Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Wednesday Horror: Halloween III: Season of the Witch

Film: Halloween III: Season of the Witch
Format: DVD from Manteno Public Library through interlibrary loan laptop.

When Halloween III: Season of the Witch (hereafter referred to just as Halloween III) was released in 1982, it was a huge disappointment. That’s kind of a shame, because it really is a cool idea. John Carpenter’s original plan was to create a new Halloween movie every year telling a completely different non-Michael Myers horror story. The fans of the original two films weren’t having it, though, making this a box office disappointment and forcing the return of the Shatner mask in subsequent movies.

In that sense, Halloween III was perhaps a little ahead of its time, or perhaps simply the wrong idea that the wrong time. Creating something like an extended anthology that would be a series of unrelated films under the same umbrella name is a pretty great idea. It’s a shame that this underperformed so much and the basic idea had to be scrapped.

Halloween III opens with the news that one of the giant slabs from Stonehenge has gone missing. Since this is exactly the sort of movie in which nothing is going to be unimportant come the end, it’s a good thing to remember, even if it seems like a non-sequitur. In the year posited by this film, the latest craze among kids as Halloween approaches are the three masks made by the Silver Shamrock company: a jack-o’-lantern, a witch, and a skull. Kids all over the country are lining up to buy Silver Shamrock masks.

But not all is clear and good in the world. A man being pursued by business suit-clad assailants ends up in a rural gas station to beg for help, then collapses. He’s taken to a nearby hospital where he is attended by Dr. Daniel Challis (Tom Atkins), who gets him stabilized. Shortly thereafter, one of the business-suited clad guys shows up and kills the man, then walks out into the parking lot, gets in his car, douses himself with gasoline, and lights himself on fire. The man’s daughter, Ellie Grimbridge (Stacey Nelkin), shows up to identify the body, but no one has any motive for the crime.

A few days later, Ellie contacts Dr. Challis. She’s done some investigative work on the last few days of her father’s life and discovers some irregularities when it comes to his movements over those days. Specifically, he visited the Silver Shamrock factory in Santa Mira, California, and then drove home. Things seem to have gotten strange during that time. She and the doctor head out to Santa Mira to do a little investigating of their own and discover some very strange goings-on, all of which seem to include the owner of the Silver Shamrock company, Conal Cochran (Dan O’Herlihy).

The idea behind Halloween III is interesting, or at least unique. There is a plot going on, of course, but I will not spoil the nature of that plot.

It’s kind of a shame that Halloween III didn’t work the way the studio wanted because it ended up spawning a series of more Michael Myers-based films rather than what it could have been, but I also fully understand why it didn’t work. It’s not merely that it didn’t fulfill the expectations of the audience. The truth is that for all of the cult status that this has attained in the years following its release, it’s just not that good.

Oh, the idea is sound. Give this a different name and take it out of the Halloween series (something that a lot of people essentially do anyway), and you have a film that suffers from execution more than it does from being misnamed. There are some really creepy moments in it and a few good gore scenes as well as some genuine tension in places. It also shows its low budget in spots, although there’s nothing I can really discuss without going into spoilers. In some respects, it reminds me of Alien3; it’s a film that was damaged by being associated with a much better film or films and would have been seen as better had it attempted to stand on its own.

Because of this, I don’t really understand its cult status now. In this respect, it reminds me more of Day of the Dead. Both movies were initially panned by critics and fans, and both received a small but growing groundswell of positive opinion. Both are better than the initial critical response, but both aren’t really quite deserving of their inflated reputation on a revisit.

Ultimately, Halloween III is interesting because it is different and tried to do something different. The story is a pretty good one, and while John Carpenter didn’t direct this, it very much has the feel of a Carpenter film. He did produce it, after all, and clearly wrote the soundtrack. It’s a lesser film, though. It deserves some attention, but the revised opinion of it is more than it should be.

Why to watch Halloween III: Season of the Witch: It’s certainly a unique story.
Why not to watch: After being undervalued initially, it’s now overhyped.


  1. I've only seen bits of it but I don't remember it much at all as I've only cared mainly for the original film only because I'm a big fan of John Carpenter. I would like to check out the rest of the series as I do have the most recent film in my never-ending DVR list.

    1. It's worth seeing. It's not at all deserving of the hype that currently surrounds it, but it's far better than it's initial reception. It was a cool idea for a series that just didn't work.

  2. I was a huge fan of the original Halloween, was 15 years old when this came out, never saw it, but was utterly perplexed that it didn't involve Michael Myers. :-)

    1. That was pretty much the standard reaction, and exactly why it tanked. No one was ready for essentially a serial franchise.