CD Review by Gregory S. Burkart
Before you start ripping into Halloween III the film as so many have since its confusing inception a quarter of a century ago (holy cats, has it really been that long?), take a deep breath, count to ten and try to distance yourself from that perplexing little one-off oddity long enough to remember the excellent music. Yes, just as H3 was the only installment in ?The House That John Built? which did not feature the character of Michael Myers (except on a TV for a brief meta-moment), so is it also the only film in the series that does not contain the legendary Halloween main title theme which terrified us all as kids. Including those reading this who aren't actually adults yet. But you still know what I'm talking about. I think.
Based on that premise ? what there is of it - you'd think I was going to serve this score an intense thrashing. Au contraire, gentle reader. The stuff of '80s synth legend, this is. Carpenter and musical partner in crime Alan Howarth composed the scores to my all-time favorites of John's films, and even though this isn't one of them (Tommy Lee Wallace directed), within it is the essence of what made those musical collaborations so fantastic ? I'm talking about the godlike majesty that is the quintessential '80s movie synth: the Sequential Circuits Prophet series.
Yes, the almighty Prophet-5 and -10 were staples of many electronic artists since their inception in the mid-'70s. But it was the '80s, and Carpenter and Howarth in particular, who brought them so boldly into Carpenter's film world, emerging strong with The Fog and Escape From New York, augmenting Ennio Morricone's more traditional score for The Thing, continuing through project after project throughout the decade. Sure, Carpenter went on to employ a host of other instruments, veering into sampling when it became more available, and ultimately incorporated more organic elements in the '90s, from full orchestras to roadhouse blues to straight-up industrial metal. But oh, those glorious Prophets... the warm bath drones, bell-like arpeggios and throbbing sequences, not to mention those trademark ?stingers?... they still make me moist.
Gear-nerding aside, this score is really an impressive piece of work, and despite being one of the earliest Carpenter & Howarth team-ups, it's actually a thematic departure. Sure, instrumentally, it's familiar turf - drawing on many elements from Escape From New York and foreshadowing many of the musical textures that would permeate Christine the following year ? but also conspicuous in its overall lack of clear thematic motifs, always so instantly recognizable to Carpenter fans. There's not a tune here that burns into the brain like, say, the ?heartbeat? undercurrent that opens The Thing, the moody piano-driven Escape main theme, the relentless ?attack? passage from Christine... and it goes without saying that any Halloween score without that haunting 5/4 piano pattern has a jack-o-lantern-sized hole in it.
So, without classic hooks like those, why is this score so memorable? Because it does what every good score should ? it creates a mood which does much more than accompany the images onscreen; it enhances, even elevates the material (which frankly needed a bit of elevating), and turns what would otherwise be an awkward and confusing mishmash of horror concepts into a surreal nightmare with its own logic and menacing purpose.
Okay, I'll admit there is one track in here with an unforgettable hook... but I hesitate to mention it because it's one you'll really, really want to forget. But I must. I'm talking about that delightful, hemorrhage-inducing ?Silver Shamrock? theme, set to the tune of ?London Bridge.? If you've seen this movie and are reading this paragraph, then it's already got a hold of you. And it will be with you for days, festering inside your skull... as you brush your teeth in the morning... on the drive to work... waiting on line at the ATM... oh yes, it will be there, curled in your head like a parasite. ?Eight more days till Halloween, Halloween, Halloween...? There you go. You're welcome.
Now where were we? Oh yeah, the good stuff. This 25th Anniversary remastered edition is, frankly, the cat's ass. Released by Alan Howarth's own label, AHI Records, this CD contains all 12 cuts from the elusive original soundtrack - released eons ago by Varese Sarabande and highly prized by collectors ? and adds 13 bonus tracks to round out the otherwise slim package to well over an hour, very little of which is filler or outtake material.
Standouts among the original tracks include the chilling ?Chariots Of Pumpkins? (which, despite the goofy title, sounds more like Tangerine Dream than Vangelis), the moody ?Drive To Santa Mira? (which echoes some of Carpenter's synth add-ons to Morricone's Thing score), and the cathedral-sized ?The Rock,? which announces the onscreen presence of the Stonehenge ?Blue Stone.? Much of the bonus material is lower-tempo but no less compelling: the thunderous bass effects of ?Local Boy, No Way? will rattle tchotchkes off your living room shelf (or whatever room your sub-woofer lives in); ?A Pleasure Doing Business? builds menace by layering arpeggios over a throbbing bass thud, and the final track ?I Love A Good Joke? has some classic Carpenter ?stingers? that could do irreparable harm to your sofa cushions, if you know what I mean.
This release is one of only 1000 copies, so nab one soon... if you swing by Howarth's website, it looks like he'll even sign a copy for you. Good idea, because this one's a keeper. Not just for Carpenter or Halloween fans, but for devotees of fine '80s synth artistry.