Monday, July 17, 2006

"Shape"-less sequel: Halloween III

It's time again for Bad Movies A to Z. Yes, I know three months haven't passed since the last one, but I guess I'm on a roll (that's why there's butter on my pants). This time around, it's a Halloween movie. "Halloween III: Season of the Witch" has nothing to do with the first two, but that's okay.

The movie in a nutshell: This Michael "The Shape" Myers-less entry in the Halloween series focuses on a deranged toy maker who aims to kill kids everywhere with creepy Halloween masks.

The story: We open in Northern California on Oct. 23. A guy being chased by someone in a car runs down the street. He hides in a junkyard. A guy in a suit starts to strangle him. He smashes his assailant with a car and bolts.

There's a TV news report on the theft of the Bluestone from Stonehenge, followed by a commercial for Silver Shamrock masks.

The commercial jingle is set to the tune of "London Bridge is Falling Down," and ranks right up there with "It's a Small World" for getting stuck in your head and annoying the crap out of you, especially since it gets played about every other minute.

A gas station attendant is watching this when the power cuts out. The guy who was being chased startles him. Before he keels over, he tells the attendant "They're coming." In his hand is a jack o'lantern mask, not unlike one advertised a few minutes earlier on TV.

Elsewhere, Dr. Dan Challis visits his ex-wife. He's got masks for his kids. They already have Silver Shamrock masks and turn on the TV so they can see the commercial.

Dan gets paged; the old guy is admitted to the hospital, and Challis has to go in to work. While he's being filled in on the man's condition, the commercial plays on a nearby TV (that's the third time in less than the first 15 minutes of the movie). He says, "They're going to kill us all!"

The man is sedated and moved to a room. While Challis takes a rest, a suited man -- one of the pursuers -- goes to the old guy's room. He pokes the guy in the eyes and breaks his face from the inside. A nurse sees the assailant leave, and she screams. That wakes up Challis, who goes after the killer. The guy in the suit goes into his car, douses himself with gasoline and blows himself up.

He calls his ex to tell her he can't pick up the kids.

The next day, the man's daughter comes to identify her dad.

Challis checks with a friend at the coroner's office a few days later to get information about the killer.

A few days after that, Challis is in a bar watching TV. There's a commercial for the original Halloween (ha-ha) followed by another commercial for Silver Shamrock. He makes him change it. The old guy's daughter, Ellie Grimbridge, finds Challis and asks if her dad said anything before he died. The new friends decide to figure out who wanted her dad dead.

They head to Santa Mira, where the Silver Shamrock Novelties factory is. Santa Mira is populated by creepy people who stare at cars as they drive by. It's also monitored by cameras.

At the gas station, they pump the attendant for information. They rent a room at the adjacent motel. Challis checks the motel's guestbook and sees that Ellie's dad had been there recently.

Buddy and Betty Kupfer and their son, Little Buddy, come to stay at the motel. On his way to his room, he also sees a pissed-off lady who mutters something about the factory screwing up the order.

In the room, Dan and Ellie kiss. Smooth talker, that one is. Despite looking eerily like the old Brawny paper towels mascot, Challis is one quicker picker-upper.

Santa Mira also has a 6 o'clock curfew, which is broadcast over speakers throughout the city. Somehow there's a store open, and Challis buys some stuff there. He meets some bum in an alley and asks him about Conal Cochran, the head of Silver Shamrock. He also warns Challis about the cameras. Then he rambles about the weird goings-on in the factory and says that he wants to burn it down.

The bum stumbles away to his shanty, singing the Silver Shamrock song. Two guys in suits find him there and rip his head off. Tasty.

Ellie meets shop owner Marge Guttman (the lady Dan saw complaining earlier), who tells her how she has to deal with Silver Shamrock in person, and how the quality control is slipping. The trademark button, she explains, came off the mask.

Dan calls his friend at the coroner's office to ask about the dead murderer. She says that someone screwed up, because the remains were mechanical. Must be part of the car. Hmm...

