Monday, October 31, 2011

Film Appreciation - Mass Market for Sale

Guest contributor Rich Stange helps Film Appreciation celebrate our favorite holiday with an article on Halloween III: Season of the Witch.

Halloween is a holiday built upon old Pagan traditions. People used to dress up to make themselves look like a spirit so that the spirits would not haunt them. In today’s American society people dress up as scary, funny, cute, different, or sexy. The meaning of the holiday has changed several times over the generations. One thing that has never changed in American society is Halloween being a mass market product for sale. It holds just as true today as it did when Halloween III: Season of the Witch was first released.

Halloween III: Season of the Witch carries the curse in the Halloween franchise (and every popular franchise has one) of being the one that is different from the rest of the series. The film was doomed to fail from the very beginning just for being a part of the Halloween franchise and not offering such characters as Michael Myers and Dr. Loomis. Halloween was a groundbreaking film that catapulted the slasher genre into the mainstream. Halloween II was released after Friday the 13th and Friday the 13th Part 2 and followed the blood and gore path that Tom Savini paved.

Halloween III: Season of the Witch was about a business owner who owns a company that manufactures children's Halloween masks. They make what is called the Silver Shamrock masks, which has a lineup of three different characters: witch, skull, and pumpkin. The company puts a commercial on television that annoys parents, but sucks the kids in with a song. What nobody seems to know is that the masks are actually trapped. On Halloween night when the song is playing, by some sort of witchcraft technology, bugs, snakes, and other things appear from under the masks and kill the child wearing it. This business actually plans to murder millions of children on Halloween night. One man finds out about the company's plans and tries to warn others, but is killed. Then his daughter and a doctor go to the town where the company's factory is to investigate.

Companies are always coming up with new ways to access the juvenile clientele. They are always coming up with new ideas to train children to be consumers. They market products to children by airing commercials of toys during Saturday morning cartoons. When I was young it was pogs. Now it is silly bands. From generation to generation, children have always been washing the dishes and taking out the trash, and then wasting their hard earned five dollar allowances on ridiculous items. What also stays the same is Halloween. Every year parents are scrambling to purchase their children whatever the popular character costume may be. When I was young, it was Ghostbusters, today it is Transformers. The child will wear the costume one time, and as pajamas if the parent is lucky, and be too big for the costume by next season.

The way the commercials in Halloween III are set up during children's television programming parallels how corporate America markets video games, action figures, and dolls that shit themselves to American children. The way the one parent reacts to the commercials, always telling her kids to "turn that down!" in an annoyed tone indicates how parents feel every time their kids are exposed to a new product on television that they know their kids are going to want.


In addition to the social commentary provided by Halloween III: Season of the Witch, this film also works on the basic level of being a good horror film. It was written by John (Halloween) Carpenter and photographed by Dean (Halloween, Psycho II) Cundey. The film looked very bleak and terrifying. It had the end of the world type of feeling to it. The scenes at night were dark yet beautifully photographed. The music provided by John Carpenter and Alan Howarth was very creepy. The special effects when the black magic masks committed their murders were nasty and looked real.

All in all, do not dismiss this film just because it does not include Michael Myers. Halloween III: Season of the Witch is not only entertaining but thought provoking. It is a classic film based on an ancient Celtic Halloween tradition and stays true to the beliefs of Halloween of old, while mocking the modern American take on the holiday. This film is full of great actors like Tom Atkins who really involve the viewer in the plot. It is suspenseful, scary, and satirical. Halloween III: Season of the Witch is a classic horror film in every sense of the word, and it is time people stop dismissing it for the lack of Michael Myers and start to appreciate it for the intelligent and creative work of art that it is.

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