Welcome to the JOE-DOWN, a back-and-forth movie review blog by two snarky newspapermen named Joe from Minnesota, Joe Froemming and Joe Brown. We will take turns selecting a movie — any movie we want — and review it here. For this installment, Froemming picked “Halloween III: Season of the Witch.”
The Movie: “Halloween III: Season of the Witch”
Starring: Tom Atkins, Stacey Nelkin, Dan O’Herlihy
Director: Tommy Lee Wallace
Plot Summary: (From IMDB) Kids all over America want Silver Shamrock masks for Halloween. Doctor Daniel Challis seeks to uncover a plot by Silver Shamrock owner Conal Cochran.
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 43 percent
Froemming: All right, it is October and that means it is Halloween Month here at the JOE-DOWN. And what better way to kick it off with an installment in the classic John Carpenter slasher series “Halloween?”
Now it is time to get your ghost-white William Shatner masks on, your blue coveralls and knives….
Wait. No, not with this “Halloween” movie. No Michael Myers, no Laurie Strode and even though the subtitle impies it, there is not even a witch in this.
That’s right, I picked “Halloween III: Season of the Witch,” the one famously known as the “One Without Michael Myers In It.” And you know what? Good. They swung for the fences with an anthology film and the people didn’t get it at the time. Or maybe it was the fact the movie is (REDACTED) weird as hell was the reason it did poorly. I mean, drunk doctors, a mask company that somehow exists making only three different masks a year despite worldwide advertisements, Stonehenge is stolen and perhaps the most god awful earworm in cinematic history:
And I love this (REDACTED) film.
Look, I recently sat through all 10 of these movies and wrote my tale of it, but I wanted to see what Brown thought of this wildly bizarre film. Now as this pumpkin mask I am wearing caves in with bugs and snakes coming out of my skull, Brown what are your first thoughts?
Brown: My first thought is that this is the dumbest “Terminator” movie we’ve ever watched. And we saw the most recent one where John Connor is the bad guy.
I had heard of this movie just for the sole idea that this is “The One Without Mike Myers in it.” Kind of like the first “Friday the 13th” is the one without Jason Vorhees.
I also learned more about it when the Nostalgia Critic talked about it in his Top 11 New Halloween Classics.
And yeah, it’s dumb. It’s really dumb. There’s a reason Mike Myers was in the rest of them for the rest of the franchise. It remains dumb even if you didn’t put the “Halloween” tag with it.
But is it enjoyable dumb? Well, we’ll work through that. Because I’m still not sure as of the start of this review.
While I warm up my synth, get us underway Froemming.
Froemming: Instead of Haddonfield, Ill. like the rest of the “Halloween” movies, we are magically whisked away to Northern California, where we see a man running from a car in the dead of night clutching a pumpkin mask. And this is when I begin laughing at this movie: Instead of seeing the usual masked Myers stalking people, in this film we get what I can only assume are members of the local Republican Party of Santa Mira, Calif. stalking their prey. Suits, yuppie haircuts, expensive gloves and cars, I think Conal Cochran created a robot army of Patrick Batemans. So, don’t try to one-up one of these things with a flashy business card.
Now the man being chased, Harry Grimbridge, escapes one of these GOP delegates by comically killing it with the slowest crushed-by-vehicle scene after the one in “Austin Powers.”
Brown: The start of this movie, I thought this random man was being chased by Christine. And between a movie starting at an underpass with emotionless humans stalking about, this is the first time I wrote down that this movie is a “Terminator” rip-off. All it needed was the chugging drums from that movie’s soundtrack.
Though, to be fair, the ‘80s-ass synth soundtrack to this movie was far and away my favorite thing. I’ve been on a kick lately where I’ve been listening to the soundtrack of “Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon” and it’s very reminiscent of that.
Froemming: I am a sucker for John Carpenter’s synth soundtracks. This one is no exception.
Brown: It was to the point where I wrote that I think this movie was created to make use of the leftovers from the “Escape From New York” soundtrack.
Speaking of soundtracks, as this wanderer is brought to the hospital, we hear the Silver Shamrock jingle for the first time. And yes, (REDACTED) you for getting that stuck in my head for the rest of the day.
Froemming: If you think it will take only a day for this song to escape your brain, you are in for a treat, my friend.
Anyway, the wanderer gets to a hospital with the help of a weird-ass gas station attendant who just sort of rambles off nonsense to the medical staff.
