Pages

Monday, October 24, 2016

Season of the Witch

Two years ago, Noel Murray wrote a very thoughtful and well-worded think piece about how your opinion about a movie can change over time. Whether you love the movie every time you see it, you love it more (or less) over time, or you love it now but you originally hated it -- these kinds of shifts happen.

There are various reasons why this happens. I don't believe it's to impress peers or be a contrarian. When you come back to a movie, you are going to see it differently than how you originally saw it.

In my case, as of this year, I have a significantly different opinion on Halloween III: Season of the Witch.

This is the one Halloween film that does not feature Michael Myers as the antagonist, and none of the other films in the series reference the events that happen. Written and directed by Tommy Lee Wallace, it's a bastard child, a misfire. It's something that should be forgotten by many people. But thanks to the enduring popularity of the franchise, it continues to be packaged in DVD box sets and a part of the conversation.

When I saw Halloween III for the first time, it was 1998, and I was slowly going deep into the horror genre. Scream, Psycho, and Halloween all piqued my interest, so I was up for trying anything and everything, to a fault. I had heard of way more movies than the ones I had seen, like The Fog and Invasion of the Body Snatchers. And I had seen way more movies in pan-and-scan than in widescreen. The acting in Halloween III is nowhere near Oscar-worthy, but when the scope of the film is literally trimmed out to fit a 4:3 screen ratio, one can't help but look at the acting. (All this said, I saw Star Wars many, many times in 4:3 and I loved it then and still rank it as my favorite movie of all time.)

I didn't find value in B-movie acting, especially Tom Atkins' scene-chewing machismo. Same with the villains trying to kill lots of children on Halloween. I didn't realize there is a charm to that style of acting. It was either you're a great actor or not. (Great acting was what the Oscars, Peter Travers, and Siskel & Ebert said it was.)

About ten years ago, I watched most of the film in Spanish when I was quite bored one night. The film was even more campy to me. Any kind of redemption was not happening. The horse had left the barn and it wasn't coming back. The first two Halloween movies were the only ones worth watching over and over, while H2O and Rob Zombie's first Halloween movie was (and is still is) pretty good. Halloween III was one of the ones to skip.

A few months ago, an idea popped in my head: why don't I see this in widescreen for the first time? Since certain horror fans I trust gave high marks to the film, I figured I would give it one more chance.

By then, I had seen the original The Fog and the original Invasion of the Body Snatchers. It was not a shock that seeing Halloween III in 2016 was a much different (and better) experience. As it was original intended to be seen, it's pretty well shot. The in-jokes to the original Halloween (not just the TV ad for it shown in a bar, but also the casting of Nancy Loomis) are a nice meta touch. And there are some decent jump scares.

I came away thinking this was not a garbage movie, but not a great movie, either. Halloween III is way more enjoyable than the fourth, fifth, and sixth installments. Though the final act kinda throws a good build-up away with some really hammy moments, it's not an unwatchable movie. The fourth, fifth, and sixth installments movies went back over the same territory as the first two, thinking more Michael Myers mythology made for an excuse for sequels. From a producer aspect, I understand, but as a viewer, I'm not about to put the Halloween box set on a Christmas list.

Who knows? Maybe someday I will praise the merits of Michael Myers return, death, return, death, and return again. But it's probably not going to happen at this juncture.