in his franchise that didn't feature him. It also could have been a reason as shallow as not wanting a physical copy of the film amongst my collection of all the others. I knew that would happen if I did see the movie and ended up liking it so, for something as ridiculous as that, I didn't want to see Halloween III. I'm now well aware of how immature and stupid that attitude was but hey, teenagers are stupid, so what can you do?

In any case, my resolve to never see Halloween III lasted into my college years and my mid-20's but, eventually, I started to really mellow out and mature about it. Maybe getting older and wiser made me realize how ridiculous I was being about the movie and, as a result, I started to really listen to fans of the movie and why they enjoyed it so much. Websites like and YouTube users like Ramboraph also helped me see that I was being a complete dick about the film for no good reason and that I might actually enjoy it if I just watched it. So, finally, in 2011 when I was 23 years old, I purchased the GoodTimes DVD of the movie at a horror convention and saw it for the first time later that week. It'd be hilarious if, after all this time, I ended up not liking it, wouldn't it? I'd be like, "Damn it, I knew I should have stayed away from this movie!" But, as any fans of the film who are reading will be happy to learn, I do enjoy it. I don't think it's an underrated masterpiece or anything like that but, on the whole, I think it's a well-made, spooky little Halloween tale that fits with the season perfectly and should most definitely be seen more people.

After just barely escaping from several men dressed in business suits who are out to kill him, a delirious and frightened man is taken to a hospital in northern California, where he's put in the care of Dr. Dan Challis. But, later that night after Challis sedates him, one of the suit-clad men sneaks into the hospital and murders the stranger before going back out to the parking lot and setting himself on fire in his car. Challis, disturbed by the incident and puzzled as to what the murdered man was babbling about when he said, "They're going to kill us all," and why he was clutching a Halloween mask the entire time, meets his distraught daughter and the two of them team up to uncover the reason why someone would want to kill her father. The trail leads to them Santa Mira, a small town that serves as the home of the Silver Shamrock Novelties factory, the maker of the aforementioned mask, and is basically ruled by the head of the company, Irishman Conal Cochran. As Challis and his newfound love investigate the town's mysterious goings-on, they uncover a plot by Cochran to return Halloween to its sacrificial, cultic roots by using a mysterious power derived from Stonehenge that will kill anyone wearing a Silver Shamrock mask when a commercial for the company plays on Halloween night. Now, Challis must race against time to stop Cochran's plan before thousands of people across the United States become caught up in what the madman refers to as, "the greatest joke of all."

I'm not sure if this picture was taken around the filming of Halloween III or
what but it's the best vintage photo of Wallace I could find.
The man chosen to direct Halloween III was someone who was no stranger to the series: Tommy Lee Wallace, the original film's art director. Wallace had wanted to make the leap to directing for a long time and actually got his first shot at doing so when Halloween II was put into production. However, Wallace didn't care for the violence and gore in that film's script and declined John Carpenter's offer to make his directorial debut with that movie. But, Wallace jumped at the chance to direct the third film when he was told that it was a clean slate and that they could do anything they wanted. I think Wallace, for his first film as director, did a more than capable job. He replicated his buddy Carpenter's directing style and ability to create atmosphere so perfectly that you could be forgiven for actually thinking that Carpenter himself was in the director's chair on this one. Since Halloween III, Wallace has directed other films but has done so very sporadically. Some other notable works from him include Fright Night II (which, to this day, I still haven't seen), the beloved mini-series adaptation of Stephen King's It, and Vampires: Los Muertos, a sort of sequel to John Carpenter's own 1998 film, Vampires.

As any Halloween fan should know, Halloween III was meant to be the start of an anthology series where, every year, the same creative team would produce a new film that dealt with something frightening happening around Halloween. John Carpenter and Debra Hill felt that this was the best way to continue the series without repeating themselves, seeing as how they were already very reluctant to be involved with Halloween II and even when they did, they made sure that was the definitive end of Michael Myers' story (little did they know...). And, you know, as much as I do enjoy some of the other films that would come after this one, I wouldn't have minded seeing what they might have come up with had Halloween III been a success. That anthology angle sounds like a pretty good concept to me. And you really can't blame them for not realizing what an icon Michael Myers had become because, not only had he been featured in only two films at that point (two very successful films, mind you, but two nonetheless) but, at the same time, none of the other killers in horror movies around that time had become stars in their own right either. The ski mask-wearing killer in Prom Night? No. Harry Warden in My Bloody Valentine? Nope. Cropsy in The Burning? Hell, no. Even Jason Voorhees was far from the icon that he would eventually become since they were only up to Part 3 at that point and he hadn't even become the series' main antagonist until Part 2. And Freddy Krueger wouldn't come about until a couple of years later. So, therefore, I think the people behind Halloween can be forgiven for not realizing what they had with the character of Michael Myers. But, unfortunately, they learned it the hard way when Halloween III bombed hard when it was released in 1982. John Carpenter, being the type of man who always wants to do something new, became frustrated with the audience's desire to simply have the same thing over and over again and left the series afterward. As a result, Halloween III is the last film that has the same feel and tone that was established in the original in my opinion. After Carpenter and everyone else like Wallace and Dean Cundey departed, the following entries in the series had a noticeably different flavor to them.

