Sunday, September 16, 2007

Halloween III, Corporate Towns, Magic Science

This is another post about something that scared the hell out of me when I was a child: "Halloween III."

I vividly remember watching this in my aunt's "rumpus room," a subterranean den with shag carpeting, a "forest scene" wall-mural, all drenched with the cloying smell of cigarette smoke. I was watching it with a group of other children and we kept on getting distracted by things, so the surreal visuals seemed even more nightmarish than they would have been if I'd been paying attention to the plot.

"Halloween III" exploits two common themes in early-80s horror: paranoid "corporate towns" dominated by a spooky factory (see also "The Stuff," which also features a similar motel scene), and the queer merging of science and mysticism: microchips with pieces of Stonehenge embedded in them. To us kids in the '80s, huge North American corporations were supposedly manipulating us with subliminal messages and doing research on us that went far beyond "The Pepsi Challenge." It didn't surprise us to find out that a crazy Irish CEO wanted to melt our heads on Halloween.

What's wonderful about this type of movie is the hackneyed combination of big budget and directorial freedom. Everybody involved seemed to have a good idea, so they just stuck all those ideas into the plot, creating a wonderfully disjointed crazy quilt of scary: witchcraft, slasher-killers who poke out your eyes and drill you to death, identical corporate robots, and creepy-crawlies that bite your dad. These films of the period have aged well, thanks to their low-key set design and their memorable secondary "quirky characters," usually played by TV actors (the Kupfer family subplot is particularly fun). The movies made at this time seem somehow grittier than the wannabe cult films made today (though I'm probably just crotchety...some people really LOVE "Saw").

You can't mention "Halloween III" without giving the music a nod...not just the memorable "Silver Shamrock" theme (which quite LITERALLY builds a nest inside your head), but the bass-heavy analog synth menace as well. These soundtracks make me feel like I'm drowning in mud. John Carpenter pioneered "the sound" but I think Howard Shore perfected it in 1983's "Videodrome" (more of that high-tech, focus-group manipulation and mutation).

Finally, I've got to say it: I love Tom Atkins. I shouldn't but I do.

Bonus Feature: "Too Gross for Muffy"
  • David Cronenberg's "The Fly." I saw it once and I'll never watch it again. It's simply too much.
  • "Sleepaway Camp." The slasher film's final frontier turned out to be unabashed torture. No thanks.
  • "Dead and Buried," fetishizes pain and does too good a job of it.

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