Halloween Scene: Scream Factory’s Halloween III Season Of The Witch

I don’t think I’ve ever done a straight-up DVD review of a film I’ve already reviewed here on UM.com, but these Shout Factory re-issues are just too rad not to talk about. Over the past few years, I’ve become a big fan of the red-headed step child of the Halloween franchise. I like how kooky and weird the movie is and adore Tom Atkins and his performance as the doctor who doesn’t really care about his family, but wants to help a pretty young thing figure out a mystery involving Halloween masks turning children into monsters.

When Shout Factory announced their brand new horror-themed endeavor Scream Factory, I was jazzed. I got even more excited when I saw that Halloween II and III were going to be the first offerings. Shout’s known for putting all kinds of awesome extra features on their DVDs and Blurays and this one is no exception as it includes commentaries with director Tommy Lee Wallace and Atkins separately, a making-of feature with almost everyone involved in the film, trailers, still galleries and an installment of Horror’s Hollowed Grounds showcasing the film.

I haven’t listened to both commentaries just yet because of time constraints, but I loved the other extras. I watched the behind the scenes doc first called Stand Alone: The Making of Halloween III Season of the Witch. It starts off lamenting the film’s unfortunate designation as the Halloween movie that tried and failed to launch the franchise as a series of anthologies, but then really gets into the nitty gritty, including a lot of stuff I hadn’t heard, read or seen before. I especially liked the story about how the Silver Shamrock theme song came about, I thought all that was really fun and interesting.

I also enjoyed watching the Horror’s Hollowed Ground video. I first became aware of this concept as a feature in HorrorHound, a magazine I like even given its editing problems (at least back when I was reading it a year or two back). Basically host/writer Sean Clark takes a movie and goes to the locations it was filmed. In this case, he’s actually joined by Wallace, which makes for an interesting experience. Between this and the making-of feature, I felt like I got a ton of information about the film, so when I did listen to some of the commentaries, it felt like a bit of a rehash. That’s why I’m holding off a bit right now so that when I do go back and listen to them, they’ll feel fresh and new.

If you’re any kind of Halloween or Season of the Witch fan, I can not recommend picking up this single disc 30th anniversary “Silver Shamrock” Edition more. It’s definitely worth it.

Halloween Scene: Amityville Horror (1979) & Amityville II: The Possession (1982)

Sometimes I wonder if BC of HorrorMovieADay and I were separated at birth, because our taste in horror movies seems so in synch sometimes. Take his review of the original Amityville Horror for example. I watched the movie and realized I don’t like haunted house movies because the people can just leave and be fine, then read his review and he said just about the same thing. Now, I will add that I do like old haunted mansion/estate movies like original The Haunting or House On Haunted Hill. More on that in a bit.

So, the plot of AH is that James Brolin, Margot Kidder (who, yes, you do get to see topless) and their kids move into a house that the previous family was murdered in. Somehow they don’t know this, nor does anyone in town refer to it until well after it’s clear the house is haunted and driving Brolin mad. I’ll be honest, I didn’t hear all of the story details because it’s one of those movies that’s super quiet, so you have to turn the volume up just to hear what’s being said, then they’ll throw in this ridiculously loud scream or cat hiss. Seeing as how I was watching this thing late at night, I had to keep alternating and hoping the missus wouldn’t wake up. It was annoying. And, since the movie’s generally pretty boring (there are some cool gags here and there, like one of the too-many kids getting locked in a closet and her sister not doing anything to help her, we’re talking hours) I didn’t really care.

Again, I don’t get why they don’t just leave. The missus and I are looking to start the process of buying a house and you know what? Even if we spend every dime we have, don’t have anywhere else to go and have moved all of our stuff in and THEN crazy shit starts happening, I’m out! Screw it. And that seems to be what the house wants, though it’s hard to tell because it doesn’t really have any agency or agenda. Things just happen, but whatever it is does have the ability to mess up some priest’s car nowhere near the house, causing him to crash. So, it seems the best thing to do is just leave, especially when Brolin goes pretty quickly from a normal looking dude to a complete maniac.

This was a hard one to get through because I really didn’t care, but I’m trying to make this daily horror double feature happen and want the movies to be related whenever possible. Luckily, the sequel wasn’t too bad, at least for the first half.

So, what made Amityville II: The Possession better than the first? Well, first off, it gets to the weirdness much sooner because Burt Young (Pauly from the Rocky flicks), the patriarch of another big family, is a dick right off the bat, the house just moves things along faster, with a gun being held to dad’s head within the first half hour. Another reason I dig this movie more than the original is that whatever the thing in the house is (a demon I guess) actually has some agency. There’s an awesome POV sequence where it comes out of the hidden room in the basement, covers a crucifix with a table cloth and starts looking at the oldest son. Later, it really starts haunting him in an even cooler scene with these great tracking shots that swoop up and around him while he scurries up the stairs, ending in what looks like the invisible demon using the son as a trampoline. After that, he’s basically possessed and getting messages from the demon through his Walkman.