Tom Atkins makes for a very likable, charismatic lead in his role of Dr. Dan Challis. He's just somebody whom you'd naturally want to root for. He's an average guy, a doctor at a fairly large hospital, who seems to be liked by just about everybody who knows him, especially the ladies, save for his ex-wife. He also likes to have a drink every now and then but, at the same time, I wouldn't call him an out of control alcoholic, although his ex-wife seems to think he is when she tells him that drinking and doctoring don't mix. While he does drink a lot, you never see him sloppy drunk at any point so I personally don't see him as someone with a major drinking problem. In any case, he's just doing his job one night, trying to take care of this apparently delusional and frightened man when some guy walks in, kills him, and then burns himself in the parking lot. Challis is clearly shaken by this, telling a close friend that kind of thing just doesn't happen and that, combined with seeing how distraught the victim's daughter, Ellie, is over his murder, encourages him to help her find out what's going on. One thing I really like about Challis is that, when they first arrive at the factory in Santa Mira, he's smart enough to not go charging in but instead, come up with the idea to act like he and Ellie are just a couple of normal visitors to the town so as not to draw suspicion. And while Ellie, granted, is the one who initially suggests they come up with a plan of attack, later on Challis has to stop her from running straight to the factory when she learns that her father was there once before and remind her that they should both keep a cool head and take their time. This intelligence from Challis is one of the things that make you want to see him succeed and another is how, despite being way over his head with what he's dealing with, he's quite brave and heroic, heading back to the factory when he discovers that Ellie has been kidnapped by Cochran's men and when he himself gets captured, doing everything he can to escape, rescue Ellie (which proves to be futile given what happens after they escape), destroy the factory (in a very ingenious way that's a testament to his ability to think on his feet) and stop the commercial from airing and killing hundreds of people. Whether he succeeded or not in foiling Cochran's plan completely is debatable, there's no denying that Challis is an awesome horror film protagonist and Atkins was the perfect choice to play him.

While I wouldn't say that Stacey Nelkin's performance as Ellie Grimbridge is Oscar-worthy or anything, I think she plays the role adequately. She's cute but also very feisty and determined, refusing to go back home without learning about why her father was murdered. She's smart enough to look up her father's records and find that the trail of evidence leads to Santa Mira and, as I said up above, while Challis comes up with their plan of investigation, Ellie is the one who mentions that they need to be more methodical so as not to draw suspicion in the first place. But, like I also said, when she learns from Challis that her father was indeed there not long before he was killed, she almost rushes to the factory in a blind haste and Challis tells her that it's getting late and reminds her that they should take their time with this, so it works both ways. In any case, after they decide to spend the night, they suddenly develop an intimate relationship and by the time night falls, they're shagging. That really comes out of nowhere and feels a bit forced. They've only known each other for a couple of days so it feels very contrived when, before you know it, they're in bed together. It doesn't derail the movie and I still like both characters but that whole thing just makes me scratch my head. Anyway, when they visit the Silver Shamrock factory the next day, they find conclusive evidence that not only was Ellie's father there not too long ago but that the company itself may in fact be behind his death, seeing as how she spots his car being hidden inside a storage area. But, unfortunately, Ellie is captured by Cochran's androids soon afterward and Challis is forced to break into the factory in order to save her.

Now, we come to an interesting conversation piece involving Ellie. Challis apparently saves her and the two of them escape from the exploding factory but as they're driving away from Santa Mira, with Challis trying to think of a way to stop the lethal commercial from being aired, Ellie suddenly attacks him and causes them to crash. After Challis makes his way out of the wrecked car, Ellie reappears with one of her arms missing, having been torn off in the crash, revealing that she's an android. Challis manages to disable her, although it takes quite a bit of effort, but that begs an interesting question: was Ellie replaced with an android or was she one the whole time? There are a couple of lines of dialogue during the love scene between her and Challis that could suggest that even then, she's not what she seems. Challis asks if she's even the least bit tired and she says that she isn't. They continue making for a few more seconds but then Challis thinks to ask her how old she is, to which she replies, "Don't worry. I'm older than I look." Subtle hints but, for my money, I think (or at least I'd hope) that Challis would know if he were having sex with a robot. And if you want more evidence to the contrary, just think about how different she would be from Cochran's other robots, who don't speak or show any emotion or move that quickly for that matter. She'd have to be a pretty advanced model, wouldn't she? Some might argue that if Cochran was clever enough to make his androids as life-like as they are, going so far as for them to be able to sneeze, then he could have created one that could display a convincing array of emotions. Far enough but even if that is true, why would he have sent this android out to bring in an outsider who could possibly endanger his plan? In fact, if it weren't for her, Challis wouldn't have ever known to come to Santa Mira in the first place. I know he himself says that he loves a good "joke" but still, why would he have endangered his master plan just to play a joke on a guy who had no idea what was going on until he was given a clue by Ellie? I guess there could be more layers to it since, after all, he did send one android out to make sure that no one discovered that the killer wasn't human but, as far as I'm concerned, Ellie was human for most of the movie and that the android of her that Challis was picked up was either built as a sort of failsafe in case he did manage to escape or was just something that Cochran was tinkering with and wasn't quite finished when Challis grabbed it, explaining why it took a little while to attack. Maybe the real Ellie was still alive in the factory somewhere or maybe they killed her, who knows? But, that's what great about these types of movies: you can read into aspects of them in any way that you please.

