RETRO REVIEW – ‘Halloween III: Season of the Witch’

Review by J.T. Johnson

ORIGINAL RELEASE DATE: October 22, 1982
DIRECTOR: Tommy Lee Wallace
CINEMATOGRAPHY: Dean Cundey
WRITERS: Tommy Lee Wallace
MUSIC: John Carpenter, Alan Howarth

I’ll be honest, I love “Halloween III: Season of the Witch”. When this movie was initially released in 1982, most people hated it because it’s the sequel that doesn’t contain Michael Myers as the main antagonist. Thankfully, this film’s reputation has improved over the years within the horror community, but there are still those that think this film sucks because of its lack of Myers.

When I first watched it years ago, I must admit that I was like so many others wondering where Michael Myers was and I pretty quickly dismissed the entire movie. Then, I revisited the film a few years later and found a new appreciation for the flick. This was because at the time I had also just found out about why this film exists in the first place.

After director/producer John Carpenter thought he had definitively dealt with Michael Myers by the end of “Halloween II” in 1981, he wanted to take the series in a new direction. Instead of another sequel dealing with Myers, every “Halloween” film after would be set on the infamous holiday but would tell a new type of horror story. This film dealt with a modern day witch story and had it been a success, the next film would have potentially been about ghosts.

Since this film was not a success, the movie shifted back to Michael Myers thus making this film the odd little duckling of the series. Thankfully, the movie has found a new life a cult hit and it serves as evidence of what the series could have been. It really is a great example of the perfect 1980s B horror film.

The story begins with a frantic man running away from some oddly emotionless assassins. He ends up in the hospital clutching a Halloween mask from the Silver Shamrock factory, the makers of the most popular Halloween masks. The assassins catch up to the man and kill him. His doctor, Dan Challis (Tom Atkins), is traumatized by the event, leading him to investigate further.

After joining forces with the man’s daughter Ellie (Stacey Nelkin), they end up in the strange little town that houses the Silver Shamrock factory. There, they learn of an evil plot being carried out by the factory’s owner, Conal Cochran (Dan O’Herlihy).

The first thing of note is the performances. Atkins and Nelkin are perfect as the movie’s leads, Dr. Challis and Ellie. Despite a forced love story between the two, they do have chemistry as they investigate their weird surroundings.

Beyond them, though, the true standout in the movie is O’Herlihy as the sinister Cochran. When we first meet him, he is quite charming but you always know that something more sinister lies beneath the surface. When that person shows up, O’Herlihy definitely relishes Cochran’s calm and kind yet somehow always sinister persona.

The movie isn’t afraid to show you the villain’s insidious plan either. There is a now famous scene that shows you what will happen to the kids should Cochran’s scheme be successful. If you don’t like kids being harmed in films, then this one may not be for you.

The movie is not perfect. The plot is not always completely coherent, there is the forced love story I mentioned earlier, and the film does have a raw feel to it with some questionable effects. While I think that raw feel actually adds to the movie’s tone, it may be a turn off for others. The story, for the most part, is pretty strong with a not-so-subtle critical eye at corporate America with a few good twists along the way.

This movie’s biggest sin today is that it’s called “Halloween III”. Even so, I think the film more than destroys its initially notorious reputation and is a strong entry in the franchise. In fact, if the studios had stuck to the anthology plan, I think the series would have stood out more when compared to other contemporary series such as “A Nightmare on Elm Street” and “Friday the 13th”.

If you can look beyond the fact that it’s not a Michael Myers film, I think you’ll be surprised by how good this film is on its own merits.

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1 Comment on RETRO REVIEW – ‘Halloween III: Season of the Witch’

  1. Agree completely with you here – Halloween III is a decent film, held by by the association with it’s name.

    The frantic ending is pretty good. I’ve only ever seen Halloween III once, but it’s always stuck with me.

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