“Halloween III: Season of the Witch” (1982)
Studio: Dino De Laurentiis Company
Starring: Tom Atkins, Stacey Nelkin, Dan O’Herlihy
Directed by: Tommy Lee Wallace
Running Time: 98 min.
Synopsis: After the mysterious murder of a young woman’s father, her doctor tries to figure out who is behind it and discovers it might have to do with a company that makes Halloween masks.
When I first started getting into horror films in the late 80’s, I watched all the great films and all the big franchises. When I was watching all the Halloween movies, before I got to part three I heard how this one didn’t have Michael Myers in it. I thought how could they do a Halloween without Michael Myers. Then I watched Halloween III: Season of the Witch around Halloween in 1988, (the same time Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers was hitting theaters) and was pleasantly surprised. I enjoyed the film and thought it was an awesome Halloween themed movie. It’s still a favorite of mine and in my opinion is almost as good as the first film.
John Carpenter, who produced the film along with Debra Hill, wanted to have each Halloween movie be a different story that took place on the holiday instead of having them all about Michael Myers. Of course this didn’t work for moviegoers at the time and Myers returned in part four. Halloween III didn’t do that well at the box office and fans were disappointed because Michael Myers wasn’t in it and it had nothing to do with the first two films. Then in years time, the film started to grow a cult following and was finally appreciated for the excellent scary film that it is. People looked past that it wasn’t a part of the Michael Myers story and enjoyed it as a standalone film.
The film is about a doctor, Dan Challis (Tom Atkins) helping a woman, Ellie (Stacey Nelkin) whose father was in the hospital under Dan’s care and was mysteriously murdered by a man who set himself on fire after the killing. Her father sold toys and Halloween masks, mostly from a brand called Silver Shamrock. Both Dan and Ellie suspect that the Silver Shamrock Company may have something to do with his murder because he was returning from there to pick up a shipment. The two travel to the small town of Santa Mira, California where the company is located. It seems that the whole town is run by Silver Shamrock and its founder, Conal Cochran (Dan O’Herlihy). Dan and Ellie realize strange things start to happen while they are there and finally get to the bottom of it by going to the Silver Shamrock factory.
This is a great Halloween film that has a real scary story, a good cast, excellent soundtrack, and lots of great Halloween imagery. The first thing that sticks out is the Silver Shamrock song that is played during the commercials for their masks, counting down the days to Halloween. That song will stay stuck in your head after you hear it in the film. The score of the film by Carpenter and Alan Howarth is great and another memorable score from Carpenter. The music in the opening of the film where they show an animated graphic of pumpkin start to form on the screen is a great and sets the tone for the rest of the movie.
The film has a great Carpenter feel, even though he didn’t direct it, his vibe is still there. The director of the film, Tommy Lee Wallace did an awesome job of creating a masterpiece of terror. Wallace was working under Carpenter as the editor on the first Halloween and The Fog. He was asked to direct Halloween II, but turned it down because he didn’t like the script, but then ended up directing the third film. Wallace also directed many other horror films such as Stephen King’s It TV mini-series.
Other Carpenter elements are some of the cast members who have appeared in his other films. Tom Atkins was in Carpenter’s The Fog and Escape from New York and Nancy Loomis who appears in the first Halloween as Annie and is also in Assault on Precinct 13 and The Fog. Loomis, who plays Atkins ex-wife in the film, always plays a bitchy whiney character in all her Carpenter films. Also an uncredited Jamie Lee Curtis voice is in the film when she plays an operator talking to Dan over the phone and also supplies the voice of an announcer over a loud speaker in the town, announcing curfew.
There are plenty of great scary things in this movie and one of them is the Silver Shamrock masks. When the kids put them on and watch the Silver Shamrock Jack-o’-lantern flash on TV on Halloween night, their faces start to rot and bugs and snakes start to pour out of their face. The scene is one most memorable and creeping scenes in the film. Also this film made men in suits scary. All of Cochran’s men are these mindless zombies like robots that do his bidding and take out his enemies. They are almost Terminator like in a way. Cochran himself is pretty scary, especially towards the end where he reveals his master plan to Dan and he tells him who they really are. Dan O’Herlihy does a great job of playing the villain in Season of the Witch and making him the second notable bad guy in the Halloween series.
This film captures the spirit of the Halloween holiday with the TV commercials, masks displayed in the stores and the factory, and one scene where it shows different kids around the country trick or treating. The film also pays homage to the first Halloween film by showing a preview of it on TV advertising it for Halloween night. A scene of the film is also shown later on TV when Cochran locks up Dan, puts a mask on him, and puts a TV set in front of him. The first three Halloween films always have some classic horror film playing in the background on TV. Halloween had the 1950’s The Thing (which Carpenter remade in 1982), Halloween II had Night of the Living Dead, and ironically Halloween III had the first Halloween movie playing.
SPOILER ALERT: This part of the film always stood out for me, but it’s the ending of the film, so if you haven’t seen it please skip this paragraph and go on to the next. When Atkins character Dan is trying to call up all the TV stations to shut off the flashing jack-o-lantern, he watches as they start to do so, but they forget the last one and he starts to scream “Stop it!” over and over again as the pumpkin flashes. This scene reminded me of the 1956 Invasion of the Body Snatchers scene when Kevin McCarthy is yelling to the camera, “You’re next!” The two scenes had the same type of intensity as these two great actors screamed their lines.
Halloween III: Season of the Witch is an excellent horror film and a must see on Halloween. Along with the first Halloween and many other great horror films, it should be a staple in your movie watch list for the Halloween season. An awesome scary horror movie that finally got it’s due with horror and Halloween fans all around. Happy Halloween.