Posts Tagged ‘sexual harassment

27
Nov
19

The Happy Pill (2019): Put On A Happy Face

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a Primal Root written review

Life can become a nightmare. Work, family, relationships, daily interactions, it all begins to pile up and soon it feels as if the only escape we can find is when we shut our eyes and fade to sleep. Of course, this kind of lifestyle is enough to drive us all to the breaking point, and writer/director Kayla King’s debut short film, The Happy Pill, takes a graphic, nasty, and disturbing look into a life that is all too common for those of us struggling just to make it to the another day of pain, where we must constantly wake up from our dreams and head back into the repetitive, abusive mundane that is leading us nowhere.

 The Happy Pill tells the story of Amy Sanders (Heather Hough) dealing with deep depression who wakes up every morning to a nightmare routine. She calls her mother for help, but Mom is enjoying her vacation and can’t be bothered, she tries taking a shower, brushing her teeth vigorously, but she can’t get rid of how filthy she feels and it gets unfathomably worse when she goes to her dead end job at a vintage store, where her abusive boss, Mr. Moody (John Stevenson), a a dirty, sweaty, ass grabbing scumbag who enjoys nothing more than belittling and bad mouthing Amy. This is the routine, this is her life, and she is constantly reliving this Hell day after day.

That is, until she decides to begin taking a new over the counter medication named…The Happy Pill. We aren’t given much backstory to the medication itself, but the disconcerting effect is a compulsively grotesque smile that is constantly plastered on your face. Amy take the pills, day after life sucking day, upping the dosage each time, even as she begins to cry crimson tears, and her mouth fills with blood as she brushes her teeth. It all leads to a gore drenched, fecal matter encrusted climax and final confrontation between Amy and Mr. Moody, where the medicated Amy must decide whether she will continue to let life treat her like a piece of toilet paper, or will she take matters into her own hands and flush the shitty elements of her life straight to the sewer, and just where will that leave her?

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The Happy Pill is a ferocious, rage fueled debut. One with unique, body horror elements reminiscent of an early David Cronenberg by way of Kevin Smith and  mingling with the gnarly, schlocky, grossness and gratuitous gore and nudity of a Troma movie and comes up feeling like a companion piece to this year’s JOKER. What really sets The Happy Pill apart from so many short indie horror films I’ve seen are the fearless performances from the leads, first timer Heather Hough and veteran indie film actor, John Stevenson. Both give down and dirty, natural performances which really make the material work. And the fact that they are both up for depicting the horrors which appear in this film, especially by it’s end, make you  appreciate just how brave they are. Heather Hough owns every second of her screen time with a highly sympathetic and believable portrayal of Amy, and when she’s on screen, you cannot take your eyes off of her. Her transformation from depressed victim to violent, blood spewing avenger is damned impressive and is so fearless, it’s easy to forget this is her first time on screen. Stevenson plays the imposing Mr. Moody with an all too familiar glee and twinkle in his abusive eye. Moody enjoys abusing Amy who never fights back and does what she is told. He can touch her inappropriately, he can berate her in front of customers, he can tell her to work at HIS convenience and do it all with a chuckle and a shrug. Stevenson makes Mr. Moody a memorably despicable villain that we’ve all come across before…and you crave a comeuppance. John Stevenson deserves some great kudos for being game to bring such a monster to life.

King’s vision, brought to vivid, colorful life by cinematographer Hunter Black, who also served as editor of the film, is a perfectly timed sucker punch to the gut and feels exceedingly poignant as social issues, from mental health awareness, to the Me Too Movement, have become more prevalent ( thank goodness). The Happy Pill ends with a violent blast of pure frustration and rage at a world where so many are left behind, not cared for, unloved and made to feel worthless by those who neglect, abuse and drive their humanity into the ground under their boot heel. And this violent comeuppance, as incredible and brutal a sight to behold as it is, comes across as a battle cry of an entire sect of society left to fend for themselves with no upward mobility and no support system to fall back on.  And with the final shot, a silent, meditative, ambiguous moment, the filmmakers invite you to find you own meaning in what’s just happened. It allows you to read into the finale what you will in that final silent moment. And if, as they say, horror is simply a reflection of our society, I don’t doubt many of the viewers of The Happy Pill will feel as if they’re staring into their own eyes, as they themselves hold back the tears of rage they feel at a constant, every day life of scraping by and keeping a smile on your face while for those who make living off your hard work, while you waste your life away day by day and the previous generation goes on lavish vacations…and laughs at your struggle. 

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The Happy Pill is less than 15 minutes long, but it strikes with the force of a fucking sledge hammer. As the tagline reads, “It’s a Hard Pill to Swallow.” Well, mother fuckers, this is a dose you need to take.