After their horizontal hula practice, Dan and Ellie hear the Silver Shamrock commercial on the radio. Even Dan's tired of hearing it and he turns it off. Ellie wants more practice. Dan stops her first to ask her old she is. A smooth talker and classy...

In a nearby room, Marge Guttman checks out the Silver Shamrock button and starts poking it with a hairpin.

Bzzzaaat! A beam shoots her in the mouth, which would be bad enough (and it's pretty gross), but then a bug crawls out of her destroyed face.

Dan looks out the window to see guys in white coats taking Marge away. Mr. Cochran is going to care for the woman. In fact, he arrives to tell Dan and Ellie that they have a great facility for emergency treatment at the factory. He asks the motel owner what happened.

"Misfire," he says.

Something weird is going on, Dan surmises. No doy.

It's now Oct. 30. Dan calls his coroner friend. There's no indication that there was a body in the car. Just ashes and car parts. He asks her to find out everything about Cochran. Little does he know that the phone is bugged.

Dan and Ellie go to the factory, where they learn that Ellie's dad picked up an order. As she and Dan go to leave, they bump into the Kupfer family. They have an appointment to see Cochran because Buddy has sold the most Silver Shamrock masks in the whole country. Cochran apologizes to Dan and Ellie for the events of the previous night and says that Marge has been flown to a hospital in SF.

They are invited to take the factory tour with the Kupfers. They see how the masks are made and all that stuff. Call me kooky, but why are they still making masks the day before Halloween? Getting a jump on next year?

Little Buddy wants a mask. Cochran makes a point to give him one that has gone through "final processing." It's got the button on the back. Big Buddy asks about the final process. Cochran says no, citing safety concerns and trade secrets.

Challis notices those creepy guys standing around. He and Ellie take off. Ellie sees her dad's car. Before she can check it out, she's blocked by the creepy security guys.

At the motel, Dan tries to make a call but can't. Back at the room, Ellie has vanished. A group of the creepy guys is outside, and they break in. Dan runs away. The Odd Squad has taken Ellie to the factory. Dan finds a pay phone and again gets a recorded message. He takes off again.

He sneaks into the factory somehow and starts poking around. He sees an old lady in a room knitting. He asks her where Ellie is, but she doesn't answer. He shakes her and her head falls off. She's a machine. One of the suits attacks him, and he fights back. They're all machines, he discovers.

Cochran comes in. He knows who Dan is, and he says that Ellie is resting. Two goons haul him away.

It's Halloween now.

Should you want to rent this and you don't want to know how it ends, stop now. If you don't care, or if you just have to know how movies end even if you're going to see them yourself, keep on truckin'.

Challis is taken to the final processing room. Cochran starts talking about the masks. He says that Challis still has time to figure it all out. They walk into a room filled with computers. Also in the room is the missing stone from Stonehenge. The stone has a power in it, he says. Each button has a tiny pebble from the stone in it.

Cochran shows him where Ellie is -- strapped to a table. In another room is Marge's body. Cochran says that Challis needs to see a demonstration. The Kupfers -- still there, at the crack of dawn, I guess -- are taken to a "test room." Dan watches the events unfold on a monitor in the control room.

The commercial comes on the TV and tells Little Buddy to put on his mask.

"Watch the magic pumpkin!"

The flashing pumpkin graphic has a strange effect on the kid. He grabs his head and falls forward. Inexplicably, snakes and bugs pour from his misshapen head. Soon, the whole family is dead.

After it's over, Dan is taken away.

All across the country, kids are wearing the masks. The big giveaway is coming up at 9. The kids are instructed to have their masks on for the big surprise.

Dan's coroner friend tries to call him at the motel. It rings a few times and then she gets the automated message. She calls a guy named Roger -- she's found something. One of the creepy robot guys lurks nearby. It doesn't look good when he grabs a drill. Just as she figures out what the machinery is for, the guy attacks her with the drill. Scratch one coroner's office friend.