Brown: Let’s mention here that this attendant is the one black guy that survives a horror movie that isn’t brought up ironically or calling attention to it. After the guy blurts out “They’re going to kill us all” he just goes “NOPE” and ghosts the bulk of the movie.
Froemming: That is true.
We also meet our
functioning alcoholic hero, Dr. Daniel Challis as he arrives to his ex-wife’s house and gives his children Halloween masks they don’t want.
Dr. Challis is pretty much the lead from “Mitchell” in this, only he is a drunk doctor, not a drunk cop. Does his alcoholism play any part to the story of this? No. No it does not. Does not hinder him at any point. He just loves his booze. Maybe the actor demanded he could drink on set the whole time. I dunno.
Brown: I doubt it. He’s not Nick Nolte.
Froemming: So he gets called into work after a long three decades of drinking like he is vying for a Supreme Court seat. He tends to the stranger there, and is so rattled by the man’s outburst I imagine he had to slug a shot of vodka to get his bearings. Because he pretty much passes out on the hospital couch after that.
Brown: Apparently, security passed out from its drinking as well because one of these suited-up T1000s just waltzes into the hospital and kills this man, who we find out is named Harry Grimbridge. I’m still not entirely sure how Harry is killed. Did the Terminator ram his fingers into Harry’s eyes and shove them into his brain? Or did he dig in and try to tear out the dude’s nose? I dunno, he’s dead.
Froemming: The nurse says his skull was crushed. In a very awkward way I guess.
Brown: I must of missed that while I wondered that the hell was happening.
And then the Terminator is dead because he burns himself alive in a car like a modern-day monk.
Froemming: If only someone got a picture, it could have been the album art for a politically charged Ted Nugent record! Take that, Rage Against The Machine!
Brown: Ted would only do that if the Terminator looked like a Clinton.
Needing someone to ID the body, Harry’s daughter Ellie is called in and is mystified as to why someone murdered her father in cold blood. So, what is a grieving daughter to do? Why, she enlists the help of
a private eye a doctor with a drinking problem who was about to watch “Halloween” on the bar TV because this movie is SOOOOOO meta that it may as well have been written by Dan Harmon.
Best part of this start of the investigation: Dr. Challis calls his wife and tells her he can’t watch the kids because he has to take care of some serious business. As a viewer, it’s hard to take a declaration of serious business serious when he has a (REDACTED) six pack on top of the pay phone.
This serious business should have been a stay at the Betty Ford Clinic.
Froemming: He bought a six-pack for like a 45-minute drive!
The daughter, Ellie, says the nurses said she could find him at the bar. Look, I like to have libations as well, but if someone told me I could find my doctor slamming shots in a bar, I’d ask for a new one.
Ellie enlists the hammered doctor, because he is still shook from her father’s death. So they head out to where he was last known to be: The Silver Shamrock factory in Santa Mira, a small town that is probably populated by all the Irish people run out of Springfield during Whacking Day.
Brown: And a fine job they did!
So Dr. Challis and Ellie start rolling through the town so slowly I’m surprised Craig and Smokey from “Friday” aren’t yelling “DRIVE BY!”
They need to investigate further so they stay at this motel that clearly takes hourly rates. And the manager tells them about the Silver Shamrock factory saving the small town. He’s like Chris Farley’s character in “Wayne’s World.”
Froemming: Did it? We hear from the bum later that the doctor shares his bottle with, on the assurance the bum doesn’t have any diseases, that the factory hires out-of-towners, so where the hell do all these people work?
Brown: That homeless man also gets his head ripped off by a Terminator. Look, if “Stranger Things” taught us anything, it’s that it’s best not to question the strange factory in town.
There’s also the Kupfer family staying at the hotel, which makes no damn sense because they arrive in Santa Mira in a Winnebago. They’re built to be slept in, sir.
And after signing the guest book and seeing that her dad also stayed at this hotel, Dr. Challis is on high alert. Also on high alert is his libido as he starts making out with Ellie despite the fact there has been NO sexual chemistry between the two. The feeling of mystery and murder really gets this man aroused.
Froemming: Well, he did down a six-pack of beer and has a bottle of booze. I am guessing he is not in his right mind at this point.
We also have Marge in the next room. She has a store in San Francisco that sells these masks and is mad that she had to travel to this small town to make her order.
