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Tuesday, October 26, 2010


Since it's Halloween, I want to take this opportunity to give proper respect to the
most underrated and misunderstood movie in the original Halloween franchise.

I refer to director/writer Tommy Lee Wallace's "Halloween III: Season Of The Witch," a movie usually dismissed by fans and critics alike. Yes, Michael Myers isn't in it. Yes, it has nothing to do with the rest of the films in the franchise except that the story takes place at Halloween. It also has more surprises in it than any other film in the franchise except for the first one, and is an infinitely more original and better-executed film than any of the subsequent sequels except for "Halloween H20."

The story concerns ER Doctor Dan Challis (ruggedly sexy Daddy Tom Atkins) whose patient, a shop owner, is murdered in the hospital by an impossibly strong male assassin in a suit who pulls his skull apart by hand. The murderer then promptly sets himself and his car on fire in the hospital parking lot. The doc agrees to help the victim's distraught daughter, Ellie (Stacey Nelkin) track down the truth behind her father's bizarre death. Their search takes them to the small town of Santa Mira, which turns out to be the ultimate company town -- everyone there works for the Silver Shamrock Halloween mask company, the streets roll up at curfew, surveillance cameras are everywhere, and within the town's limits it's impossible to communicate with the outside world.

OK, here come the spoilers, because one can't discuss this film without revealing its central concept -- the Silver Shamrock company is actually a front for a Druidic cult headed by the charismatic factory owner and mechanical genius Conal Cochran (Dan O'Herlihy), who plans to pull off a mass sacrifice of children to his old gods on Samhain (the original Celtic name for Halloween). During the big Silver Shamrock giveaway on Halloween night, when thousands of kids are glued to their TV sets watching a contest commercial in their Halloween masks, the factory will transmit a signal that will activate -- maybe DETONATE might be a better word -- a mysterious electronic disc hidden in each mask, and a ghastly supernatural phenomenon will occur. (The film's scariest scene -- which is also darkly funny -- shows Cochran demonstrating this device on an obnoxious salesman's family visiting the factory, while he and his "guests" watch on a monitor.) The factory's operations center contains an actual standing stone from Stonehenge amid all the futuristic computers and control panels, and Cochran's suit-wearing security goons are actually androids.

The ultimate irony is that the cutesy song that plays during the killer commercial ("four more days to Halloween...") goes to the tune of London Bridge, and is sung by a chorus of chipmunk-like voices. The jingle is used to build tension at intervals throughout the film, and if it doesn't set your teeth on edge, nothing ever will.

Dr. Dan and Ellie brave various dangers while figuring this out, and finally Dr. Dan has to try to stop Cochran's plot single-handedly. Just to make things more suspenseful, his own kids, in the custody of his hostile ex-wife, are among those in danger.

I can't understand why so many people missed the ingeniousness of this story, or failed to be grabbed by the performances of the cast. O'Herlihy is particularly eerie as Cochran -- he waxes eloquent about his plan to bring back his "old world" at one point in a monologue that still raises goose bumps every time I hear it. Atkins makes a ballsy frustrated protagonist who nobody will believe (he's a Pittsburgh PA native, and usually a character actor in such other flicks as "The Fog" -- it's great to see him in the lead here. And not only that -- we even get to see him shirtless!)

Tom Atkins in "Halloween III: Season of The Witch"

The movie is an evocative mixture of the ancient and futuristic, science fiction and the supernatural. It was John Carpenter and Debra Hill's attempt to turn the Halloween series into an anthology, with a different horror story every Halloween. Perhaps it would have been more successful if it weren't labeled a Halloween film. If it had just been called "Season Of The Witch," folks might have judged it on its own merits as a film, instead of fixating on insisting that it ought to be something it wasn't.

Sunday, October 24, 2010


I'm clueless, Dr. Crane. I don't have the vaguest idea why I'm haunted by this insecurity.

