The Under Appreciated Genius of ‘Halloween III’

Bear with me. I’m gonna blow your mind a little. It’s not going to be comfortable and you won’t be the same when we’re done. But it’s the truth and you’re going to be better off for knowing it.

Despite decades of mockery, Halloween III isn’t a bad movie. In fact, it’s probably the best movie in the entire Halloween franchise.

The third film in the Halloween series broke with the storyline of the first two films. Instead of following the further adventures of sister-obsessed serial killer Michael Myers, it offered a jittery conspiracy thriller where the real monsters were Irish people. It’s a scruffy little early ‘80s oddity and a clear misfire—but it’s a singular work of art that shouldn’t be dismissed.

It’s weird that a film series called Halloween would all be about a serial killer. Halloween, scientifically proven to be the best and most satisfying holiday of them all, comes in all shapes and sized. Eighties style faceless serial killers are just one kind of monster. And frankly, they’re the dullest kind. Vampires, werewolves, creatures from black lagoons, zombies, witches and aliens are all far more interesting.

For a celebration as interesting as Halloween, it’s a shame that the monster central to its namesake movie series literally wears a featureless mask. Halloween III was an attempt to wade into murkier waters.

Admittedly, the original Halloween is bulletproof. But it’s a self contained story that never should have gotten a sequel. The story runs out of gas almost immediately after the credits roll in the second movie. Of note: they made Laurie Strode Michael Myers’ sister in the sequel. It’s a clear sign that the minimal storytelling of the original film wasn’t sustainable when stretched out to a second film. Nonetheless, the series soldiered through more sequels, plus a remake with a sequel of its own.

Despite there being no story left to tell, the Michael Myers story lumbers on unabated. At this time of writing, Danny McBride and Pineapple Express director David Gordon Green are taking a stab at the franchise.

Halloween III was an attempt to escape Myers and turn the series into an anthology with different entries telling different stories. That was a good idea. But boy did they pick a doozy of a tale to follow up Michael Myers.

Where the original Halloween story is lean and streamlined, Halloween III is overstuffed and lumbering. The plot is high and glorious nonsense. Celtic witches spend centuries lurking in the shadows building a corporate empire. Their technology and magic is advanced enough to build human replica robots, their plot centers around microchip-embedded Halloween masks subliminal message encoded in a TV commercial that, when combined, make children’s heads explode in a creepy crawly explosion of snakes and bugs. And their plot is set in motion because they’re mad that people have made a mockery of Halloween.

It’s an easy movie to laugh at. So I’d encourage you to laugh at it. Laughing’s good, easy laughs are hard to come by and no one suffers if you laugh at this movie. The next level bonkers comedians at How Did This Get Made had fun with it. Check it out.

But look just a little deeper than surface level mockery and you’ll find unsettling stuff hiding behind the laughter. This is a hard movie to shake off entirely. The weird stuff sticks with you. The movie’s low budget actually helps sell it as a creepy experience. It makes the whole world seem grimy and cheap while the constant jarring tonal shifts give it a queasy surreality. The “five more days ‘til Halloween” commercial carrying the exploding head signal shifts from incredibly cheesy into haunting over the course of the movie.

It’s a movie that takes risks. It could have just been another slasher movie, which were becoming increasingly common by its early ‘80s production. Not all of the chances work out but it’s far more interesting to see a movie get weird than rely on stuff that worked in previous movies.

Instead of endlessly setting Michael Myers after Laurie Strode, like a greyhound race dog chasing a mechanical rabbit around a track, the world would be better off exploring the half baked madness of Halloween III. And honestly, the beat up day-drinking suburban dad hero of Halloween III is the role Danny McBride was born to remake.