Halloween III: The Season of the Witch (1982)

Halloween III: The Season of the Witch (1982)

The night no one comes home.

An evil toymaker plans to kill all of the kids who go trick or treating on Halloween using deadly masks in order to complete an ancient Pagan ritual. It’s up to a doctor who is exploring the death of one of his patients to find out what is going on and convince everyone of the danger.

 

With absolutely nothing to do with the two previous movies, Halloween III: Season of the Witch has been held in disdain for many years as the sequel that never was. Why? There’s no sign of Michael Myers. Audiences went into this film with the wrong idea and expected to see the masked man slash his way through another batch of hapless Haddonfield fodder. So where is Michael Myers? John Carpenter came up with the idea that instead of repeating the same slasher film formula over and over again, he wanted to do a series of stand-alone horror films that were only connected to each other by the theme of Halloween. This was supposed to be the catalyst for that idea but since it bombed, the idea was scrapped and the producers opted to return to the safety of Michael Myers and more yawn-inducing repetition. Audiences are creatures of habit and they will react badly when their favourite film formulas are chopped and changed around. It’s a real pity because if they took off their rose-tinted glasses, they’d see that Halloween III: The Season of the Witch is an underrated horror classic.

Halloween III: The Season of the Witch is hard to really define as a sequel since it hasn’t anything to do with the traditional Halloween mythology but what we do get is highly atmospheric shocker which has the same visual style as the original Halloween. It’s got John Carpenter’s trademarks all over it and if it hadn’t been labelled with the Halloween tag, then it would have received a lot more respect than it gets. So distance yourself from that franchise for a moment and you’ve got a truly original horror film. Based on a screenplay by Nigel Kneale (he of the Quatermass films fame), the film involves all manner of weird and wonderful plots, some of which go nowhere fast and some of which lead to the excellent conclusion. You’ve got androids, snakes and bugs, lasers, decapitations, burnings, Stonehenge, creepy Halloween masks and much more. It’s easy to spot the parts that Kneale contributed – the idea that the supernatural has scientific explanations was present in Quatermass and the Pit.

The story itself is a fascinating one with the idea that an ancient Celtic cult has infiltrated a multi-million dollar corporation designing children’s Halloween masks which are instilled with chips containing tiny fragments of Stonehenge. When Halloween strikes the masks will obliterate their wearers – most notably the millions of children who are wearing them around the country. It’s a great story, a little offbeat and mean-spirited, but one which takes time to evolve during the course of the film and finally emerges as a disturbing and ultimately grim depiction of mass child murder. The death scenes in the film are gruesome and highly effective as a demonstration of the masks, which turn their wearers into rotting puddles of worms and insects, is brought to life with full effect.

Tommy Lee Wallace is clearly modelling his film on John Carpenter’s visual style and shares the same approach with many shots. In fact it looks so much like a Carpenter film at times that it’s hard to tell the difference. Alan Howarth also composes a classic Carpenter-esque synthesised score which adds to the creepy mood especially during the opening scene. And the finale is also one of the most impressive that I can recall. I won’t spoil the final three minutes for you but it’s worth watching as things don’t go accordingly to plan….or do they? You’ll have to make your own mind up about how it ends as Tom Atkins’ character screams at the TV station to turn off the commercial.

Speaking of Atkins, he looks to have been paid his salary for this in beer! If there was ever an anti-hero of horror, then Atkins would fit the bill perfectly in this. He drinks a lot, looks extremely out-of-shape and on the verge of a heart attack during the action sequences but he manages to bed a hot woman twenty years younger than him. This is despite the fact his character is married with kids and is supposed to be this respected doctor! He was one of Carpenter’s trusted actors and made appearances in a few of his earlier films. Atkins plays the likeable everyman who was clearly not modelled on the dashing Hollywood stereotype but gives you a rugged charm and stability. Dan O’Herlihy gets little screen time as the architect of this scheme, the mad Irishman Conal Cochran, but makes his appearance count with every line he delivers.

 

It seems that the most obvious reason that people hate this sequel is because “there’s no Michael Myers” but those who think that clearly have no business calling themselves horror fans. Halloween III: Season of the Witch is unsettling at times, overly morbid and grim to the teeth and it leaves a sour after taste in your mouth as soon as the credits hit – perfect horror viewing! One of the most underrated horror films ever made and one which, thankfully, has finally started to gain a following.

 

 ★★★★★★★★☆☆ 

 

 

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