For a factory that is making all these masks with an insane TV ad promotion, you’d think there would be trucks going in and out of that factory non-stop. But we see, this place is almost as abandoned as Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory. Just the old man and his slave labor.
Now, Marge does say the Silver Shamrock button on the masks fall off pretty easily. Which, look, if this company’s plan is to kill everyone with those buttons, you’d think they’d invest in stronger glue.
In her room, Marge starts picking at the electronic doodad (technical term) on the back of the Shamrock button AND IS SHOT IN THE FACE WITH A LASER!
Wasn’t expecting that so kudos on an inventive kill scene, movie.
Brown: And then bugs start coming out of her laser wounds and this film briefly went into Cronenberg territory. Not quite what I expected.
Dr. Challis is also getting more confused when he calls his hospital and they have been unable to find any human traces in the burning car from earlier. Just car and electronic components. The nurse also flirts with Dr. Challis is apparently the hottest doctor this side of McSteamy.
I hate that I just referenced “Grey’s Anatomy.”
It also didn’t help that Marge is whisked away to the Silver Shamrock factory instead of, you know, the hospital? Do toy factories have world-class medical care on sight? I doubt the people that assemble GI Joe’s have the equivalent of the Mayo Clinic mere feet away.
Still trying to get to the bottom of this, Dr. Challis and Ellie can’t find any new info at the factory. But what luck! They are invited to go on a tour from the Kupfer family and the factory owner, Mr. Cochran.
Quick question: After saying that an order got lost on behalf of her father, Cochran says that they will gift Ellie a free shipment of masks. … Why? It’s one more day to Halloween! Halloween! Halloween! … There’s no way she’d sell them in time.
Froemming: Why are they even making masks still? Cochran’s business model is baffling and he should be out of business for being bad at running it.
Brown: But he’s one of the richest people in the world according to Mr. Kupfer. … Yeah, he was probably a tax cheat like the Trump family.
Froemming: He runs his business like Dubbya ran the Texas Rangers. So, his dad probably bails him out? I dunno.
They go on the tour and we see that the final step in the mask-making process is top secret, so I am guessing asbestos is involved considering who is running the business.
Also on the tour, Mr. Kupfer tells Challis that Cochran is the inventor of many gags, such as the sticky toilet paper (seriously, (REDACTED) anyone who finds that funny) and the world-famous DEAD DWARF GAG!
What the (REDACTED) is the Dead Dwarf Gag? You know what? I don’t wanna know. Sounds like something you’d find on Urban Dictionary.
Brown: Between the secret final process and the dead dwarf rumblings, Ellie and Mr. Challis are ready to bail. But when Dr. Challis calls the operator but all he gets is Jamie Lee Curtis telling him he can’t get through.
Seriously, this movie had Jamie Lee Curtis and only used to be the operator. YOU’RE PAYING HER, WHY NOT JUST DO AN ACTUAL “HALLOWEEN” SEQUEL?!
Froemming: Well, after watching all 10 of those movies in a week, another Michael Myers movie was completely pointless. “Halloween 4” was just awful.
Brown: The Terminators kidnap Ellie and start hunting down Dr. Challis. After being tossed into a pile of boxes, Dr. Challis ends up killing one of these Terminators and it turns out to be a robot. So, a literal Terminator.
Should James Cameron have sued? I think he should have sued. Dr. Challis may as well have been Linda Hamilton here:
Froemming: The robot he killed look suspiciously like Peter Cetera from the band Chicago.
Now Challis gets the classic James Bond villain exposition: Cochran has stolen a boulder from Stonehenge. How? He says it’s quite the story and ends it there.
(REDACTED) you, Cochran. That’s something I WANTED TO KNOW!
Brown: Yeah, this is all I thought of when seeing that piece of Stonehenge.
Froemming: He then shows Challis what this insane mystical power the rock and his Skynet technology can do. With his cameras, he shows the Kupfer family in a room with a television. They think they are giving notes on a mask ad, even though Halloween is mere hours away. The TV pops on, the jingle plays and the young boy in the pumpkin mask starts shaking, his head caves in and bugs and snakes come oozing from his face.
Why not just nuke the world? Why bank your evil plan on crappy masks, Stonehenge and the hopes the glue holding those buttons in place do not erode?
Brown: It goes to show why the Pagan rituals died out since they were sacrificing children, promising that this tradition would only last for one generation.