Dan O'Herlihy makes for a really good villain as Conal Cochran and, once again, I think he's perfect casting. He's kind of like Michael Myers in how, long before you meet him, you can feel his presence when Challis and Ellie arrive in Santa Mira, with the factory looming over the town and the security cameras and androids watching every bit of movement on the streets and so forth. He's got such a tight grip on Santa Mira that there's even a 6:00 curfew that's enforced by a female voice over a bunch of loudspeakers (I think it's actually Jamie Lee Curtis' voice, by the way). And I also like how they build up Cochran's first appearance even more so by having his limo drive past Challis and the motel manager and all you see is a POV shot from the backseat. You're first introduced to Cochran when one of his devices misfires and kills an unsuspecting woman at the motel, whose body is quickly removed. Cochran comes across as very polite and charming to the spectators, including Challis and Ellie, and the same goes for the next day when he gives the two of them, along with a salesman and his family, a guided tour of his factory. He's even nice enough to give the salesman's eager son a mask fresh off the assembly line. But, of course, from everything you've seen beforehand, you know perfectly well that it's just a façade for a man who has something far more sinister up his sleeve. When Challis is captured by Cochran's androids, he's at first slightly miffed about how Challis ruined one of his other creations, particularly since it consisted of something very rare and he must now try to find a replacement, but when he turns to the doctor, he puts his charming face back on, albeit now with an undercurrent of evil. And what's really unsettling is that he knows exactly who Challis is, despite the fake name he used, suggesting that Cochran has influence even miles away from Santa Mira. It comes across like he's all-knowing and no matter what you do, you can't hide from him.

Cochran proceeds to give Challis a tour of his facility and shows him the evil he has planned, much like a Bond villain (in fact, how is that Dan O'Herlihy never actually played a Bond villain?). Cochran comes across as very enthusiastic during this tour, proudly showing off the piece of Stonehenge that he has housed there and explaining how it has a strange power within it. But, Cochran doesn't explain everything, simply telling Challis that it's all, "Ancient technology. A good magician never explains." He then proceeds to tell Challis that he has time to figure it out for himself. He gets ahead of nitpicky viewers who would wonder how in the name of God he managed to bring a piece of Stonehenge here without anyone knowing by saying, "We had a time getting it here. You wouldn't believe how we did it." It's here when Cochran gives Challis a horrific demonstration of his ultimate plan when he subjects the salesman's young kid to the commercial and the effects of it proceed to kill not only him but his parents as well. During this demonstration, Cochran continuously glances over at Challis, smiling evilly at his stunned reaction and also at just how well the whole thing goes off. And remember, he himself gave the kid the mask that ultimately kills him. He knew that he was sealing his fate when he slipped it over his little head, adding another layer of undiluted evil to Cochran's character. The most intense O'Herlihy gets as Cochran is in the scene where Challis asks him why he's doing this. He doesn't give a very concrete motive, at first lightly explaining that he does indeed love a good joke and that this will be the best one ever. But then, he proceeds to give a chilling explanation of what Halloween meant in his home country: "It was the start of the year in our old Celtic lands and we'd be waiting, in our houses of wattles and clay. The barriers would be down, you see, between the real and the unreal, and the dead might be looking in, to sit by our fires of turf. Halloween, the festival of Samhain [which he says in its correct Gaelic pronunciation]. The last great one took place three thousand years ago when the hills ran red... with the blood of animals and children... It was part of our world, our craft... To us, it was a way of controlling our environment. It's not so different now. It's time again. In the end, we don't decide these things, you know. The planets do. They're in alignment and it's time again. The world's going to change tonight..." In other words, Cochran doesn't really hate children or anything like that. He simply feels that the time has come to return Halloween to its sacrificial roots and he's the one to do it. And like I said, in another way, he just thinks of it as a big joke on the children. So, basically, like Michael Myers in the original film, there's no concrete motive for what he's doing, only speculation, and that, as we've seen, is what is most terrifying.

One last thing I have to mention about Cochran is how eerily calm he is throughout the movie. While he does get very intense in some scenes, he never raises his voice or starts yelling, even when Challis manages to escape. And when Challis manages to turn the commercial against Cochran and his minions, he is at first startled by this turn of events but when he realizes the ingenuity of how Challis pulled it off, he can't help but smile up at him in the rafters and applaud. But, you could read all kinds of things into that. Cochran could be smiling because he knows that, even with his factory destroyed and everybody, including himself, dead, the commercial is still going to play all over the country and there's nothing Challis can do to stop it. In fact, if you think about it, due to different time zones, the commercial has already played in other parts of the country and so, even if Challis manages to stop it from playing in California, Cochran has already managed to kill hundreds of people in other parts of the country. His reaction could also be because he knows that Challis has rescued an android and not the real Ellie, which will mostly likable kill him and prevent him from stopping the commercial (even though it doesn't). There are many ways you can interpret Cochran's actions before his death but, in the end, they're as confident and mysterious as the man himself.

While Michael Myers isn't part of this story, Cochran's androids could be considered replacements for him due to their similarity to him: they don't talk or show any emotion, they move slowly and methodically (although they can move a bit faster than Michael ever did), they often stalk their victims and lurk in the dark before killing them, (is that first image here creepy or what?), they tend to pop up when you least expect, and, most notably, they're faceless. What I mean by faceless is that they're very nondescript in the way they look and dress and there are specific models as well, in that several of them all look the same and a couple of others have the same design between them as well. It feels like Cochran as an entire army of Michael Myers at his disposal (in fact, one of the android models is played by Dick Warlock)! If he wanted, he could have made copies of the mask and had them wear it! (Can you imagine how that would have looked?)But these things are infinitely stronger that Michael was at that point, able to crush a guy's skull or rip another's flipping head off. Even before you learn that they're androids, you can tell that there's something not right about these guys, just with how they look and act. Hell, the way that first one calmly pours gasoline over himself and then sets himself on fire in the hospital parking lot after completing his task certainly gets your attention and makes you realize that he's no ordinary killer. And the scene where Challis learns what they truly are when he fights with one is more than a little freaky with how it doesn't react to his punches and when he finally kills it, orange goo (which I guess is meant to be oil that keeps its gears lubricated but comes across like it's the android's blood) comes out of its mouth and is all over Challis' hand when he pulls it out of the android's gut. To sum up, these androids are both as creepy and deadly as you can get and can be viewed as some very worthy stand-ins for Michael Myers.

