‘Halloween 2’ and ‘Halloween 3: Season of the Witch’

Hey, remember when I said I’d be watching all of Halloween movies? Finally, I got around to a couple! Let’s check ’em out…

'Halloween II' movie poster

Halloween II (1981) Directed by Rick Rosenthal. Starring Jamie Lee Curtis, Donald Pleasance, Pamela Susan Shoop, Lance Guest, Charles Cyphers, Leo Rossi, Dick Warlock.

Laurie Strode is having a really, really bad night and it’s only halfway through. Halloween II picks up right from where we left off on the first movie, finishing off that fateful Halloween evening. Dr. Loomis (Donald Pleasance) has shot Michael Myers a half dozen times but the monster still got right back up and disappeared into the Halloween night. As the town begins piecing together the tragedy that has taken place, Laurie Strode is rushed off to the hospital and Loomis continues searching Haddonfield for his escaped patient. Meanwhile, the evil named Michael Myers continues his own terrible pursuit…

Halloween II is inferior to the original and yet, for all of its flaws, it remains an entertaining slasher film. As demanded by the wave of slasher films that attempted to cash in on Halloween‘s success, the sequel upped the gore and kill count while leaving behind the suspense that made the original so effective. It may seem obvious to state it but after watching the sequel, John Carpenter’s direction is really what made the first film work so well. I guess you can’t blame first time director Rick Rosenthal for not being Carpenter.

The script attempts to build a broader, unnecessary backstory for Michael Myers. In a clumsy revelation from Nurse Marion Chambers (Nancy Stephens), we learn that Laurie Strode is actually Michael Myers’s sister. This adds a motive to his attacks, dampering the notion that Myers is simply an embodiment of evil, in spite of Loomis’s constant proclamations that “He is pure evil!!” However, I suppose it does have the unintended consequence of allowing the story to continue in the upcoming sequels, in spite of Carpenter’s plans otherwise.

Here’s a question: Why stick the main character in a hospital bed for half of the film? Poor Jamie Lee Curtis, our heroine from the last film, is trapped in her room, drugged up by a halfway drunk doctor. She finally gets up during the second half only to uselessly stumble around the hospital searching for escape. Laurie suffers from an adverse reaction to the drug that intermittently impairs her ability to move steadily, mostly when it’s convenient to increase the tension. She is never given the opportunity to stand her ground.

In spite of what seems to be more screen time, Myers is not the same ominous and invasive presence that he was in the first film. Dick Warlock, regular stunt double for Kurt Russell, wears the Shatner mask this time around and, as legendary as the man is, the screenplay doesn’t allow him to live up to Nick Castle’s previous performance. As with Jaws, less of the monster can go a long way.

And yet, as much as I’ve just complained about it, I found Halloween II thoroughly entertaining when I went along for the ride. Even though it lacks the overall skill and tone of the original, there are some bits that work well. In once scene reminiscent of the original, Michael Myers’s masked face slowly dissolves in from out of the shadows as he approaches one of his victims from behind. It’s a common but still effective technique. The kills and added gore are fun, in spite of how much mainstream critics tend to complain about such things. From a simple knife to the chest to a face scalding in overheated hot tub or a needle injection into the eyeball… Roll your eyes, critics and “normies”. This is why horror fans go to the movies.

'Halloween III' poster

Halloween 3: Season of the Witch (1982) Directed by Tommy Lee Wallace. Starring Tom Atkins, Dan O’Herlihy, Stacey Nelkin, Ralph Strait, Garn Stephens, Al Berry, Essex Smith, Michael Currie.

Carpenter’s next idea was to develop an ongoing anthology of Halloween movies, each with a different, completely unrelated story, sort of like a yearly episode of The Twilight Zone. That meant no Michael Myers, much to the disappointment of the fans of the previous films. This idea began and ended with what is reportedly the worst of the Halloween series and so far that bears out.  It has its share of gore and entertaining kills, but… ugh… that damned jingle.

Halloween III opens with a man, Harry Grimbridge (Al Berry), running for his life from a car driven by mysterious men in suits. Clutching a bright orange jack-o’-lantern mask, Harry yells at anybody he encounters, “They’re going to kill us all!” He ends up in a hospital where he is killed by one of his pursuers. The killer then sets fire to himself in his car, which explodes immediately, because, you know, it’s a car in a movie. Dr. Dan Challis (Tom Atkins) is alarmed by the death of his patient and decides to assist the deceased’s cute daughter, Ellie (Stacey Nelkin) in discovering what drove her father to his awful end. They make their way the Northern California town of Santa Mira, home to Silver Shamrock, the novelty company that manufactured the mysterious mask. What they discover is no less than a plan by the company’s owner, Conal Cochran (Dan O’Herlihy) to take over the world… using Halloween masks… and a continually played television commercial with a torturous song.

It is likely commendable that the story, although loosely inspired by Invasion of the Body Snatchers, is at least unique in its concept when compared to other horror films. But other than some entertaining kills, Halloween III is a pretty lousy movie overall. The worst part is, without a doubt, the cursed Silver Shamrock jingle. You will hear it over and over and over again throughout the movie’s running time on radios and TVs playing in the background. With a melody based on “London Bridge”, it is electronic in a horribly cheesy way. It is bouncy and grating and awful, awful, awful. It will stick with you for hours after the end of the film. I will likely avoid viewing Halloween III in the future for this reason alone. Your curiosity may be piqued and you might think you want to hear it but you are wrong. You do not.

I could go on about the clunky script, characters whose actions make little sense, and the implausibilities of stealing a chunk of Stonehenge as a part of a plan for world domination. Or I might complain about wasting the great Dan O’Herlihy in the role of a novelty company magnate. But the song is all I hear. “Eight more days ’till Halloween, Halloween…” echoing, pounding in my brain. By the end of the movie I wanted to laugh at the hilarious shot of the characters running away from the town, a terrible superimposed image with a laughable excuse for fire lighting up the background…. but the song drowned out my laughter. Hours later, it still bounced in my head, dancing upon my auditory cortex until I could hear nothing else…

Save yourself the agony. Avoid Halloween III. You don’t need any other reason than “Eight more days ’till Halloween, Halloween, Halloween……”

And whatever you do, don’t visit this site. Just… don’t.

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