Froemming: I will give Cochran credit: He pronounces Samhain correctly in his speech. Dr. Loomis in “Halloween II” pronounces it like the rest of America: Wrong.
Brown: Ehh, blame Danzig.
When Cochran shows how the masks work on the Kupfer’s son, my initial thought was they were trying to kill kids with seizures. Turns out, it’s to turn them into bugs and rattlesnakes.
So Cochran’s way of killing Dr. Challis is by tying him to a chair, putting a mask on him and making him watch the original “Halloween?” Wow, torture a guy by making him watch a movie I’d rather be watching.
Froemming: Cochran doesn’t take into account that Challis hasn’t had a drink in a while, so his survival instincts kick in so he can find a cold beer or nine to drink. He kicks the TV, uses a penknife to cut his restraints and throws the mask on the camera watching him.
Brown: I couldn’t tell what he freed himself with. I thought he escaped through the power of plot convenience.
Froemming: I think the DTs would have killed him before the commercial aired.
So now Challis is sneaking around, probably looking for a liquor cabinet, and he finds a phone, where he calls the nurse he tricked into breaking state and federal laws to investigate a murder he had no right looking into.
Brown: Also, isn’t that the job of forensic scientists and not nurses at a hospital?
ALSO, one of the Terminators ends up killing the nurse with a power drill “Pi”-style. But why do the Terminators need gloves while in the midst of murder? If they do have fingerprints, they wouldn’t be on file anywhere. Or do all these Terminators have priors?
Froemming: Maybe they don’t want blood all over their hands, Brown.
Challis finds Ellie strapped to a bed, and they head out toward Cochran and his stolen part of Stonehenge, which I still find odd he was able to do and we didn’t learn how.
Through stealth maneuvers only a creepy drunk knows, he and Ellie grab a box of Silver Shamrock buttons and sneak up to the rafters of the room while getting the computers to play the jingle.
They then drop the buttons on the robots, causing a Stargate or something to open up that also turns Cochran into a mime I think.
My big question here: We find out in a bit that Ellie is now a homicidal Terminator now, WHY DID SHE HELP HIM?
Brown: How does a flashing pumping on a TV harness the energy of a cursed piece of Stonehenge to turn masks into homes of bugs and snakes? The answer is this movie is dumb and it’s all “LOL EVIL.”
Froemming: Magic. The answer is MAGIC!
Brown: This movie makes Rob Zombie’s “Halloween” seem well thought out.
Because all these evil messages were in a circle (or something?) they react with the stone slab that absorbs (or something?) Cochran and causes the sky to turn into a gross hue like in “Highlander 2.”
Dr. Challis and Ellie drive away, but not before Ellie starts choking the good doctor because in one of the most blatant plot twists ever, she is now a Terminator.
If you can’t tell, I really would have rather covered a “Terminator” movie.
Ellie is now a Terminator, but she underestimates the power of a drunk man behind the wheel, as he crashes the car and in the aftermath, rips her head off.
All that came before was apparently pillow talk with Ellie.
Brown: Challis crashes into a tree and doesn’t even walk with a limp or any real effects from it. I’d like to think because of the divorce and ALL the booze, Challis can no longer feel pain.
Froemming: He then storms into the gas station from the start of the movie and calls ONE TV station to demand a paid commercial not air.
Strange to think of a time when a place would be like “Welp, this drunk man on the phone told us to pull the commercial, better listen to him.”
And they do. Well, two of the three stations do. Remember when TV was only three stations? I don’t, or at least not really.
Brown: This movie also came out after cable TV started becoming a thing people had. So, he’s going to be on that phone for a long time. And a lot of children are about to turn into rotted pumpkins or something.
Then the movie just ends.
Froemming: Just like the finale to “The Sopranos,” this movie ends on an ambiguous note. And like the finale to “The Sopranos,” people hated it.
OK, why don’t we pop on our Silver Shamrock masks and trick-or-treat down to recommendations.
WOULD YOU RECOMMEND?
Froemming: I would. The movie is so stupid, but is enjoyable in how stupid it is. The “Halloween” movies that followed were just more of the same. This one at least tried something different.
Brown: Look, I appreciate this movie doing something different. But no, I can’t recommend it. I made the honest effort to review this movie on it’s own merits and still, it’s just too stupid. It’s maddening stupid, not fun stupid.