Posts Tagged ‘robots

26
Oct
16

Halloween III: Season of the Witch (1982) Samhain’s Darkest Horse

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created by Matt Ryan Tobin

 

“I do love a good joke and this is the best ever, a joke on the children.” – Conal Cochran, Halloween III: Season of the Witch

a Primal Root written review

If you know me int he slightest, it’s not a secret by any means, I am enormous fan and champion of the misfit third entry in the long running Halloween horror franchise began by John Carpenter and Debra Hill way back in 1978 with the original Halloween. The exploits of escaped mental patient Michael Myers aka: The Shape (Nick Castle), his considerably psychotic child therapist, Dr. Sam Loomis (Donald Pleasance), and the blossoming young virgin babysitter, Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) came to a close with a fiery explosion at the end of Halloween II. Michael was engulfed in flames that were sure to turn anyone made of flesh and blood to nothing more than a hand full of ash, and CERTAINLY must have killed that goofy nutbag Dr. Loomis who flicked the Bic that blew the explosive gas ward of Haddonfield Memorial Hospital sky high…leaving Laurie Strode alone in an ambulance pondering the terribly contrived and problematic twist that Michael Myers was actually her brother all along, which totally negates the random nature of the horror in the original Halloween and reminds you that if you make sure you know your biological family tree and keep dibs on all the blood thirsty, unkillable maniacs, you can avoid this sort of predicament and spare your friends every Halloween night.

Halloween II would have been a pretty fine conclusion to the story of Haddonfield and it’s brotherly Boogerman, if the original film hadn’t had a far more suitable and deeply unnerving conclusion already, so where was the Halloween franchise to go from it’s 1981 sequel? Would John Carpenter and Debra Hill venture to make another lazy, dull, predictable story about the now totally cremated and burned to smithereens masked madman Michael Myers? Well, if you are familiar with these two remarkably creative, innovative and fearless individuals, you know that this is exactly the road they’re not going to travel. In fact, their decision would go on to become the stuff of legend. The third installment in the Halloween franchise would be a massive departure from the story of Michael Myers and would, instead, tell a brand new, original story based around the holiday of the title, Halloween. It part of an incredibly commercial and brilliant concept of Carpenter and Hill that would make the Halloween franchise a yearly canvas for an infinite number of creative minds and filmmakers to create their own, unique, one off Halloween stories that could birth any number of spinoffs, sequels, remakes, reboots and reimaginings down the road! One paper it sounds like a wonderfully viable and lucrative concept, one that would keep the franchise running strong for decades to come! Debra Hill came up with the basic concept of the story, “witchcraft meets the computer age.” The team contacted Nigel Kneal (writer of the The Quatermass series) who wrote the first draft of the screenplay of what would become Tommy Lee Wallace’s Halloween III: Season of the Witch. 

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Our film begins with the creation of a digital jack-o-lantern set the dark, ominous tones of John Carpenter and Alan Howarth’s fantastic score. Long gone is the iconic Halloween theme that immediately puts audiences on edge. Here, the score is menacing, low, and mysterious. The audience accustomed to the simple stalk and slash formula of the previous entries are clued in right off the bat that there is something different at work here. The jack-o-lantern is no longer something physical we’ve all held, touched and carved before. No, this is something alien and untouchable. As the credits conclude, the computer generated grinning jack-o-lantern begins to flash over white as an audible buzzing is heard. It’s strange, off putting and the significance of this is a totally mystery to us… for now.

The story centers on Dr. Challis (legendary cult icon, Tom Atkins), a flawed, damaged gentleman who is not by any stretch of the imagination your typical hero. This guy is divorced with two kids, a womanizer and, from what it would seem, a functional alcoholic.  At every turn the man is sexually harassing his staff (or, I guess it would just be called flirting in the early 1980’s) of knocking back beer or bourbon. Even when visiting his ex-wife she mentions, as his pager goes off to call him to the hospital, “drinking and doctoring: GREAT combination.” She hasn’t witnessed this man drinking, he just showed up smelling like booze. Yeah, this guy is our hero, ladies and gents!

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Womanizer. Drunkard. Hero.

Challis arrives at the hospital to care for a man in hysterics who is clutching a popular Silver Shamrock Halloween mask and babbling what seems to be nonsense about “They’re going to kill us! All of us!” Challis sedates the man, puts him in a room, slaps the nurses ass and goes to sleep it off in the doctor’s lounge leaving the poor old guy all alone so minutes later a silent man in a three piece suit can just wonder into his room and dismantle his skull bare handed. When Challis is woken up by the nurses cries over the patients sudden case of collapsed skull, he gives chase, but it’s too late. The silent killer has doused himself in gasoline and blown himself up in his car. Challis looks on with a face that clearly expresses and slightly hungover “What the fuck?” The audience feels his pain.

