So yeah, as you've gathered, I can't help watching this now through the lens I described above. Sci-fi horror setup, where Bond like, lone (and ladies!) man saves the world. Or tries to. And on Halloween! I can't remember when that occurred to me but now it's always at the back of my mind when I watch it.
Where to begin? At the beginning, I guess (duh!). The first thing that really hits you, I'd say, while the high tech intro graphics unfold, is the music. Starting with one of John Carpenter's characteristic stingers (and the first of good few in this), as always, it perfectly fits, rhythmically, musically, and atmospherically, with what's happening on screen. And before I forget, we mustn't overlook the contributions of his frequent collaborator, Alan Howarth. Honestly, mad props to both for the score. The more I listen to it, the more I'm convinced it's one of their best, and one of the most perfect horror soundtracks ever composed. From that opening, sort of loading music (for want of a better way of describing it), through the driving, many layered, epic jam that is "Chariot of Pumpkins", to some great, moody, more ambient pieces, it's a joy to listen to, and a note perfect accompaniment to the movie.
Oh, and how could I forget the earworm that is the Silver Shamrock song. You've got it stuck in your head now, don't you? Simple, memorable, and effective. I also love the more mental incarnation of the same theme that we hear when the film's doomsday device is activated. And it's weird... until just now I'd totally forgotten that the melody is from "London Bridge is Falling Down". Guess the Silver Shamrock lyrics had practically scrubbed my brain of it.
While it's quite different from the score for the first and second films, there are some similar motifs, and the vibe very much recalls those. So in terms of feel, there's a pleasing overlap between all three of them. Carpenter and Debra Hill's involvement aside, this is also largely thanks, no doubt, to returning cinematographer Dean Cundey, who again gives the movie a beautifully moody look throughout. On one of the commentaries, I heard Tom Atkins refer to him as "The Dean of Darkness", due to his love of shooting low level lit scenes and his mastery of them. An apt nickname, indeed.
In films in general, but especially horror, atmosphere is one of the most important things to me. I guess it's the total effect delivered by image, music and mood, which, when done well, really pulls you straight through the screen. And Halloween III (again, ditto I and II) is a perfect example. Plus, for a movie to watch on the day itself, next to its predecessors, you couldn't really ask for one more perfect. They overflow with the spirit of the holiday from end to end.
I don't want to make this a super long post (he says), so I'll keep things fairly succinct, but before I sign off, I also want to mention a few more MVPs from this film. The casting is generally spot on and everyone is wonderful, but the standouts are, for my money, our hero and villain. Yup, the great Tom Atkins, and the also amazing Dan O'Herlihy.
So I've talked already about how Tom Atkins is basically Bond in disguise for me here. And it won't surprise you if I say I wish he'd played him. Sure, he's not exactly classically handsome or anything. But he's up there with any '80s action or horror star, in my book. A good analogue I guess would be Reggie Bannister, from the Phantasm films. I mean both are regular johns, who you can imagine going out for a beer with. And Bannister is also a bit of a ladies man.
Aside from sacking off his ex-wife and kids (grabbing a six pack off the pay phone after he hangs up on the former, which always make me laugh) to go off with, going back to my analogy, his Bond girl, Ellie Grimbridge (Stacey Nelkin, who is also solid in this), James, I mean Dan, sorry, also sort of (but not really) hits on colleague, Nurse Agnes (Maidie Norman). And, it's implied he had/possibly still has, an on/off relationship with another co-worker, Teddy (Wendy Wessberg). Like I said, he's giving Bond a run for his money, and clearly has more than his share of testosterone. And like his character in The Fog waiting until he's in bed with Jamie Lee Curtis to ask her name, it cracks me up that he sleeps with Ellie before asking how old she is. So yeah, as you've no doubt gathered, I love Tom Atkins. And finally, fans of the male posterior will no doubt surely appreciate the brief cameo from his.
Before I mention a few final things I love about this movie, I'd be remiss if I didn't give some props to Tommy Lee Wallace. Between this, his contributions to other Carpenter films, and the 1990 TV movie adaptation of Stephen King's It, he's arguably assured his immortality and status as a genre legend. He's also to be commended for the not exactly enviable task of revising the original script written by the great Nigel Kneale, who was not exactly impressed with the alterations made, asking for his name to be removed from the credits. Oh, and finally, props to Don Post, who designed the now iconic masks. Apparently, he also designed the William Shatner mask that was, of course, famously altered for the original Halloween.
So, some concluding thoughts, or random things I love about Halloween III. Well for starters, while it's obviously more of a paranoid, sci-fi horror, Invasion of the Body Snatchers type film, I love how some slight slasher elements are still carried over. I.e. some of the kills, of course. Case in point, one of my favourite scenes is where the aforementioned Teddy is dispatched, via drill, by one of Cochran's robot henchmen. She's working late, with an easy listening tune playing on the radio, which we hear before and after she's killed, adding a nicely ironic counterpoint to the scene. Plus, he was wearing black gloves, making it kind of giallo-esque, which I dig.
I also love how Halloween, which is advertised early on, and then later seen on screen, in one of the film's greatest scenes, is an already established classic in the Halloween III's universe (and rightly so, of course). And that the part of the film playing, when Cochran is talking to Challis, is what might be my favourite scene from it, i.e. the part where Laurie is walking across the road, from the Doyle's to the Wallace's to investigate. I can't exactly articulate why, but I absolutely love that eerie, wordless journey. It sets up what's to come perfectly.
|By 2030, Bill Gates will have us all doing Halloween like this.|
|2020 got me like.|
|2020 also got me like.|