SEPTEMBER 17, 2012
When I hosted a screening of Halloween III back in 2010 and moderated the Q&A with director Tommy Lee Wallace, it was filmed for what was originally going to be a special edition DVD from Universal, who owned the rights to it and the 2nd film. However, last October saw only Halloween II released by Uni (poorly at that), with Season of the Witch once again getting screwed over. Luckily, Shout! Factory has shown to be the smarter of the two companies, giving this underrated sequel the special edition DVD and Blu-ray it has always deserved, just in time for its 30th anniversary.
As any fan of the film will tell you, the biggest problem is the title - people wanted another Michael Myers adventure, because that's what a Halloween movie promised. I'm sure if they hadn't done H2 it wouldn't have been as big of an issue, as there would be no precedent that a sequel had to be about Myers (after all, no one minded that Friday the 13th Part 2 wasn't about Mrs. Voorhees, right?), so it's just another reason to reconsider Halloween II's slightly OVERrated legacy. It's taken literally decades for H3 to get its due, probably partially due to the later sequels being so bad that it was just starting to look better by comparison regardless of who it was about - same as I asked the audience: Would you really rather watch a movie with Busta Rhymes kung-fu fighting Myers? I would certainly hope not.
Now, it's not that Halloween III is a masterpiece. It's laughably cheap-looking at times (that orange sky effect when Challis and Ellie run out of the factory is just pitiful), the pacing can be a little slow at times, and yes, the plot holes are aplenty. One could point out that not a single thing about Cochran's plan makes the slightest bit of sense, and it'd be hard to argue beyond "Well yeah, he's insane!". But you have to look past that and see that the film is just a really creepy, blackly comic take on a Body Snatchers type film, where the only folks who see the truth are looked at as insane and thus not believed. This movie wouldn't work if it was a whole team of folks trying to stop Cochran, but when you have just the two (and one of them is Tom Atkins), it plays great.
And it's drenched in enough Halloween atmosphere for TWO movies, and believe me, if you watch them all you'd realize that the others could use it. While they all have pumpkins and usually some trick or treating or party, this one is the only one (except maybe Curse, sort of, and that one scene in Halloween II) that really ties into the holiday's origins, which are spelled out wonderfully by Dan O'Herlihy in his 3rd act speeches. It's also the only one with a lot of build-up to the night itself - most of them start on the 30th (Halloween II, obviously, starts at around 9pm on Halloween itself!), but we start a full eight days before here, giving Wallace and co. time to build up the characters and the season itself, not to mention a lot of spooky daytime scenes that the others barely ever have time for. I love the bit where Challis and Ellie drive into Santa Mira for the first time and everyone is just kind of watching them, not to mention the slowly building mystery of the autopsy for the guy who blew up in the parking lot in the film's opening reel.
However, if you're still in the "it sucks" camp, there's probably nothing here that will change your mind. The commentary by Tommy Lee Wallace is mostly fan service information - I'd say half the track was devoted simply to pointing out shooting locations (since Horror's Hallowed Grounds host Sean Clark is a co-moderator, that isn't surprising), with lots of admiration for Atkins' seeming irresistability to every female character. Nigel Kneale's original script, the film's initial backlash, etc - none of these things are discussed in detail, making the track a bit of a letdown (especially since Clark and Wallace also provide a 20 minute episode of HHG that repeats the shooting location information anyway). The track with Tom Atkins, moderated by Michael Felsher, is much more interesting, but only if you're an Atkins fan. The two don't talk much about this particular film, but Atkins tells stories about working with Sinatra, Carpenter, William Peter Blatty... even his recent work on My Bloody Valentine 3D comes up. Sort of like the AV Club's "Random Roles" feature but in audio commentary form - it's great if you love Atkins (and why wouldn't you?) but again, if you're looking for someone to convince you that you should like this movie after all, it won't be of any use.
In addition to the Hallowed Grounds episode, the other big supplement of note is the new retrospective piece, featuring new interviews with Wallace, Atkins, Dean Cundey, Stacey Nelkin, and others. Running just over a half hour, it covers the usual bases, but with a nice coda, ending on that New Beverly screening (I pop up for all of 12 seconds), showing Wallace meeting fans as he talks in interview about how much the screening meant to him. As a huge fan of this particular entry who has had to defend it several times over the years, I can't tell you how proud I am to have played a tiny part in this moment (and please don't see my appearance as some sort of bias on the DVD as a whole - it's literally less than half a percent of the runtime of one bonus feature). The film's nutty trailer (which makes no effort to explain that this is a new story) and some fun behind the scenes stills round things out. The transfer is also much improved from the previous DVD; they didn't send me a Blu-ray but based on how it looks in standard def, and how good their new H2 transfer is, I have no doubt that the Blu looks terrific as well.
For fans of the film, you really can't ask for a better special edition. The commentaries might be a little underwhelming, but they're with the people you want them to be with (Atkins and Wallace, as opposed to someone who was in 2 scenes and the film's costume designer or something), and the updated transfer and retrospective doc alone make it worthwhile (and according to Wallace, nothing besides "shoe leather" and similar elements was edited from the film, so like the original there aren't any "deleted scenes" of note, if you were wondering). I also like the new box art, but if you don't - Shout! has put the original art on the flipside, so you can have your cake and eat it too. At long last, Halloween III has been given the treatment it deserves!
Film score: 8/10
Extras: 8/10 (since the moderators were barely asking anything, I wish they just had Wallace and Atkins do one commentary together - probably would have been akin to Carpenter/Russell tracks, albeit on a smaller scale).