Halloween III: Season of the Witch – This movie has enjoyed something of a rehabilitation among fans in recent years. The “proud nail” of the Halloween franchise, Halloween III was, as everyone knows by now, the beginning of an abortive attempt to shift the series away from the Michael Myers character. The plan was to establish an anthology series, releasing a movie each year under the Halloween title, with each film set on Halloween but otherwise unrelated to the other films in the series.
The result is a bizarre but entertaining film that centers on a plot by modern druids to use a stolen piece of Stonehenge to send out a magical television commercial that will cause any children wearing a certain brand of magic Halloween masks to dissolve into a writhing pile of snakes. Also there’s robots. The movie makes about as much sense as tits on a cactus, but it also accomplishes a surprisingly creepy mood and has better special effects than you’d expect. Also, who doesn’t like Tom Atkins? Just beware of the extended shot of his naked ass halfway through the film.
A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors – Nightmare on Elm Street was a hugely successful and influential horror film that got a rather…uneven, shall we say, follow-up. With Dream Warriors Freddy finally got the sequel he deserves. This film represents the best combination elements from the Nightmare franchise – Freddy’s snarky but has not yet descended into comedic parody, the dream elements are wildly imaginative, and the special effects are inventive and fantastic. Heather Langenkamp returns as an adult Nancy Thompson, now trying to help a group of teens in a mental hospital defend themselves from Freddy using lucid dreaming techniques. It’s a fun idea, especially when a D&D fan faces off with Freddy using his wizard alter ego.
Also returning from the original film is John Saxon as Nancy’s father Lt. Thompson. He’s not around quite as much as I’d like, but his Harryhausen-inspired battle with Freddy Kruger’s razor-gloved skeleton towards the end of the movie is great. (Come to think of it, if Freddy’s glove was in the furnace of Nancy’s house in the first movie, how is it with his skeleton at the end of this movie?) I've heard stories that this film's original treatment was a pretty dark and serious affair centered around teen suicide. I'd love to see how that movie would have turned out, but what we got instead is still a lot of fun.
Exorcist III – The Exorcist was one of the best horror films of all time. I know, I know, that gets said often, but only because it’s true. On the other hand, Exorcist II was 118 minutes of crap. I think it’s pretty fair to say that because of the enormous difference in quality between the first two films, Exorcist III is widely overlooked. Based on the novel Legion by William Peter Blatty, Exorcist III is the tale of a priest and a cop trying to capture the person responsible for a series of murders that are eerily similar to those committed by a long-dead killer.
This movie is weirdly shot and oddly paced at times, but it’s probably the second best of the five Exorcist movies. I don’t want to give too much away – There are some pretty satisfying twists and I feel like this movie is little-viewed enough that I could actually spoil it for someone. While it never aspires to the heights of the original, Exorcist III is certainly worth a couple of hours of your time.
Two Part Twos Worth Avoiding
Candyman 2: Farewell to the Flesh – Remember how Candyman was a mournful, dreamlike tale exploring the way people rationalize the chaos and violence of urban life through the social construction of modern legends while also calling to mind the effects of the de facto segregation of modern society through the splintering of cities into rich and poor neighborhoods? Yeah, well, Candyman 2 is about Tony Todd killing people at Mardi Gras. Inexplicably set in New Orleans despite the original film’s narrative being tied directly to the socioeconomic disparities of inner Chicago, Candyman 2 is no longer a ghostly morality tale but instead is just another slasher flick.
This film’s greatest sin is that of over-explanation. There’s a backstory to the Candyman in the original movie, but like any good urban legend it’s lacking any names and is by turns weirdly specific and frustratingly fuzzy in its details. In this movie it’s all spelled out for us. Daniel Robitaille was a black guy who knocked up a white lady back when you got lynched for that sort of thing; he promptly got lynched for that sort of thing, and then – blammo! – his soul gets stuck in a magic mirror and now he’s the Candyman. Is that fun? Are you using your imagination to fill in the blanks and becoming more attached to the story because of it? No? Didn’t think so.
Pumpkinhead II: Blood Wings – The first Pumpkinhead is one of my favorite horror movies and I’ve talked about it at length in the past. Featuring amazing special effects work by Stan Winston and possessing a bit more intelligence than the average horror film of the time, I would say that Pumpkinhead is a definite much-watch for fans of the genre. Pumpkinhead II, on the other hand, goes out of its way to cater to all the stock horror tropes, even going so far as to rewrite the history of the titular monster to do so. Whereas in the first film Pumkpinhead was literally a demon – the living embodiment of vengeance and all the sinister glee associated with it – in this movie he’ a disfigured boy who was killed by cruel teenagers only to later be resurrected after his mother is murdered. So basically in this movie Pumpkinhead is…Jason?
Boobs, bad gore effects, and worse acting abound. Directed by Jeff Burr, who also helmed several other horror movies of the era such as Leatherface: Texas Chainsaw Massacre III, and Puppet Master 4 & 5 – all of which are alright but forgettable – Pumpkinhead II feels like a mad-lib. It feels as though the script was written with a placeholder where the monster’s name should be and then Pumpkinhead was pulled in at the last minute in order to attach the movie to an existing franchise. Watching this one isn’t torturous, but you won’t miss anything by skipping it either.