Some other noteworthy characters in the film include one of the salesmen for Silver Shamrock, Buddy Kupfer (Ralph Strait), his wife Betty (Jadeen Barbor), and their son, little Buddy (Bradley Schachter). They're more than a little cartoonish and stereotypical in terms of the types of characters they're supposed to be. Buddy is a very energetic guy who always seems to have a smile on his face and is ready with a handshake every time he meets someone. He's a real "Hey, how are you?!" kind of guy and he absolutely sings Cochran's praises, telling anyone (mainly Challis) about what a genius the guy is for coming up with the greatest practical jokes ever. Unfortunately for Buddy, he's too naïve to realize when Cochran is keeping something from him when he refuses to let him in what the "final processing" is for the masks, even though he's his best salesman, and while he does wonder at one point why Cochran won't take any orders for next year, he goes along with it when Cochran says that he wants his opinion on some commercials and that ends up being his downfall. Betty Kupfer, while still a bit exaggerated in how she acts, is a bit more cynical than her husband and doesn't seem all that impressed with his work or with Cochran for that matter. Her expression after she says that, "There's hope for us yet," when she describes how Cochran got rich from making gags and Halloween masks is definite proof of the latter. And finally, there's little Buddy, the typical bratty little kid who becomes bored rather quickly and whines when he's not doing what he wants to do. Fortunately, we don't have to spend too much time with so he doesn't become unbearably annoying but you get that type of vibe from him when you do see him. He's the center of one of the film's most well-known scenes when he and his parents become unwitting test subjects for Cochran's deadly commercial and the effects of it not only kill him but lead to his parents dying as well.

One person who's not at all happy with Cochran and his factory or about being stuck in Santa Mira for the time being is Marge (Garn Stephens), a rather loud saleswoman who makes her displeasure about having to come to the town because the factory screwed up her order very clear when we first see her: "Damn factory! Got their orders all screwed up and now I have to stay in this dump again." We see her again later on when she talks to Ellie and tells her how the quality of Cochran's products has apparently gone down since the trademark tag fell off of one the masks she purchased. This tag ends up spelling doom for Marge when she later tinkers with the microchip on the back and it shoots out a beam of light that hideously disfigures her face and kills her. Two other interesting residents of Santa Mira include Rafferty (Michael Currie), the motel manager, and Starker (Jon Terry), a drunk whom Challis bumps into his first night there. The interesting thing about these guys is that their opinions of Cochran are complete polar opposites. Rafferty is a happy, smiling Irishman who has nothing but good things to say about Cochran, saying that he turned Santa Mira into what it is today (however, we later find out that he's in on Cochran's ultimate plan). Starker, on the other hand, is not only a drunk but is very bitter, saying that Cochran has turned Santa Mira into a shell of its former self and he mentions how he applied for a job at the factory but was turned away. He proceeds to point out Cochran's security cameras to Challis and actually curses the man right out in the open, even going so far as to threaten to burn the factory down. This proves to be a fatal mistake as Cochran, who apparently heard everything Starker said (I told you, you can't hide from him), sends his androids out to take care of him, which they do in a very gruesome manner.

Linda does not approve.
Two other characters who are complete polar opposites are two of the women in Challis' life, his ex-wife Linda (Nancy Kyes, formerly Nancy Loomis from the original Halloween) and Teddy (Wendy Wessberg), an assistant coroner. Teddy has some very definite feelings for Challis and there's also a strong hint that they may have been together at one time, like when she says, "I was always good at moonlighting, wasn't I?" and Challis responds, "Oh, the best!" While they're not together romantically at the moment, he trusts her enough to ask her to let him know what she finds when she investigates the remains of the killer from his charred car, which she agrees to do. Later on, he asks her to find anything she can on Cochran, which also agrees to and the whole time, their interactions come across as very warm and chummy, reinforcing the sense that they've known each other for a while now and have always been quite close, again perhaps in more ways than one. However, her devotion to Challis gets her killed when one of Cochran's androids sneaks into her lab and murders her before she can report her discovery that the killer at the hospital was an android himself. On the flip side, we have Linda, who isn't too fond of Challis and her attitude makes it obvious that it was a rather bitter divorce. Apparently, Challis hasn't always been dependable, given how Linda comments that she's used to him being late, and when he has to put off doing stuff with their kids like taking them the following Saturday and so forth, her hatred towards him grows. It culminates near the climax of the film when Challis calls Linda to tell her that she has to get rid of the Silver Shamrock masks that she bought for the kids the week before and, on top of her being angry about his not showing up to take them trick-or-treating like he promised, she accuses him of being jealous since they liked those masks more than the rather cheap ones he picked up for them. She then screams at him to go to hell and slams the phone down. While you can understand why Linda's so mad and she doesn't come across as an evil bitch but rather as a woman who's tired of her ex-husband, whether willingly or not, disappointing her, this stuff causes you to really feel bad for Challis. He had to do what he had to do, even if it meant breaking more promises to his kids and to Linda, and now that he's trying to save their very lives, his constant lateness has caused Linda to basically seal their fate and with the way the film ends, it's unknown whether or not their kids died from the commercial.

