We’re long past the point where Halloween III: Season of the Witch needs defending. It’s now celebrated for the same reasons it was once vilified. In summary: It dared to be different.
The film plays out more like a bleak 1970s sci-fi thriller than a chapter in an ‘80s slasher franchise, and if someone asked me what’s so good about it, I’d just say that.
But there’s a subtler draw, too. Something you only pick up on after watching Halloween III for the hundredth time. It’s fun to see someone’s head transform into snakes, but there’s gotta be something else about this film that keeps us coming back.
Eventually, it hits you:
Halloween III is an amazing road trip movie.
So we had Dan Challis and Ellie Grimbridge infiltrating a malevolent novelty factory, right? If you ignore the fact that it doesn’t end well for them, they really do have a kickass time on the journey.
Their impromptu road trip resembles so many of my own adventures, and it always inspires me to go on more of them. Squeeze out the murders, the robots and the magic masks, and I’d go so far to say that it was the perfect road trip. Below are six reasons why!
#1: It wasn’t planned.
The best road trips happen on the fly. So much of the appeal lies in the surprise factor, and that’s way diminished if you know exactly where you’re going and exactly what you’re doing.
Dan and Ellie barely know each other when they hit the highway. Ellie’s searching for clues about who murdered her father, and Dan… well, Dan just seems to tag along for the hell of it. You get the impression that both are craving adventure as much as answers.
(Keep in mind, Dan’s sole preparation for the trip involved buying a six-pack. Hardly the expected start-point for an amateur murder investigation!)
#2: They explore an odd town that might as well be on Mars.
Santa Mira, California — home of the Silver Shamrock novelty factory — couldn’t be more of a “road trip town.” It’s a farming community with a culture that would seem completely alien to anyone who doesn’t live there. If the point of a road trip is to get out of your “bubble,” you could do worse than Santa Mira.
While we’d later learn that the place was run by a psychotic tyrant who used killer robots to keep everyone in check, I still feel like I’ve visited a dozen quirky rural towns just like Santa Mira.
Hell, some of the video stores we chased down last year were in cities that looked almost exactly like this. Towns with few restaurants, no attractions and gas stations named after their owners’ dogs. It might be harder to have fun in places like those, but when you do, it’s so damn fulfilling.
#3: They stay at a sketchy motel.
There are few things I love more than staying at a hotel without any prior plan to do so. It’s so exhilarating. I don’t care if the hotels are “bad,” and in fact often prefer them to be bad. Bad is where the charm is!
The hotel (well, motel) in Halloween III is a gem. Just a line of teensy bungalows with faded pink highlights, each furnished like the spare bedroom from your dead grandmother’s house. You can practically smell the cigarette smoke coming off the curtains.
Dan and Ellie don’t have any valid reason for staying there, which is awesome. Dan reasons that it’ll give them a place to talk without arousing suspicion, but given that he’s later seen waltzing in with a bottle of scotch… naaaah.
#4: They visit a local attraction.
You can even draw a comparison between Dan and Ellie’s tour of the Silver Shamrock factory and all of the times you’ve sampled the local fare in deadass towns.
Pretend for a moment that they weren’t there to dig up info on Ellie’s father’s murder. Assume that Dan and Ellie were stuck in Santa Mira with no ghosts to chase. Touring a mask factory is exactly the sort of thing that you’d expect them to do — not because they’d ever normally want to, but because hey, they’re there, and those evening scotches taste better when you earn them.
(Reminds me of the time I ended up at a snake zoo in Pennsylvania, simply because there was nothing else to see besides that snake zoo. When life gives you lemons…)
#5: They meet weirdos, which are the real mementos of any good road trip.
We all have the tendency to make mental memes of the strange people we meet. When you’re on a road trip, you meet “strange” people constantly.
Say you’re at some faraway convenience store, and the lady working the register is wearing a lapel pin shaped like a flower. Because road trips are better when they’re full of oddball moments, you’ll inflate that minor “quirk” into some enormously screwy thing, and then won’t stop talking about Flower Pin Lady for days.
You’ll make up a nutty voice for her, and do the impression often enough to be convinced that she really sounded like that. (She didn’t. She was just a regular lady who happened to be wearing a flower-shaped pin.)
Dan and Ellie meet a bunch of people like that. People who are mostly-ordinary, but give you just enough material to obsess over. I can just picture them in their hotel bed, crafting tales about that aggravated saleswoman and her too-blue coat.
#6: They hook up.
Despite Dan and Ellie’s blossoming friendship, their tryst still seems like two ships passing in the night. Ellie’s only in town for a hot minute, and Dan is just taking a break from his regular, messy life. I think it’s fair to say that they wouldn’t have hit the sheets if the sheets weren’t right there to hit.
If you go on a road trip with your significant other, there could be some mutual expectation of hay-rolling. Even if you’re just with friends, you might still daydream about random hookups in dive bars or beetle-filled pools. Either way, Dan and Ellie’s sexy spontaneity is enviable.
The next time you watch Halloween III, try to view it through this “road trip” lens. All of the elements are there. As tight and unique as the film’s scares are, that’s what keeps me coming back.
Ellie (probably) died and Dan had to watch untold thousands get their heads turned into interdimensional portals, but if you put that aside, those two went on my dream vacation.
Happy Halloween in May.