Or at least I hope so because, well, he has sex with his sister. There’s some weirdness between them early on that I noted in their first scene together, but later, after he’s possessed, the brother goes into the sister’s room, the sister basically tells her brother that she thinks her dad is forcing their mom have sex with her. Right after that, brother tells sister she’s beautiful and says: “Take off your nightgown, just for a second.” And she responds: “Okay, but just for a second.” GUH, it’s SO GROSS. They start making out and then we cut to her confessing to the priest. Oh, and to make matters even worse, later, the brother tells her to leave him alone and then the mom asks what she’s done to her brother and slaps her! This might be the most dysfunctional family since Leatherface’s.

The son spends the good parts of the movie struggling with not killing his asshole dad and then, finally, SPOILER he gives in and kills them all. The movie should have ended there. Instead, it goes on and the priest tries to get the demon out of the son (who’s still alive and in jail) and it turns into an Exorcist rip-off. There is a cool effect where the son’s head starts breaking apart, but it isn’t worth that whole extra 20 or 30 minutes of derivative nonsense. Were I to watch this movie again, I would turn it off right after the priest wakes up on his fishing trip. The end. That movie would get a solid four stars instead of the 2.5/3 it has now in my head.

Again, houses aren’t scary because they’re familiar. I know how houses work, so it’s pretty easy to tell when something’s amiss (like when an entire room explodes and some asshole blames two little kids). Sure, when I’m in a strange place, I might get the willies, but random things moving around and blood coming out of things would make me leave immediately. I spend the whole movie wondering why these people are so stupid (more so in the first movie which takes place over 20 days than the shorter time frame of the first sequel). However, I do like older haunted house movies because those places are remote and unfamiliar. There’s secret passageways and other cool things going on, basically there’s more unknown than creaky pipes and opening drawers or whatever.

I’ve got the third Amityville flick on my Instant queue, but I don’t think I’m going to watch it anytime soon, I’ve got enough other goodness to get through and review this month.

Halloween Scene: Halloween 3 Season of the Witch (1982)

4:00:25 am

So, as I already explained Halloween 3 was supposed to be the beginning of an anthology film series based around the creepy holiday of Halloween. Instead, Season of the Witch turned into an abnormality in the Michael Myers series, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a good flick.

John Carpenter still produced this third installment and he did the score, but Tommy Lee Wallace wrote and directed this installment about an evil mask corporation that used pieces of Stonehenge to make witch, mummy and pumpkin masks that would make the wearer turn into a monster and then die if they were listening to the commercial jingle after the first Halloween flick played on TV. It’s a pretty crazy plot and only gets crazier when you really delve into the plot, but damn is it a fun movie.

Forger all the “where’s Michael Myers?” complaints, this movie is enjoyable on its own. And lets be honest, none of the Michael Myers flicks after this one were all that new and inventive (and I’m saying that as a huge MM fan).

H3 stars veteran horror actor Tom Atkins (Maniac Cop, Night of the Creeps, Creepshow) as a doctor who gets drawn into this crazy world by a woman whose father set fire to himself in Atkins’ hospital. Yeah, it’s just that confusing.

With much respect to my hero Brian over at Horror Movie a Day , we share the same favorite scene. Yous see Atkins has a wife (I think an ex, but I’ll be honest, as usual, I wasn’t paying as much attention as I should have and fell asleep at some point towards the end before waking up) and two kids. He’s supposed to take the kids trick or treating on Halloween, but he gets wrapped up with the girl whose dad died. She’s been doing a lot of digging into her father’s disappearance and found out that he had been to some small town where a mask factory is. Which brings me to my favorite scene. Atkins calls his wife and tells her that he can’t take the kids out because he has to go to a fictional medical conference. He’s at a payphone, by the way, and after he hangs off he slides a six pack off of the top of the pay phone (which I hadn’t noticed until then) and gets in the car with this woman he just met.

They end up in a motel filled with other people trying to get to the mask factory. One guy is the number one mask seller in the company. His kid ends up being a test subject whose head turns into bugs and snakes. There’s another lady who discovers the Stonehenge chip inside the mask and fiddles with it until a blue lazer shoots out of it and burns her face off. It’s a GREAT effect when you get to see her practically melted face. Well done!

From there, things get a little fuzzy as I was blogging about Freaks and getting a bit sleepy. Anyway, Atkins and the girl try and infiltrate the mask company. Atkins gets caught and tied up. The mask company dude explains something about how Stonehenge is involved and then ties Atkins up in a room which he easily breaks out of. YEAH!

The end of the movie involves him discovering that the girl her saved is actually some kind of robot (it makes sense within the movie I guess), her/it almost killing him and then him getting to a gas station where he calls the TV stations and tells them to turn the commercial off, but one of the three stations doesn’t. Frick, there goes the world I guess.

So, yeah, the only Michael Myers inclusion is on a TV commercial and that’s just fine in my book because this movie is totally bizonkers in its own right. The evil mask owner freaking stole Stonehenge Carmen San Diego style. That’s AWESOME. It’s over the top and fantastic and I think I’d watch Tom Atkins in just about anything, so you should give H3: Season of the Witch a chance and bask in it’s out-there glory.

Also, the opening credits are a really cool “update” tribute to the original Halloween’s glowing jack-o-lantern as you get to see pieces of a pumpkin created on an old school computer. It really makes you appreciate the internet.