One of Halloween III's most successful aspects is its atmosphere. As I said earlier, it feels like Tommy Lee Wallace was channeling his good friend John Carpenter when he directed this flick because it looks and feels like a Carpenter film. It has that vibe that Carpenter puts into his horror films where you can just feel the fear and uneasiness in the air. Even when nothing creepy is going on, you know that something's not quite right and you're waiting for something to happen. This film, in particular, has that feeling in spades and I think a reason for that is, for a good chunk of it, you don't know what's going on. The minute the movie starts, you're seeing this frightened man (Al Berry) being chased by a bunch of weirdos in business suits who, for some reason, want him dead and even though he manages to escape and is taken to a hospital, you still don't feel completely safe since the poor guy is delirious, raving, "They're going to kill us all." And sure enough, that feeling is justified when one of his well-dressed attackers sneaks into the hospital, kills him in a bloodless but disturbing and nasty way nevertheless, and then proceeds to calmly walk back out to the parking lot, douse himself in gasoline, and blow himself up. Like Dan Challis, you're left wondering, "What in the hell was that all about?!" It's both eerie and, at the same time, makes you intrigued about the mystery that Challis and Ellie take it upon themselves to solve. The creepiness goes up a few more notches when we get to the strange little town of Santa Mira and ultimately, when we find out about Cochran's plan, we learn that it's one of the most horrifying imaginable: he plans to murder thousands of children on Halloween night with his Halloween masks. He's turning the tradition of a holiday that kids generally love into something that could kill them and the instrument of death is an innocent, cheerful, if very annoying, commercial jingle that promises a big giveaway that night. That is as disturbing as you can get and the demonstration of the masks' power is so horrific that you can only imagine what it will be like if it happens on a mass scale. It actually kind of astounds me that Wallace turned down the offer to direct Halloween II because of the violence and gore in that script and yet he directs this, which is not only pretty gruesome (though not very gory) in its own right but at the center of it is a planned genocide of kids!

Not only does Halloween III have a very similar vibe to Carpenter's films but there are aspects of it that actually remind of specific entries in his filmography. First off, Dean Cundey's cinematography is very, very similar to that of the original Halloween, right down to the camera movements and the always classic blue lighting effect that really permeates this film. Thanks to him, it's once again a very stylish, classy-looking movie (the transfer on the Blu-Ray in particular is very impressive) and because of that, f it weren't for the proof that in this film, the original is just a movie, you could buy that this takes place in the same continuity as its predecessors despite the completely different story. And speaking of which, I can't help but think of Halloween II during the scene in the hospital at the beginning of the film. I know it's different circumstances but still, it's a guy murdering someone in a hospital. How could you not think of it? The very beginning of the movie makes me think of The Thing because like that movie, as I described up above, you're thrust right in the middle of something and you have no clue what's going on or why this is happening and in both cases, it makes you want to follow your main characters as they try to unravel this mystery. And you can't deny the similarities when you find out that Cochran's assassins aren't what they appear to be, only in this case they're robots instead of aliens. Finally, the fact that this movie is set along the California coast and we get some nice shots of the coastline and the surrounding countryside makes me think of The Fog. In fact, there's a piece of music from that film's score that turns up on a radio in Marge's room at one point. I don't know if Wallace intended all of this or not but there are quite a few aspects of this film that make me think of Carpenter's work, as well as related films, in general and trust me, that's not a bad thing at all.

While the rest of the film takes place in fairly typical, normal-looking environments, its main setting of Santa Mira is memorable not because of how over-the-top or weird-looking it is but because of the complete control that you realize Cochran has over it. You realize this slowly but surely when Challis and Ellie arrive in the town. First, you see his imposing factory, which the rest of the town seems to sit in the shadow of. Then, you notice the security cameras as well as the constant presence of his androids, watching and listening to everything. There's even a curfew, with a pre-recorded female voice telling everyone to return to their homes and remain there for the rest of the evening. And it's not long after said curfew that we see the penalty for any insolence towards Cochran when Starker gets his torn off after openly cursing Cochran and threatening to burn his factory down. Furthermore, when Marge is killed when she messes with one of the masks' trademark tags, her body is immediately taken to Cochran's factory instead of to a hospital, where it's no doubt disposed of. The atmosphere of the place becomes even more threatening when Challis and Ellie attempt to leave the following night. Challis attempts to contact the police but he can't get through and then he discovers that it doesn't matter what number he tries because all he gets is a message saying that his call can't be completed as dialed. Right after that, he realizes that Cochran's androids are out in full force, having kidnapped Ellie and are now out to get him. When you come to understand just how much Cochran has Santa Mira under his thumb and once you're in, you can't get out no matter what, the film takes on an even more frightening tone than it already had.

As any horror and sci-fi aficionado knows, Santa Mira is also the name of the town that was the setting of the 1956 classic, Invasion of the Body Snatchers. However, I feel that a simple shared name isn't the only correlation between the films. Cochran's control over the town feels identical to how the town became in that film once the body snatchers had completely taken it over. The emotionless androids could most certainly pass for them and Rafferty and Buddy Kupfer come across like the people in that film who say that everything's fine and dandy and there's no cause for alarm (the difference between the two is that Rafferty is in on it while Kupfer is just a blindly enthusiastic salesman) while Marge and Starker are like those who have a feeling that something isn't right. Here, though, instead of being taken over, they're simply eliminated, either accidentally or intentionally. It  also can't be a coincidence that the hero in both films is a doctor. The montage of kids all across the country trick-or-treating and rushing home to watch Silver Shamrock's lethal "big giveaway" has the same ominous feeling that you get in Body Snatchers when you realize that the aliens are going to spread all over the whole country and the world as well. There are also some similarities to the 1978 remake, like when Challis tries to call the outside for help but finds he can't get through, similar to when Matthew Bennell attempts to do the same in that film but finds out that even the phone operators have been taken over. Also, both films involve a factory containing the source of the menace being destroyed in a big explosion. And finally, Tommy Lee Wallace has made it no secret that Halloween III's abrupt and seemingly bleak ending is an ode to Don Siegel's originally intended ending for the '56 film (which was also rectified in the '78 version). I guess Wallace wasn't kidding when he said that Halloween III was a "pod" movie instead of a "knife" movie.

