Film Review: Halloween III: Season of the Witch

My face as a young kid when I realized Michael Myers wasn’t in Halloween III.

For the first time since I was a young kid annoyed Michael Myers wasn’t in it and tapped out 45 minutes in, I finally watched 1982’s Halloween III: Season of the Witch in full today. Halloween III has become something of a cult classic, but I still stayed away from it for whatever reason, maybe because it didn’t include Michael Myers. The original idea we’ve always heard from John Carpenter and Debra Hill, who created 1978’s Halloween and Michael Myers is that a.) they didn’t want to do a sequel and b.) they conceptualized a Halloween anthology, where a different story would be told on Halloween each year. The problem is that once you do the sequel, you can’t then try to do the anthology! People are rightly going to be wondering where Michael Myers is. That said, I’m going to evaluate the movie on its own merits and not as it technically exists within the Michael Myers universe and franchise.

The film is written and directed by Tommy Lee Wallace, who played Michael Myers for the closet scene in the original film, and is making his directorial debut here (he made his writing debut the same year prior with Amityville II: The Possession). Carpenter and Hill are producers on the film. I’m not sure how much direct involvement they actually had, however.

Season of the Witch is a movie where the evil is Silver Shamrock, a company that makes Halloween masks and has an unforgettable jingle from its commercial constantly airing, first counting down the days until Halloween and then singing on Halloween:

Happy Happy Halloween, Halloween, Halloween Happy Happy Halloween, Silver Shamrock

Their masks are connected through witchcraft of some kind stemming from Stonehenge because Conal Cochran (played by Dan O’Herlihy), the owner, stole a piece of Stonehenge and brought it back to Northern California … somehow. The jack-o’-lanterns from the commercial “activate” the masks when the kids (or adults) are wearing them, killing them all. Cochran, like those thousands of years ago, feels its time to make a sacrifice of the children to the witch, I guess?

That is actually pretty dark stuff! We even get a gruesome scene later where a little kid is killed in front of his parents (and then the parents are killed) as a “test run.” Our protagonists trying to stop it all are Dr. Dan Challis (played by Tom Atkins) and Ellie Grimbridge (played by Stacey Nelkin); Ellie’s father, Harry (played by Al Berry) was killed by one of the androids and tried to warn of what was coming. Weirdly, the movie shoehorns a rather awkward romance between Challis and Ellie, even though Challis is 20-some years older than her surely. He could be her father. In general, he seems a bit like a womanizer (in one scene, he grabs his nurse’s butt, which is played off as humor, but)! Nonetheless, he is the hero we have; you might even say the hero we need, not the hero we want. Worth noting about Al Berry is that he had a little Halloween store and Ellie says the local mall was essentially putting him out of business. I wonder how the mall is doing today?

Even though this isn’t a Michael Myers film and it doesn’t take place in Haddonfield (it takes place in Northern California), Wallace created plenty of connective tissue: The opening title sequence is similar to the prior two films with a jack-o-lantern; a showing of Halloween is sponsored by Silver Shamrock; Nancy Kyes, who played Annie in the first film, one of Laurie’s friends who dies, is in this as our main character’s ex-wife; the androids who do the dirty work of Silver Shamrock move a lot like Michael Myers and stalk in the way he did; and in fact, Dick Warlock, who played Michael Myers in the second film, played one of the androids.

This is a bizarre, but interesting film. I read it as a thematic commentary on not just the commercialization of Halloween and horror, but how easily we are led by the nose to what comes forth from the television. After all, the Silver Shamrock commercial repeatedly reminds viewers:

[It’s almost time, kids. The clock is ticking. Be in front of your TV sets for the Horrorthon, followed by the Big Giveaway. Don’t miss it. And don’t forget to wear your masks. The clock is ticking. It’s almost time.]

And they do it! To their death, so it seems, despite Challis’ best efforts to stop it. The evil wins.

I like how weird this film is and how it tries to do something different. Similar to what I’ve said about Rob Zombie’s interpretation of Halloween, particularly Halloween II, I’d appreciate it more, if it wasn’t connected to the Michael Myers Halloween franchise. In other words, if this came out as Season of the Witch with zero connective tissue to the prior two films in the franchise, then I would appreciate it more. Regardless, on its own merits, it’s a darn fine horror flick that holds up rather well 40 years later.

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