I award The Happy Pill FIVE Out of FIVE Dumpster Nuggets. This short film offers something for every Trash Cinema Aficionado and will knock your ass out and shatter your senses.  Keep your eyes peeled for more from these incredible burgeoning talents out of Tallahassee, Florida.  I honestly hope this remarkable horror film inspires more independent films from the area.

Stay Trashy!

-Root

 

 

22
Nov
19

The Dark Power (1985): Whip It Good With Lash LaRue To Show You How!

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“Feel my whip, you son of a bitch!” Lash LaRue as Ranger Girard in The Dark Power

a Primal Root written review

Whenever Thanksgiving starts creeping closer I always find myself contemplating the many attempts over the years to make horror films based around that specific holiday. Flicks like Blood Rage, and Home Sweet Home (which never explicitly states that it is taking place on Thanksgiving, but the family gathering, turkey dinner and football seem to suggest that it is), the awesome Eli Roth helmed trailer for a nonexistent 80’s slasher entitled Thanksgiving which gave us a taste of what COULD have been if someone decades ago had applied themselves to making a Turkey Day Slasher, and, of course, there’s the Thankskilling movies which blend blood, breasts and beasts with ample amounts of black comedy.

But I tend to veer more towards films which feature the most tenuous of connections to Thanksgiving, things that remind me of the basic elements of the holiday going wrong, primarily family dysfunction. Stuff out there like Desperate LivingThe Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Parents, and Pet Sematary. But there’s this one hunk of cinematic dog food that has always stuck out in the back of my mind as an unofficial Trash Cinema Thanksgiving film. I say unofficial because it doesn’t take place on Thanksgiving at all…it doesn’t even feature a damn turkey. Okay, shit, it has nothing at all to do with Thanksgiving REALLY, but it DOES have to do with Native American Spirits killing off dumbass white crackers who do not respect the heritage which was protecting their uneducated asses since before their great grand parents we even born. So, with my own warped logic, the idea of this land’s native inhabitants coming back from the dead to kill spoiled ass white people who committed genocide against them just rubs me the right way this time of year. It’s a film entitled…THE DARK POWER.

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When a local Native American medicine man passes away, he leaves his estate to his money hungry, yuppie grandson who immediately decides to rent his grandpappy’s old homestead out to a bunch of sorority babes who were recently kicked out of their dorm. Of course, everyone has heard the local legends that Grandpa Medicine Man’s homestead is haunted by four vengeful, murderous, Native American spirits, known as The Toltec Sorcerers, which he had been protecting the area from for years with numerous safeguards and ancient rituals. Sure, some might be creeped out, but no one REALLY believes the stories of this old house. That is, with the exception of  old timer, and close personal friend of the deceased medicine man, Ranger Girard played by none other than the legendary western whipping boy, Lash LaRue! Girard does his damnedest to warn folks, without sounding like a Crazy Ralph, that they’re messing with powers…DARK POWER beyond their understanding and that his old friend has been guarding his game and keeping everyone safe for decades. Sure, it’s all superstition, all these modern, shaved vagina hipsters, say…But Lash LaRue is holding on to that mystical whip the recent worm food medicine man gave him just a little bit tighter.

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It isn’t long before the house is full of half nekkid nubile young women, one of which invited her younger brother, who excels at sexual harassment, to live with them, too. The home is frequented by rowdy friends, overweight plumbers and truck stealing 8 year old boys, all of which seem to remove or misplace an artifact set in place to ward off the evil four spirits which will bring unspeakable horrors down on the land they haunt once removed. The girls are all likable enough, one is the main girl, who really doesn’t do a whole lot but survive, there’s the one who is really into fitness and self defense with a good sense of humor and never wears pants, the one that looks like Julia Roberts and is an outspoken racist and future Trump supporter (she’s the one who invited her obnoxious creeper brother to live with them) and there’s the incredibly friendly black girl who ends up having to deal with the Julia Roberts look-a-like’s constant racist bullshit.

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But not for long! Because soon the four evil spirits of The Toltec Sorcerers are awakened and they emerge from the ground in their expressionless Spencer’s Gifts Halloween masks doused in K-Y Jelly and begin slowly, methodically killing all the assholes int he house and whittling through the least enjoyable characters, to the most and then to the boring ones? Will modern means be able to stop this ancient…DARK POWER, or will anyone be able to WHIP into action and  send this…DARK POWER back to Hell?