7:30 p.m.: Dan is strapped to a chair. He's going to be forced to watch the giveaway with a mask on. He asks Cochran why he's doing this. It's a joke, he says. A joke on all the children. Then he talks about the origins of Halloween and the festival of Samhain. The planets are aligned; the world is going to change.

He wishes Dan a happy Halloween and leaves the room. By now, it's almost 10 till 8; the movie "Halloween" is on. Dan breaks the TV with his feet -- apparently the screen was made of candy glass -- and frees himself. He lobs the mask onto the surveillance camera in his room. It's now 8:11; less than an hour before the giveaway. Dan escapes through air ducts and heads to the warehouse. He calls his ex-wife and tries to warn her about the masks. She hangs up on him.

Dan finds Ellie and tries to free her. Cochran sends some robot lackeys to catch them. They sneak into the control room. Dan grabs a Silver Shamrock button from a box and plays the giveaway commercial on the monitors. While it plays, he takes the box of buttons, goes up to a catwalk and dumps them over the side, which shorts out all the robots. Cochran is still standing, but something weird starts happening. The circle of computers glows. He sees Dan and Ellie up in the catwalk and give them a golf clap as if to say "Well played."

A beam flashes from the giant stone and disintegrates Cochran. The control room and the rest of the factory go up in flames. Dan and Ellie escape in a car. It's almost 9. Dan says they have to do something. Ellie tries to attack him. She's a robot! He drives into a tree and has to fight off the Elliebot with a tire iron. He knocks her head off. He sits back in the car, and one of the bot's arms tries to strangle him. He breaks its grip and throws it away.

Dan runs to a gas station -- the one from the beginning of the movie -- and asks to use the phone. He's trying to stop the giveaway promo from being shown. The TV stations begin to show technical difficulties screens. There's still one channel showing it. Dan shouts "Stop it! Stop it! Stop iiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiit!"

The end.

Afterthoughts: What the hell?

So a renowned toy maker/prankster has stolen one of the stones from Stonehenge and has brought it to his factory in California where he takes small pebbles from it and puts them into buttons that will go on Halloween masks. These buttons will be triggered by a TV signal, at which time, they bring forth bugs and snakes from the head of the masks' unlucky wearers.

While that makes no sense whatsoever, I think it's great. You've got to give them credit. Sometimes things are scary just because they make no rational sense.

However, there is a tiny problem. Cochran's plan is to kill all the children wearing the Silver Shamrock masks. Okay, I'll even grant that these are the most popular masks despite the rather plain designs. But the big ending cliffhanger depends on if Dan can get the third channel to stop showing the commercial. But they've already shown kids wearing masks in all parts of the country, even the east coast.

So even if Dan stopped the commercial from airing locally in Santa Mira, what about the kids in the other three time zones? Nine o'clock had already passed there. If a bunch of kids ended up dying while watching this commercial, wouldn't someone important have made the connection? Or are we to believe that everyone is dead, including adults and those who didn't buy the masks?

And at what point did Ellie become a robot? I'd assume that once Cochran kidnapped her, he killed her and replaced her with a robot. That way, even if Dan escaped, he'd still have a way to get him. But that's an awful lot of work for a bunch of ifs. He would've had to have created a robot that looked just like Ellie in the course of hours solely in case he caught Dan and Dan subsequently escaped but decided to look for her. Plus, why wouldn't she have stopped him when he was destroying the factory?

So maybe she was a bot the whole time? It would've been cool, but I don't think so. Even ignoring her display of emotions and her amorous encounters with Dan, we see her showering by herself. Amazing the robots might be, but given that Dan later punches one and rips out his innards, they don't seem to be sturdy enough to be watertight.

Obviously, I've just done more thinking than was probably expected of people who wanted to watch this.

It's a bit slow, but the effects scenes punch things up a bit. The scene where Marge Guttman gets lasered in the face is pretty gruesome. Still, it's a decent enough way to pass some time. It's not rocket science, but it's not aggressively stupid.


  1. Fantastic review! This is one of my fabourite movies of all time and I reviewed it myself as part of my Spooky Octoberfest. Go check it out!