In The Desert Of Seth

By G. B. Marian

The 31 Days of Halloween III – Day #12: Ancient Technology

What immediately hooked me about Halloween III is the fact that its villain uses both magic (i.e., Stonehenge, astrology, alchemy) and science (i.e., robots, television, marketing) to enact his fiendish plot. This combination of science fiction and occult horror was nothing new in 1982, but you didn’t see a whole lot of it in American media back then; it was generally limited to British films and TV serials (e.g., the Quatermass series, Doctor Who, etc.). There were American writers who had already explored such ideas (most notably H. P. Lovecraft and Arthur C. Clarke), but movies and TV were a completely different story. The most we had were a few references to Luciferian sorcery in the Universal Frankenstein movies (1931-1939) and the occasional reference to ancient mythology in Star Trek (1966-1969). Things like Stargate SG-1 (1997-2007) have only become popular during the past 20 years, so when I first saw Halloween III, I really hadn’t seen anything else quite like it before.

(There’s just one American horror film from before 1982 I can think of that resembles Halloween III in this respect, and that’s Don Coscarelli’s Phantasm from 1979. However, I’m going to save my comments on that film for a future review; Phantasm deserves an extensive analysis of its very own!)

Whether it’s manufactured by prehistoric man or by Microsoft…

Arthur C. Clarke’s famous “Third Law” states that “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic” – and I believe this describes Conal Cochran’s perspective very well. One of my favorite lines in Halloween III is when Cochran decides to explain his dastardly plot to Dr. Challis (rather than just killing him). “Advanced…” he says, pointing to a room full of computers, “…and ancient technology,” he finishes, pointing to the Bluestone from Stonehenge. (Dan O’Herlihy’s delivery in this scene is perfect.) To further accentuate his point, the computers and television equipment are arranged in a circle exactly like Stonehenge on Salisbury Plain. This would seem to suggest that Stonehenge itself is really just an ancient “computer,” and the implications of this suggestion are staggering. (Who – or what – built this ancient machine, and for what purpose? Halloween III doesn’t bother to answer such questions, but I have a sneaking suspicion that Cochran knows.) And might I add that just one piece of this “computer” (i.e., the Bluestone) is apparently sufficient enough to devastate the entire North American continent? Just what the hell do you suppose would happen if the whole goddamn thing were “switched on?”

Don’t leave your ancient Celtic supercomputer on all night!

(Again, Michael Myers might be immortal and unstoppable…but HOLY SHIT, Cochran! Why the hell didn’t this guy get his own movie franchise? They could have milked at least four or five more films from this material!)

This stuff fascinates me because I think magic and science are more closely related than some people would like to think. Granted, there’s a huge difference between just studying the stars (i.e., astronomy) and divining some kind of higher meaning from them (i.e., astrology). Science is about explaining things in the most objective and clinical ways possible, while magic is about explaining them in much more subjective and poetic ways. Both qualify as types of knowledge, and both attempt to maximize our control over our surroundings. Oncologists refuse to just let Fate decide who dies from cancer and who doesn’t; they insist on studying how cancer develops and how it can be stopped. In much the same way, exorcists refuse to just let people be tormented by evil spirits; they insist on finding ways to stop such frightening subjective experiences from happening.

The fact that Conal Cochran sees no practical difference between scientific and magical technology would seem to suggest that he might not be “human”…but I’ll explore this point further tomorrow.


“Nineteen more days ‘till Halloween,
Halloween, Halloween,
Nineteen more days ‘till Halloween,
Silver Shamrock!”

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