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This one is a doozy, Gang. First off, let me just say this one is exceedingly cheap looking, which gives it a charming, kind of made at home vibe. That sort of feeling of watching a movie some friends decided to make one afternoon on a budget of $50 which all went to pizza and beer and their cast and crew consists entirely of their friends and ONE Hollywood legend, Mr. Lash (scene stealer) LaRue. This instantly adds to the appeal for me as a fan of low rent film making.  The acting is adorably bad. You can tell these folks are REALLY trying to sell these characters and their bizarre motivations. The standouts are Mary Dalton as Mary Dalton, a local TV reporter, who is an okay interviewer and an A+ horn dog who is constantly hitting on Lash LaRue who is old enough to be her Grandfather. Cynthia Bailey as Tammie, the superstitious and incredibly kind hearted and tolerant young black woman who moves into a house where she will cohabitate with a racist and a racist’s racist sexual harassing brother. Suzy Martin as Suzy, the work out freak, who is forever upbeat and without trousers, even when getting chased by horrifying, bloodthirsty Toltec Sorcerers. Paul Holman as Uncle Earl Coleman who is a pretty solid piece of exceedingly hefty comic relief with a THICK southern accent, a heart of gold and delivers the line “It smells…like a FART!” with perfect diction and excellent comedic timing. Also, there’s a character who just shows up to get in a bathtub, chug a can of Budweiser and show off her boobs, I think her name is Page? Anyway, thank you for providing the ONLY shot of bare female breasts in the entire film with your only moment of screen time.

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And, of course, the MVP is Lash LaRue, who shows up when all hope is lost and whips the fuck out of anything that looks like it’s intent on hurting someone. The movie even opens with this strange scene that has absolutely no connection to the rest of the film which features a little kid getting berated by his mother about the haunted property the medicine man lives on and how he shouldn’t go near it. Well, the kid sneaks out and starts wondering some trails in the woods near the property where he is chased by a pack of vicious dogs. The kid runs for his life with the adorable, I mean HORRIFYING dogs nipping at his heels. The kid gets to a clearing and BEHOLD! LASH LARUE! Who cracks the fuck out of his whip and sends the raging rovers back into the woods they emerged from. The kid weeps with his face in the dirt, Lash puts his whip away and stares at the kid, emotionless…SCENE. WHAT DID THIS TEN MINUTE SEQUENCE HAVE TO DO WITH ANYTHING? 1. It pads the film to make it feature length. 2. It established Lash as a force for good against that…DARK POWER in those woods. Seriously, anytime Lash shows up on screen, his charm and good nature come shining through and just make every moment a pleasure to watch. Especially in the final confrontation at the haunted house where he takes on all The Toltec Sorcerers, whipping the fuck out of them and taunting them the whole time. It’s great watching this old timer do what he does best, crack that whip, and be a hero.

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The effects are effective, but again, pretty cheap. Lots of folks getting shot with arrows, but one death really stands out, there’s this one ginger kid who gets yanked off of a pontoon boat, has his arm slowly pulled off and then has his face, again, SLOWLY ripped off. It’s gruesome and painful, but also delightful in it’s cheesiness. Also, when The Toltec Sorcerers are finally sent back to Hell, their demise is a lot of gooey, melty fun.

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This was the first feature directed by Phil Smoot, who has spent most of his life working behind the scenes as producer or Production Manager of other independent films like Hellraiser III: Hell On Earth, Kevin Smith’s Tusk, and Children of the Corn II: The Final Sacrifice. I would LOVE to know more about the making of The Dark Power, but, unfortunately, there’s not a whole heck of a lot out there. One of it’s main claims to fame is being made fun of by Rifftrax.

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All and all, The Dark Power is a tale about the white man’s lack of respect for Native American culture, their people and their rich heritage. It’s easy to shrug off someone’s ancient beliefs as hogwash, but, it’s never a bad idea to just leave some trinkets in the ground if there’s a slight possibility it will keep you from having your entire face ripped off by a malevolent The Toltec Sorcerers raised from the dead because you thought your front yard looked better without the eagle on the skull decoration left there by the medicine man devoted his life to protecting your dumb, ungrateful white ass.

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So, this Thanksgiving, I recommend you pick up this hot, smoked turkey for you trash cinema fans to chow down on. It goes down easy, fills you up with cheap, trashy goodness and doesn’t disappoint. Oh yes, there’s plenty to be thankful for, especially this 1985 slice of Trash.

I award The Dark Power THREE out of FIVE Dumpster Nuggets. Low-Rent appreciating Trash Cinema devotees, like myself, will adore it. Grab some friends, a case of beer, and have filthy Thanksgiving feast!

Stay Trashy!

-Root

 

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.

 

 




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