Cochran's factory, as imposing as it is on the outside, seems fairly normal and benign during the scene where Challis, Ellie, and the Kupfers are given a tour of it. You see the rooms where they make the molds for the masks, where they store the completed masks, another room filled with toys and novelties, and so forth and all the while, it does seem like a typical mask-making factory. But, when Ellie is captured and Challis sneaks inside of it to save her, you see the more sinister side to it, in particular the enormous control room housing the piece of Stonehenge whose power Cochran intends to use to murder thousands of children. That's a particularly ominous room in and of itself because of how big and dark it is, with the computers all around it and the piece of Stonehenge makes it feel all the more otherworldly. There are other creepy parts of the facility like the dark, cell-like rooms where Cochran leaves Challis to be killed by the commercial when it plays, a similar room where "Ellie" is strapped to a table, and a room housing a machine that at, first, looks like a woman who's sitting in the dark, knitting (that's quite eerie, by the way, when Challis goes into the latter room and learns that the "old woman" that he sees isn't what she appears to be). This whole place is the ultimate villain's pad, where a madman has everything that he needs to commit mass homicide.

Well, that's one way to do a nose job.
While it's not as explicitly bloody as Halloween II, Halloween III does have more than its fair share of nasty and wince-inducing makeup effects and kills. The first kill, that of Ellie's father Harry Grimbridge, has no gore save for a little blood after it's over but it's still an, "Oh, shit," type of moment nonetheless. The android that followed Harry sneaks into his hospital room, covers his mouth with one hand, and then takes his other hand's thumb and index finger and roughly grabs the bridge of the guy's nose. The rough action of it and the way you can see the bridge of the nose appear to move out of place as the android breaks it is what makes you wince. Once Harry finally expires, the android removes his hand to show that Harry's nose does seem like it's been moved a few inches more than it was really and you can see some blood underneath his nose across his mouth and chin as well, adding to the effect. This could have all just been created through the power of suggestion without any appliances or perhaps, at the very least, really tiny ones but however it was accomplished, you'd swear that you did see the android royally mess the poor guy up and the fact that Teddy later reveals that his skull was pulled apart makes you wince even more.

During Challis and Ellie's first night in Santa Mira, we get two horrific kills one right after the other. First, we get Starker's punishment for cursing and threatening Cochran out in the open. The android that Dick Warlock plays as well as another one corner the guy, who falls to his knees and tries to take back what he said. It doesn't go over. Warlock takes Starker's hat off and then proceeds to grab his head and tear it clean off! You get a nasty close-up of the neck as the head is being separated from the body, with quite a bit of blood in the process, and in the following wideshot where you see headless body in-between the androids, a geyser of blood spews out of it for a few seconds. This is by far the goriest kill in the entire film. Shortly afterward, we have Marge making the mistake of fiddling with the microchip on the back of her mask's trademark button and getting hit with a blast of the energy inside it. The aftermath is really hideous, with the flesh of her mouth and the surrounding skin looking like it's been burned off and the edges of the remaining skin sticking upwards. The gray color of the rest of her head and her orange-colored eyes make it just the tiniest bit more disturbing and what better way to end it than having a bug (I thought it was a spider at first but, upon a recent viewing, I think it's a weta beetle) crawl out of her eviscerated skin? Nasty, to say the least.

The most well know death and effect in the film has to be the demonstration of what will happen to anybody wearing one of the Silver Shamrock masks when the commercials plays. First of all, I want to say that I love the design of the three different types of mask. They look really cool, like a mask that any kid would be happy to wear for Halloween. While I do like the look of the witch and skull masks (the latter of which, for some reason, looks kind of eerie to me when it's placed on Challis' head by Cochran), my favorite is the pumpkin, which is at the center of this scene. Mainly, I like pumpkins and jack-o-lanterns in general because they instantly make me think of autumn and the Halloween season and one of my favorite Halloween decorations when I was a kid was a big plastic jack-o-lantern that you could light up by plugging into the wall. Plus, I think the mask looks really awesome and the way the pumpkin smiles looks almost exactly like the decoration I just mentioned. It brings back nostalgic memories of Halloween time for me. But, enough of that, let's talk about this really hideous scene where little Buddy Kupfer  and his parents are unknowingly used as guinea pigs for Cochran's lethal Silver Shamrock commercial. After Buddy stares at the flashing pumpkin at the end of the commercial for a few seconds, he suddenly starts to convulse and he grabs at the mask trying to rip it off (in fact, during the close-up of this, the mask seems to take on a more organic, fleshy tone to me) but he's unable to do so and he collapses to the floor dead. But it's not over yet. Inexplicably, a bunch of bugs and deadly snakes wriggle out of the mask, one of which is responsible for killing Buddy's father and we can assume his mother as well since she fainted. Now, does that mask? No, but who cares? That is just awesome and a great, disgusting zinger for this sequence. And like I said earlier, if you just imagine that happening all over the country on Halloween night, the film takes on an even darker, more nihilistic and frightening feeling than it already had.

As I touched earlier, there are some creepy effects that you see when the androids are either killed or torn apart. The moment where Challis fights one of the androids and discovers what it is when he digs his hand into its gut and pulls out some gears is accompanied by a shot of an orange liquid that I think is meant to be oil gushing out of its mouth. That is a shot that's quite eerie and the android's cold, dead eyes that are fixed straight ahead as well as the dark lighting in the room where this takes place makes it even more so. And later on, when Challis discovers that Ellie is an android, we get some good mechanical effects with her torn off arm and the gears that you can see sticking out of the stump of her arm (which look a little like tendons). Another really good shot is when Challis has decapitated her and you can see her still functioning head sitting on the ground next to her body, which is also still moving and the effect is very convincing. And, of course, you have to have one last jump scare when the severed arm briefly attacks Challis before he's able to get control of it and throw it away. Nice mechanical effects for such a low budget film.