The murdered man’s daughter, Ellie (the gorgeous Stacey Nelkin) shows up to claim the body and the local authorities try to comfort her by claiming it was just a random psychopath who walked in off the streets and single handidly crunched her father’s head into bloody, flappy chunks. The next day she track Dr. Challis down early in the morning at a local bar and enlists his help to figure out just who wanted her Father dead and why. Dr. Challis, who can never say no to a free booty call, grabs a sixer of Miller High Life, calls his ex-wife to back out of his obligations and heads off the Santa Mira, home of Silver Shamrock Novelties, the town her Father was last seen headed before he became a babbling lunatic with a warrant out for his noggin.

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What Dr. Challis and Ellie uncover between swigs of bourbon and all night fuck sessions, is a vast, deadly, evil conspiracy, one that has been conjured up over hundreds of years and will bring the world to it’s knees as horrifically grotesque sacrifice is made. As the mastermind behind this horrifying plan suggests, “The World is going to change tonight.” And if this evil madman’s scheme does pull through, the world will be transformed forever…

***SPOILERS AHEAD! IF YOU HAVE NOT SEEN THE FILM DO NOT READ ANY FURTHER!****

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Okay, so it turns out the guy who runs Silver Shamrock novelties, Conal Cochran (played with enthusiasm and cheerful menace by the late, great, Dan O’Herlihy) is a druid and a warlock with a massive army of murderous robot people. He also has stolen a block from stonehenge and is chipping off pieces of the missing block to add just a fragment of the stone into the Silver Shamrock Halloween masks along with a small computer chip. What is the importance of all this? Why is Mr. Cochran willing to murder people in order to ensure these masks are made and are the hottest Halloween masks on the market?  What is the deal with the big giveaway happening Halloween night where all the children must watch their TV’s while wearing their Silver Shamrock masks in order to win? Because it’s all part of a grand scale child sacrifice. That’s right, when the big giveaway happens, those wearing the Silver shamrock Halloween masks will be subjected to a blinking jack-o-lantern. This image in conjunction with the piece from stonehenge will end up melting the head of the child wearing  mask and produce copious amounts of roaches, spiders, and venomous snakes.

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Yes, this plan is totally fucking bonkers. Evil always works best when it’s bonkers, if you ask me. It;s so bizarre, so downright disturbing and nightmarish, it totally devastated me when I was a kid watching Halloween III: Season of the Witch for the first time. In the typical language of cinema, the kid never dies. Then you see Halloween III: Season of the Witch, you do not only get to witness a little kid get his head melted, but you watch as he, still living, chokes up rattle snakes, roaches and and tarantulas before his horrified parents eyes. I honestly watched the scene much like Dr. Challis does as he watches through a monitor in Cochran’s secret warehouse. You cannot believe what you’re seeing. It;s so dark and weird and macabre and unflinchingly grim…it then dawns on you that in matter of hours this is going to happen everywhere. In every living room all over the world. I know a lot of people bring up that THE BIG GIVEAWAY is at 9pm and that the movie didn’t account for time zones. Ugghh, I am sure the time zones are adjusted and that the filmmakers just didn’t want to make it monotonous by listing ALL THE DIFFERENT TIME ZONES all of the world.  Anyhoo, it’s a nightmare to imagine as kids die a prolonged, agonizing, supernatural death and their poor parents then get attacked by the living, nasty contents of their now melted spawns cranium. I can’t help but imagine what this little practical joke will do to the economic thrust of the holiday season. Shit. Little Buddy’s head is gone, I guess we can return that Atari to Toys R’ Us…

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Also, I must address the Ellie controversy. A lot of people wonder if she was  robot all along or not. My theory is that Ellie was a real, flesh and blood human being through the whole movie until she is captured by Cochran and used to lure Dr. Challis to the Silver Shamrock Factory. Cochran had a crude robot duplicate of her made, Dr. Challis rescues that robot,and Ellie is left to burn alive in the Silver Shamrock explosion. Yeah, my theory is dark, bleak and assumes the female lead suffers a brutal death by burning all alone in the bowels of mad toy maker’s factory, but to me that is the appeal of Halloween III: Season of the Witch. Our hero is inept, saves no one, including his own children and the world witnesses the absolute terror that Conal Cochran has unleashed upon the world. The film ends with Tom Atkins, Dr. Challis, screaming into the phone as the Silver shamrock jack-o-lantern flashes on the screen, “STOP IT! STOP IT! STOP IIIIIIIITTTT!” And the credits roll. He doesn’t win. We are left to imagine the outcome of this gruesome terrorist attack. To this day, the ending of Halloween III: Season of the Witch sends chills down my spine. If you think about it, that ending could symbolize the corporate take over of America. Our youth poisoned by what they are fed day in and day out through all forms of media until their heads rot and the same nasty, mean, venomous shit comes pouring from their mouths. Fuck…could Atkins have been trying to warn us all long? Did the evil that occurred at the end of Halloween III: Season of the Witch already occur? I take a glimpse from time to time and see what comes spewing into my living room through cable television and it’s not hard to imagine that the kind of televised consumer apocalypse may have already happened.

