Fellow colleague and one of my favorite people to discuss movies and movie history with when given the opportunity (listen to our commentaries!) has stopped by to take the guest mic here at Naptown Nerd. Jim Dietz of the HHWLOD Podcast Network is here to weigh in some more on the topic of Halloween III: Season Of The Witch and give his take on this fascinating black sheep entry in the Halloween franchise!
I’m not going to lie or sugar-coat it, Halloween 3 Season of the Witch is not a very good movie, feeling oft times like a made-for-TV movie rather than an actual theatrical release Its packed chock-full of television actors, the special effects are anything but, the romance between the two leads is the worst mismatch since Padme and Anakin, and the story, in comparison to the taut, streamlined plot of the first Halloween movie, is a convoluted derivative mess.
Yet why am I wasting your time gentle reader in a remembrance of said film? Because despite its flaws the movie hints at what could’ve been a greater destiny for the Halloween franchise given the chance. Instead of the Halloween franchise consistently dealing with the mythos of serial killer Michael Myers, John Carpenter envisioned it as a round-robin style anthology, with each movie being a self-contained horror tale revolving in some way around the theme of Halloween. Season of the Witch was the first experimental attempt to launch the franchise in that direction but as the movie went over like a lead balloon (and rightfully so, as I said its not a good movie) that direction was abandoned in favor of bringing back Michael and his stabby ways.
There are some good actors in this movie,but the script by auteur writer/director Tommy Lee Wallace does none of them any favors. Wallace was Carpenter’s production designer on the first Halloween movie and on The Fog and this film is his first in the director’s chair and in places it shows. Scenes are often blocked and shot the same way, some scares are telegraphed by the camera work and there are some jump cuts that could give you whiplash. Its interesting that after he cut his teeth here he went on to direct a lot of television including the mini-series based on Stephen King’s novel It.
The story revolves around a divorcee doctor (oooh… socially relevant and timely) played by Pittsburgh acting legend Tom Atkins who witnesses a well-dressed man immolating himself in the parking lot of his hospital. He teams up with a romantic interest half his age played by Stacey Nelkin, yet another actor who ended up doing a lot of television, to unravel the mystery of the evil Silver Shamrock Mask company. Turns out its a massive revenge plot by some modern-day witches led by Dan O Herlihy and his room full of giant 1980s computers. The masks turn the kids wearing them into big piles of bugs and snakes when a special subliminal commercial is played (no really) and then that vermin attacks the parents. Great plan, huh? Even after Atkins destroys their giant computers and kills O Herlihy with the light from a piece of Stonehenge (no, really) ,the movie ends with the doctor screaming over the phone at the television station to turn off the Silver Shamrock trigger commercial that turns the little kids into bugs and snakes. Did I mention. he is in a gas station surrounded by kids wearing the evil masks? Will he get the commercial taken off before its too late? Will Tom Atkins and his sweet butter-leather jacket survive? Will he realize that calling three different TV stations would require three different calls not just yelling hysterically at one person to shut them all down? And most importantly, the one question I can answer, would anyone care?
The answer to the latter query: not so much. While the opening weekend did well based clearly on the fame of the Halloween name, the modestly budgeted movie did make back more than it cost, but its modest overall gross,was half of Halloween 2’s take. Season of the Witch and Halloween 2 were both budgeted at around 2.5 million, but H2’s box office was around 25 million and H3’s take was a little less than half that, around 12 million. It would be 6 years before another Halloween movie came along and the anthology idea was such a non-starter that the tagline of Halloween 4 was “The Return of Michael Myers”, proudly hailing the return of Haddonfield’s most notorious resident to the franchise.
Naming the high points of this film are like giving an award to the World’s Tallest Midget, but there are a few. Atkins is always solid and really tries to sell this script and his character in it, and Dan O:Herlihy’s voice is forever associated by me with the long run of Kraft Food Products commercials he did in the 70s and 80s so hearing him go on a long soliloquy about killing children was a treat. The number one Silver Shamrock salesman and his family become victims in a weird half-assed Willy Wonka kind of way, and their one note performances are rightfully rewarded by a totally ludicrous death scene. And the Silver Shamrock song is just as annoying and cloying as any real jingle. And finally although he didn’t direct this film, John Carpenter does supply the soundtrack for it, which for a Carpenter fan like myself was indeed a silver (shamrock) lining.
So Halloween 3 Season of the Witch. You can probably skip it unless you are some completist-level fan. Other than a preview for the original Halloween shown on a TV in the movie there is no connection to the rest of the series or the Michael Myers canon so if its the rest of the series appeals to you its a sure bet that this one will not. Even I as a bit of a connoisseur of bad movies it would be difficult for me to recommend it even in a Mystery Science Theater way. It seems like a made-for-TV level offering that is a Halloween movie in name only, and unless you have OCD issues about absolutely having to see all of the Halloween movies then you can probably give this one a pass.
You can find more of Jim's work on the HHWLOD Podcast Network. There's a ton of great shows there to listen to during your workday, workout, hangout. Check it out! Walking Dead fans, they have hands down the best show around dedicated to it!