Doesn't he kind of look like the Stay Puff Marshmallow Man here?
The death of Cochran himself is a bit confusing because you're not really sure what happened. After he escapes and rescues "Ellie," Challis makes his way up to the scaffolding above the control room and, after managing to get the commercial to play on all the monitors in the room, dumps an entire box of the trademark tags all over the room. The ensuing chain reaction of the energy kills everyone else in the room (I guess they're also androids but I'm not sure) but leaves Cochran himself alive for a bit longer. After Cochran looks up at Challis and gently applauds him, the trademark tags and the piece of Stonehenge both fire energy beams that him from either side and appear to turn him to stone before he disappears into thin air. It's a cool effect but I'm not 100% sure on what happened. I wondered why the energy didn't have the same effect on Cochran as it did on everyone else. Why didn't a bunch of bugs and snakes burst him out of him? It doesn't really matter because trying to argue something this fantastical is, in the end, pointless but I've always wondered why Cochran didn't receive the same gruesome death as everyone else. Maybe Dan O'Herlihy didn't want to go through the makeup effects process required to create such a death or something. Who knows?

As John Carpenter often does with his films, Tommy Lee Wallace decided to end Halloween III with an ending that was less than happy. After dispensing with the Ellie android, Dan Challis manages to make it to a gas station (the same gas station where Harry Grimbridge ended up at the beginning of the film) and uses the phone inside to call the TV station and plead with them to take the Silver Shamrock commercial off the air. While it takes some desperate prodding, the technician agrees and yanks the commercial off of two stations, which Challis sees when a trick-or-treater walks into the station and turns the TV on to see it. However, the kid turns it to a third channel and the commercial continues to play there. Challis again pleads with the technician to take the commercial off the air but, as it continues to run and the "magic pumpkin" that will cause the mutation begins to flash, he becomes absolutely hysterical and screams at the technician, "Stop it! Stop it! STOP IT!" And then, we cut to black and the credits begin to roll. Some people might not appreciate this type of ending, calling it bleak and hopeless, but I've always thought that it was a really cool question mark with which to end the film. I say question mark because, while it does suggest that the third station did run the commercial and many people did in fact die, you don't know for sure. Tom Atkins himself even said in an interview that he thinks they did catch it in time, admitting that he's an optimistic person. That's what the ending is to me: a Rorschach test that you can fill in yourself. If you're like Atkins and are optimistic, then you can say that they did get that third commercial, it just took a little longer to do so for whatever reason. Or, if you want to a pessimist, you can decide that the commercial played and hundreds of kids died that night. It's really up to you, which is what makes this type of filmmaking enjoyable.

While most critics at the time, and to this day as well, saw Halloween III as little more than a stupid, hackneyed horror film that didn't deserve to share the name of Carpenter's 1978 original, others not only saw the film for what it was but, over time, some have even seen some significance in the film's plot. Many have viewed it as a commentary and criticism of large corporations and of consumerism and, like Carpenter and the perceived themes of the original, while I'm not sure if Wallace intended this or not, I can sort of see what these critics are getting at. In the scene between Cochran and Challis where Cochran tells him of the origins of Halloween, he says, "You don't really know much about Halloween. You thought no further than the strange custom of having your children wear masks and go out begging for candy." As I described earlier, while Cochran doesn't give a concrete reason for his plan, this big of dialogue and his description of the old festival of Samhain strongly suggests that he hates what Halloween has become in recent years, how it has not only lost its ancient sacrificial origins and air of true terror and magic but also how it's become commercialized, with it all being about getting the spookiest masks and decorations, getting the best candy, etc. To that end, he turns this commercialism into a lethal weapon that will destroy itself. This critique isn't that hard to miss when you watch the film and I must say that I think there might be something to it. You could also see other commentaries on business in the film, such as the unemployment of local workers in the case of Starker and a decline in the quality of mass-produced products, referenced in a brief moment with Marge. A few other critiques that I've heard the film has towards corporations is that Cochran's use of androids is meant to promote a more artificial future for commerce and such and that, even though he's a successful businessman, he's also a very irrational one, with his obsession with astrological signs skewering his business sense. Eh, maybe, but I mainly think that Cochran is just an evil genius who uses his business as a front for his schemes. He'd have to have planned for this for a long time, finding out about Stonehenge's power, coming up with a plan to get a part of it over to America, develop the microchips with the energy inside them, and so forth. At least, that's what I feel but, hey, what do I know?

Like the previous two films, the effect of the music in Halloween III cannot be underestimated. John Carpenter and Alan Howarth once again created the score, this time going for a complete electronic score performed on a synthesizer, which Carpenter in particular has always been very skilled at composing. The score, like those before it, is very creepy and atmospheric, adding even more so to the dark feel and tone of the film as a whole. The main title sequence sets the mood perfectly, with high pitched, electronic pings and zings, as well as an occasional section with a lower pitched version of said sounds, playing over a threatening low, electronic drone, the latter of which reminds me a lot of the music that Howard Shore would compose for David Cronenberg's Videodrome the following year. And the titles in appear in light blue letters over some type of screen that has orange lines streaking across it and the pinging sounds on the score react to the movements of said lines. Eventually, as the sequence and the theme come to an end, we see that the lines have actually been forming the image of a pumpkin, namely the "magic pumpkin" of the Silver Shamrock commercial. It's a really clever technological update of the opening titles of the first two films that involved a pumpkin. In any case, the way this first bit of the score is layered is basically the same for all the tracks. Some other notable themes include the music for the opening chase (which also plays over the ending credits), where the electronic pings are going at a very fast, rhythmic, and frantic rate and, in addition, to the drone behind it, you also have some instrumental sounds as well as some very fast, "pew, pew" sounds, which enhance the energy and excitement of the scene. The music that you hear when Dan Challis and Ellie are driving up to Santa Mira sounds like it's being played on a synthesizer church organ, making it akin to some of the music in Halloween II. While it's not exactly creepy, it still has an odd feeling about it, that something isn't right. It fits well with the feeling that they're leaving the normal world and heading into the askew world of Conal Cochran.