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Halloween III: Season of the Witch is a the underdog of the entire franchise. History speaks for itself. The movie bombed horribly due to the fact it was critically panned and the fans wanted more of the same, which they got a few years later in the hideously underwhelming Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers, which I do enjoy, it’s just a really, really, cheap, poorly shot, and not very entertaining or inspired movie.

To be be perfectly honest, I couldn’t stand Halloween III: Season of the Witch when I first saw it as a child. It was too dark, too mean and there was no Michael Myers!I was right there with the folks who were disappointed in the lack of familiar elements.  However, time has been very kind to Halloween III: Season of the Witch, it has grown into a sort of cult favorite among horror movie aficionados. After watching the same Michael Myers bullshit over and over and over I began to go back to Halloween III: Season of the Witch just to remind myself why I didn’t like it. Just like many of my horror brethren, I think many of us found what we initially presumed to be the film’s weaknesses to actually be this movie’s greatest strengths. Folks like myself who revel in the third installments stand alone story, bizarre gore effects, disturbing mystery, incredible fresh and creepy score, nightmarish concepts and and damn fine performances. It’s the last of the high quality, well shot and intriguing Halloween films and possibly my favorite of the entire series, including John Carpenter’s original, which I have tremendous respect for…but Halloween III: Season of the Witch is such a one of kind masterpiece of the macabre, I look forward to watching it every single Halloween season. Don’t get me wrong, I love Michael Myers and the original Halloween just fine, but like I said earlier, I always like my evil to be a bit more fucking bonkers side of things.

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created by Cavity Colors

Every October I watch as people create more and more original art based on Halloween III: Season of the Witch as it’s cult status and admiration grows. I’m not going to lie, it brings a salty tear to this Trash Cinema fans eye every year as I watch what was once the laughing stock and whipping boy of the Halloween franchise become more and more the stand out and most beguiling dark corner of the whole series.

I award Halloween III: Season of the Witch 5 out of 5 Dumpster Nuggets.

 

 

24
Nov
13

Happy 25th Birthday, Mystery Science Theater 3000!

Mystery Family

*Turn Down the Lights, Where Applicable.*

Hey Gang, if you will humor me for just one post I would like to make an attempt to express my love and admiration for a television show that served as one of the primary inspirations for The Trash Cinema Collective and The Primal Root’s Rotten Reviews. One of the funniest and most inspired comedy series to ever grace the boobtube. An unholy amalgam of science fiction, puppet show, Saturday horror matinee and sketch comedy show. It’s influence is still felt to this very day and it’s legend  continues to grow by leaps and bounds.  Today, this show turns 25 years old.

Of course, I am speaking of Mystery Science Theater 3000.

So, excuse me while I turn into a drooling fanboy and make a lame autobiographical post about how the show changed my life, shaped my entire being and  get all sentimental. Read on if you dare…

When I was in first grade my parents decided to uproot us from Winter Haven, Florida, the town where I was spawned, and move us up North to the capital city of our rotted penis shaped state, Tallahassee, Florida. It was a pretty abrupt and unexpected change of scenery for me, one I resisted and revolted against with all my might. Having to leave behind my friends and everything I was so familiar with was a terrifying prospect.  The idea of starting all over again in some new town, in a new school, with a bunch of new kids was enough to evoke the first panic attack of my young life.

Of course, as life teaches us, everything changes whether we like it or not.  I adapted fairly well to my new environment thanks to my family, primarily my younger cousins Steven and Patrick, who I started hanging out with habitually just about as soon as I arrived, and some understanding, supportive teachers. There was also one other element that eased my transition and helped me to forget my woes over having been tossed headlong into this awkward, new phase of my life; a television show called “Mystery Science Theater 3000”.