Thursday, October 21, 2010


After getting no results from Extenz or Enzyte, in desperation Seth Brundle decided to send himself through the transporter with a kielbasa.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010


I realize the likelihood of any reader getting to this local event is remote, but I can’t imagine anything better to do on Halloween. My friend Chet Williamson – author of several wonderful horror novels including the classic “Soulstorm” and “Ash Wednesday”, BTW – is playing a number of roles in it. I think the idea is a scream (as is the trailer video below).

When I first saw the title, I thought it was a "Child's Play" type story -- only the killer was a sock puppet instead of a doll. Turns out it's even crazier than that -- it's a spoof of "Psycho" enacted by sock puppets!

Sock puppet community theater parody of movies is apparently not new -- YouTube has several videos -- but I've never seen one before, and I'll bet you haven't either. I loved "Superstar," the brilliant cult movie with Barbie dolls playing Karen and Richard Carpenter. Why not sock puppets as Norman, Marion and company?

Here’s the press release copy:

“Sock Puppet Psycho” is a parody of Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho performed by a cast of hands wearing button adorned hosiery and wielding fake knives. The show’s creators are experts in their field, having worn socks for most of their lives.

This first production in a planned series of sock puppet shows will be presented at Lancaster Dispensing Company (Dipco), located on the corner of Market and Grant Streets, Lancaster, Pa., on Halloween Day, Sunday, October 31st.

Performances will be held at 4pm, 6pm, and 8pm. The show is intended for adult audiences, and donations are cheerfully accepted.

Food and drink will be available, and patrons are invited to stay for the entire evening.

And here's the very amusing trailer:

Sunday, October 17, 2010


Yes, this is my first review in quite awhile. I'm not going to get in the habit of doing lots of reviews -- just don't have time -- but the way this film grabbed me was really exceptional.

I saw this brand new movie on SyFy last night. I wasn't expecting much, but I was riveted. Brilliantly written and acted, this was the most intense horror film I've seen in ages.

Directed by Joey Stewart and written by Jason Kabolati, tt's about a group of high school kids tormented by bullies who finally have enough and plan to avenge themselves on their tormentors. After we watch the insufferable popular kids wreak merciless havoc on our heroes for about the first half of the film, the "misfits" invite the bullies to a party, drug them, and get medieval on their asses. With the recent suicides of bullycide victims in the news, the subject couldn't be more timely.

A familiar horror film theme, I grant you, but no one's ever done it as eloquently as these kids. During the long and harrowing "torture party" that makes up the second half of the film, most of the horror comes from the dialogue -- as Dane, the ringleader, and his cohorts make these very articulate speeches to their captives explaining WHY they're doing what they're doing, and scathingly dismissing all attempts to talk them out of it. He begins with a "good news/bad news" announcement: "the good news is that we're not going to kill you. The bad news is, you'll wish we had." Marc Donato's very chilling understated performance as Dane provides the film with a lot of its juice.

Not that the violence isn't awful (and very personal to each victim), or that the film doesn't have its share of unusually upsetting gore. The movie just understands that no matter how bad physical realities are, the worst part of horror happens in the mind. As Dane tells hs victims at one point: "Think of this as the Final, and there's only one question -- what did I do to deserve this?" They all know they did plenty, and it's way too late for "I'm sorry."

By the way, the other stand-out performance in the film is that of Dane's female co-conspirator Emily, played with unnervingly calm menace by Lindsay Seidell. Even when she's masked and silent, she's quite a disarming, electric presence.

This movie is definitely not for the squeamish, but is fascinating and powerful, and really has something to say. And it scared the hell out of me even though I, of course, identified with the misfits.

Oddly, there are a lot of internet reviews angrily bashing this film, dismissing the writing and acting particularly, though I found the film exclelled remarkably in these areas. I guess it's not all that surprising. We all know how many bullies are on the internet. I bet this flick strikes a nerve with them in a big way.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010


First of all, Frankie, I'm sorry I walked in on your Bride before she was dressed. But second, and more important -- I'VE GONE BLIND!

Sunday, October 10, 2010


No, Mom, Chucky is not "inflatable," and you can't borrow him for the night!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Tuesday, October 5, 2010


I am very impressed with this huge party you've thrown for the neighborhood children, Mr. Gacy... but no, I don't want to "go someplace and rassle."