The 31 Days of Halloween III – Day #2: A Grimm Situation
October 2, 2015
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Halloween III disturbed me pretty badly when I first watched it as a kid, and this was for a couple of different reasons. Compare the way Conal Cochran operates to Michael Myers’ method of bloodshed in the original Halloween. The latter is an escaped mental patient who stabs and strangles people, which is a pretty realistic fear that many grownup people continue to have (and for good reason). But the former is a dark wizard who turns little children into creepy crawlies, which is more the kind of thing that happens in stories told by the Brothers Grimm. Admittedly, this is a pretty ludicrous idea that could never happen in real life; yet it still shocked and scared me every bit as much as seeing Michael Myers leap out of the shadows to stab poor Jamie Lee Curtis.
Don’t sit so damn close to the TV! You’ll ruin your eyes!
There are several reasons as to why this is. First, it’s a pretty disgusting idea in and of itself; just think of how rotten and painful it would be to vomit up a bunch of rattlesnakes and you’ll see what I mean. (Getting stabbed or strangled by someone seems almost merciful in comparison.) Second, Conal Cochran updates this medieval kind of horror by facilitating it through computers, robots and TV signals. It’s still a ludicrous idea, but since magic and technology are so often juxtaposed in our popular culture, combining them in this way just makes it seem more disturbing somehow. (There’s also the fact that in the 1980s, many people seriously feared that modern technology could be used for black magical purposes, as in the popular notion that rock music could hypnotize kids into committing murder or suicide.) And third, the main character of Halloween III – Dan Challis – is not the standard child protagonist one normally sees in horrific fairy tales; he’s a grown man who already has some pretty realistic problems to start with (e.g., divorce, alcoholism, a stressful job, two very demanding children, etc.), and he’s a man of science. This only strengthens the idea in this movie that some dark alternate universe is about to invade our everyday materialist reality.
Most importantly, Halloween III treats its own subject matter very seriously. Admittedly, turning kids into gooey critters sounds like something you’d read in one of those shitty Goosebumps books by R.L. Stine, not in a serious R-rated horror movie with an adult target audience. At best, you’d think this sort of plot device would only be used in some kind of horror parody. But the whole thing is played pretty straight, and it’s also played remarkably well; there isn’t even the slightest bit of irony or humor in either the film’s approach or its acting. Even when Conal Cochran explains what his “Big Giveaway” is really all about, Dan O’Herlihy never portrays his character as being silly or comical; he instead exudes a sense of dark menace that only an actor of his titanic stature could milk from such insane material. I think it’s the combination of fantastical childlike fear and realistic adult terror that really makes this movie work.
“Twenty-nine more days ‘till Halloween,
Twenty-nine more days ‘till Halloween,