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Flipping through the channels one Saturday or Sunday morning I came across some cruddy old b-movie, with these funny little silhouettes in the bottom right corner. It looked like some regular Joe and a couple of funny looking monsters, or robots…maybe aliens? I had no clue. But as I listened it dawned on me that these little guys were doing what my Mom, Steven, Patrick and I always did over such cheese-ball entertainment…they were cracking jokes! And great ones! Sure, many of of them flew over my head, but a lot of the appeal had to do with their delivery.  Soon, the little people in the movie theater row got up and walked out of frame and the camera pulled back through a colorful, fun assortment of doors and hallways leading back to a room where the three folks in the theater were suddenly right in front of me. I was soon acquainted with three captives on Dr. Forrester’s diabolical Satellite of Love (The S.O.L., for short) Joel Robinson, Tom Servo and Crow T. Robot.  My life would never be the same.

Needless to say, I was hooked. My cousins and I would watch it just about every weekend and laugh our elementary school aged asses off at just about everything these jokesters said.  I was never quite sure of the shows schedule in those days, but the chances were if I tuned into The Comedy Channel, later Comedy Central, during Saturday or Sunday, they would eventually be on the air. The premise was simple and spelled out brilliantly in the show’s opening theme song, here, I will let Joel explain…

The show was unapologetic in it’s  silliness, boundlessly creative and unabashedly intelligent. To watch Mystery Science Theater 3000 you had to actively pay attention to the action on screen while simultaneously listening to Joel and his robot friend’s riffs and out two and two together in your own head. Sure, many of the jokes reference things you might not know about or not be in the vein of comedy specifically catering to your liking, but as Dr. Forrester and Crow T. Robot himself, Trace Beaulieu has stated in the past: “Hey, if you don’t like that joke, there will be another one in about 3 seconds.” The humor, jokes and references span an enormous spectrum  so that there will always be something for everyone in each episode.

Across the board, the characters, puppets and all, were brought to life with such manic creativity and energy, you couldn’t help but pay attention. The host segments, the parts of the show taking place between the stints in the theater, often mocked the film’s themselves in the form of skits and small productions Joel and The Bots would put on for The Mads back down at Gizmonic Institute, later Deep 13…later Pearl’s VW van, later still, Pearl’s gothic castle.  These segments also treated the viewer to the “Steampunk over a decade before Steampunk existed” set created with what looked like nothing more than garbage,  junk purchased at the flea market, Styrofoam pillars and hot glue. It was the epitome of bargain basement, do it yourself creativity. They had a budget, they worked with the scraps they had and they ended up putting together a show with a unique, one of a kind appearance that looked like a million bucks, but probably cost as much as a dinner for two at Red Lobster.

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Between elementary school and high school MST3K came and went in my life as I moved around a lot after my parent’s divorce. I collected episodes on VHS as I spotted them and would watch as often as I could depending on who our cable provider was. Call it luck or call it fate, I got the pleasure of seeing Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Movie during it’s initial run when it played in Dallas, Texas. I just happened to be in town for my older brother, Trey’s, college graduation and got to see this milestone in MST3K history in the company of my Mom and my  late Grandmother affectionately known as Bobo. Hearing Bobo laugh as hard as I did through MST3K: The Movie, I often think she might have just been laughing at hearing me laugh, is one of my fondest memories I have with her.

I have since had the pleasure of meeting and shaking hands with  many of the creators and talent behind Mystery Science Theater 3000 as well as experienced their riffing skills live and in person. I only wish I could put into words just how much their creation means to me.  Some folks, their passion might be Dr. Who, others Star Trek or Firefly maybe even  Battlestar Galactica. For me, my science fiction television allegiance will always belong to Gizmonic Institute, Deep 13 and Mystery Science Theater 3000. A show that has always had it’s heart in the right place, filled my life with laughter, brought my friends and family closer,  influenced and inspired me in countless ways and always reminded us to “breath and just relax”. Not to mentions they had TWO final episodes and neither one of them sucked.

I am now an adult with a  fireplace mantle decked out with every box set of Mystery Science Theater 3000 Rhino and Shout Factory have so far released and not a week goes by that I don’t watch at least one episode.  Those guys and gals can still make me laugh all these years later. In fact, I would say they keep on getting better with age, which is no small feat.

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To Joel Hodgson, Trace Beaulieu, Kevin Murphy, Frank Conniff,  Mike Nelson, Mary Jo Pehl and the rest of the Best Brains Team, I thank you from the very bottom of my heart for creating Mystery Science Theater 3000. You’re show is an even bigger part of my life now than it was when I was a child.  I’ve shared and introduced your creation to so many great and wonderful people who mean the world to me. Heck, the love of my life and I finally got together after months of being “friends” thanks to your outstanding short “Assignment Venezuela!” Who knew your brand of zaniness would inspire such a romantic evening with my very own Creepy Girl?

Happy 25th Birthday, Mystery Science Theater 3000!  May your legacy live on forever.

Love,

-Kevin (The Primal Root)

PUSH THE BUTTON, FRANK!




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