Another really good theme for the music comes during the montage of the surrounding countryside as the sun sets and we hear the pre-recorded message say that it's now curfew time. It's the underlying electronic drone again and this time, the ping sounds are lower in pitch and have a rhythm of, "Doot do, doot do, doot do." The deaths of Starker and Marge are accompanied by this horrific theme that starts with a more threatening drone than what we've typically been hearing and it's overtaken by this freakish electronic screeching sound that can make your skin crawl because it's nightmarish-sounding. The moment at the end of the movie when the android Ellie reveals itself and attacks Challis as they're driving away from Santa Mira has another eerie theme with these frantic electronic pings and shock moment zings and such occurring every time you think Challis has dealt with the android but then it attacks him again. And finally, there are some pieces that are somewhat relaxing, like this one that has this high-pitched drone as the background and some soft notes that just go "doot, doot," and "poom, poom" (however, the lower pitched drone does sneak back in a few times and even the high pitched has a sort of ugly quality to it that seems to say, "Don't get too relaxed.") as well as this one with very soft pings that sort of pick up in pitch during the moment when Cochran says that it'll soon be Halloween morning. There are many other great themes on this soundtrack that I haven't touched on but, trust me, they all do their jobs very well and they're another incentive to see the film. I would even recommend downloading the soundtrack itself if you can find it somewhere.

Before The Ring, there was the magic pumpkin.
Of course, we can't talk about the soundtrack of Halloween III without mentioning the Silver Shamrock commercial's jingle... oh, that fucking jingle. "Happy, happy Halloween, Halloween, Halloween. Happy, happy Halloween, Silver Shamrock." You know, the popular reason as to why people typically don't like this film is because it has nothing to do with Michael Myers but part of me thinks it's that damn commercial. I think a lot of people have started watching the film and then when they've heard that jingle for the first time (the first of many, I might add, that count down the days to Halloween), they've been like, "Fuck this," and turned the movie off. It is so upbeat, loud, and constant that it's just aggravating. Even before they start singing, it has this weird opening electronic sound which is fairly irritating in and of itself but the actual song, set to London Bridge is Falling Down, really can drive you batty and by the end of the film, you've heard it so many times that you're about ready to punch the TV screen. However, I do appreciate that in the actual film, they acknowledge how obnoxious it is. When Dan Challis is sitting in a bar watching TV and the bartender turns it to a channel playing the commercial, he goes, "Oh, come on!" The bartender says, "Don't you have any Halloween spirit?" and Challis' response is a coarse, "No!" And later on while Challis and Ellie are having sex, the radio in their motel room starts playing it and Challis groans, "God, this commercial. It never stops," and turns it off. So, at least they're well aware of how unbearable it is, and I would also like to think that's part of the joke. If you watch a lot of TV, you've seen plenty of commercials that are so annoying and are played so constantly that you just want to shoot yourself the next time you come across them. Well, here's an annoying commercial that actually will kill you if you watch it! I thought that was a clever way of sticking it to marketing and the obnoxious ways they often go about trying to sell their products (another possible way that this movie criticizes commercialism and big business). And in addition to the jingle, you've got to love the announcer (Tommy Lee Wallace himself, by the way) with those cheesy lines like, "Don't forget to watch the big giveaway at 9:00!" or "It's time. Gather around your TV set, put on your masks, and watch, watch the magic pumpkin." It's sort of the piece de resistance of this annoyingly lethal aspect of the film.

In retrospect, while Halloween III: Season of the Witch does stick out like a sore thumb in a series devoted solely to the story of Michael Myers, it's actually a very respectable little horror film in its own right. It's atmospheric, with a very frightening tone throughout, has some good acting and memorable characters, some very horrific moments, an eerie electronic score, and a nicely ambiguous ending. I don't think it's an underrated masterpiece that everyone should fawn over but I do think it's an enjoyable 80's horror flick that fits well with the Halloween season and should be given more credit than it gets. While the film has been slightly vindicated in recent years with the release of a really good special edition from Shout Factory in 2012 and the mere fact that I know it has fans, it still currently has a 4.2 rating on IMDB, saying to me that there are still plenty of people that don't like it or otherwise, won't watch it due to the absence of Michael Myers. All I would like to say them is if you were unaware of the film's story when you went into it and felt ripped off, I get it. But if you've known for a long time that it has nothing to with all the other films in the series and still haven't seen it, then you should just put the Halloween title aside and not view it as a sequel but rather for what it is: an attempt to take the series into another direction that didn't pan out. Basically what I'm saying is, I was where you are for a long time and when I finally stopped being stubborn and watched the flick, I really enjoyed it. So, this Halloween, if you've never seen it before, give the film a chance before you write it off completely. If it ends up just not being your type of movie, then fine. No foul. But, on the other hand, you might be surprised to realize how good this flick truly is and what a treat it is to watch this time of year.