Halloween III: Season of the Witch
Dir. Tommy Lee Wallace (1982)
A company sells a trio of Halloween masks that are set to kill their wearers on Halloween.
Halloween III: Season of the Witch (aka The One Without Michael Myers) is a new direction for the franchise, following creator John Carpenter's idea to have each new Halloween film telling a different story. Most know the story by now that this was always Carpenter's original intention, and that the studio forced him to make II with Michael Myers due to the popularity of the original film. Season of the Witch was his attempt to right the ship in his intended course, but the film ended up being massively unpopular at release due to the absence of the iconic killer in the film. It has received a surge in popularity more recently, however, and has taken its place in the franchise as the most unique of any film in the series.
SotW is a different film in both direction and tone, leaning much more into science fiction, witchcraft, and mystery thriller than it does straight-up horror. The film is about a company called Silver Shamrock that makes Halloween masks and is intending to use them to take over the world by killing any kid that wears the mask and the adults in the vicinity on Halloween night. They do this by inserting pieces of Stonehenge into the mask, using black magic to brainwash the children into becoming inadvertent killing machines. It's an intriguing concept, one that really hasn't been used since, and it's executed to near perfection. The third installment of the franchise leans heavily into the gore, with some excellent practical effects and, unfortunately, very dated special effects. They don't take away from the film, however, and serve more as an artifact of the past that happened to make their way into a pretty decent flick. The one major drawback of the film is it does drag at times, with very little action for broad swaths of the movie. The action there is, however, is quite good, and the intensity of the violence works very well in keeping the audience's attention.
The presence of Tom Atkins really makes the film. He's an iconic genre actor and he plays the character at the heart of the Silver Shamrock mystery, a doctor who hooks up with the daughter of a deceased patient that joins him in his investigation of the conspiracy to kill the country's children. The score, once again delivered by John Carpenter, is excellent as well, a bit more playful and "digital" than in the first two films, heavily synthesized and used much more sparingly than before. Of course, you can't talk about Halloween III without mentioning the ever-present and ridiculously-annoying Silver Shamrock theme, set to the music of London Bridge Is Falling Down and played roughly every two and a half minutes of the film's runtime. I must warn those who have never seen the film before: the Silver Shamrock theme will play in your head for fucking days. It will never truly leave either, popping up at inopportune moments for the rest of your days.
The film is also unintentionally funny at times. You gotta love Tom Atkins checking the age of his paramour after they hook up. Better late than never, I suppose. The childrens' continual preoccupation with the television is as playful and whimsical as it is an indictment of the brainwashing effect of television on the nation's youth. The undercurrent of corporate malfeasance with the cartoonishly evil Silver Shamrock company is a brilliant touch, especially in a film that so astutely skewers consumerism and society's dependence on television as a form of babysitting for our kids. Leave it to Carpenter's brainchild to insert a social message in an otherwise benign horror flick about Halloween masks.
Season of the Witch is one that I came upon much later in life, having been turned off by the absence of my favorite slasher villain from a film bearing his franchise's name. I definitely slept on it, though, as it's an entertaining film that with a truly unique plot and some fantastic effects work. That said, it is not a Halloween movie. It really doesn't belong in the franchise, Carpenter's intentions be damned. It does, however, belong in the genre, and you'll never come across another film quite like it. I could easily see this film getting the remake treatment at some point in time, though that would be a shame, because it's the 80's goodness and a sexy-as-hell Tom Atkins that really make it one worth watching.
Who this movie is for: Scifi/horror fans, Halloween lovers, People with a Tom Atkins kink
Bottom line: Recent convertees are right: Season of the Witch is a great film, and could even be considered one of the better films of the franchise. It is not, however, a Halloween film as we know and love them, and as such should be considered on a different plane of existence. It's still a wildly entertaining film with some excellent acting, effects work, and a unique plot that you'll never see anywhere else. And I dare you to try to get the Silver Shamrock theme song out of your head. Three more days till Halloween...