Halloween III: Season Of The Witch
An Appreciation By David Sodergren
(1982) Directed by Tommy Lee Wallace
For a long time, no one seemed to like Halloween III: Season of the Witch. That opinion has shifted a full 180 in recent years. A long-term staple of “Under-rated horror” lists, there is now a legion of angry social media users proclaiming the film to be over-rated.
I guess you either die a hero, or live long enough to see yourself become the villain, to quote some film or other.
A good portion of the reason for all the hate is the distinct lack of The Shape himself, Michael Myers.
Well, to be fair, he fucking died in part 2.
Due to this somewhat insurmountable issue, John Carpenter and producer Deborah Hill decided that the only way to continue the lucrative
Halloween series was in-name-only, using the brand to launch a series of October-themed horror movies, which would have been the best and maddest damn series ever, if this film was any indication.
Assembling a cast and crew that amounts to a John Carpenter super-group, Halloween III opens with a terrific, near-wordless opening eight-minute sequence, soundtracked with an exceptionally gloomy synth score by Alan Howarth and ol’ JC himself. The score may not be as iconic as the original film’s, but for atmosphere and suspense it almost has it beat.
This would be a good time to tell you that Halloween III was the first Halloween movie I ever saw, aged 10 or 11. I had read about the series, and knew of Michael Myers, and spent a good portion of the movie wondering where the giddy-fuck he was.
So when we first bump into this guy, I thought it was Michael.
Not as scary as I was expecting.
Rather than the masked maniac, what we are presented with is a chase sequence, with a dishevelled man being stalked by what appears to be an army of accountants, probably chasing him about PPI claims.
The scene ends with one of the yuppies getting crushed by a car, and our nominal hero proclaiming ‘They’re coming!’
It’s a dynamite opening.
With the mystery in place, it’s time to meet our hero, Dr Challis. Fresh off The Fog, Tom Atkins plays Challis as, umm, an alcoholic sex-pest that every woman in the film is inexplicably attracted to. He’s introduced slapping a nurse on the arse, then shares a quick kiss with another nurse, before hopping into bed that evening with the gorgeous Stacey Nelkin, who despite arriving to investigate her father’s death and taking an unexpected trip with Challis, has luckily remembered to pack her lingerie.
In the world of Tom Atkins, women can never be too prepared.
In a film about evil toymakers and druid magic, the romance between Atkins and Nelkin is probably the hardest thing to swallow.
Did I mention his ex-wife is played by Annie Brackett herself, Nancy Loomis? She’s not the only Halloween babysitter to turn up. Jamie Lee Curtis provides an audio cameo as the voice of the town curfew. All we needed was PJ Soles for a full-blown reunion!
Anyway, the film begins properly when big Tom, (who’s also a terrible father, by the way) heads off to the factory town of Santa Mira with Nelkin in tow, to investigate the sinister toy factory of Canal Cochran.
To reveal more of the plot would be to give away much of the film’s surprises, which are as frequent as they are mental.
Drill murders, laser beams, melting faces, cockroaches, robots, Stonehenge(!), this film has it all.
It’s far gorier than the first two films, courtesy of excellent practical effects from Tom (Cat People) Burman. Meanwhile, Dean Cundey returns as cinematographer, really showing how integral his style is to the look and feel of John Carpenter’s movies. Honestly, while this one was directed by Tommy Lee Wallace (who would go on to direct the 1990 IT tv series), it feels for all the world like a lost Carpenter movie, and that’s no bad thing.
Check out the above still to see what I mean, Cundey utilising the full space of the frame, but with an irate businessman who wants to see your tax returns rather than Michael Myers.
Towards the end, things get completely bonkers, and the film turns into a sort-of sci-fi/horror James Bond film, complete with a baddie’s lair and a plan for world domination, or something. However, despite his obvious skills in the sack, Atkins makes for a poor spy.
‘What’s your name?’ asks Cochran.
‘Mr…Smith,’ says Atkins, in an incredibly poor bit of bluffing.
Regardless, the stage is set for the action-packed climax, in which anything — and I mean literally anything — can, and does happen.
Like most of the movies I cover at Kendall Reviews, it’s the sort of film that wouldn’t be made anymore. Getting by on atmosphere and score and imagery and WTF moments, it has a story that crumbles at the slightest provocation.
At times, it feels like even the writers don’t know what’s happening.
‘Why are you doing this?’ asks Atkins.
‘Do I need a reason?’ replies the baddie.
Later, he reveals they stole one of the stones from fucking STONEHENGE.
‘You wouldn’t believe how we did,’ grins Cochran, and says no more on the subject.
If you’re the sort of person infuriated by that sort of thing, then maybe it’s best to move on.
But if you’re like me, you’ll be too busy having a good time to care about things like that. Halloween III has actually replaced the original film as my go-to Halloween movie to watch on the 31st. Not only that, but it’s one of my favourite American horror movies of the 80s.
‘Why?’ you might ask. And, in the immortal words of Conal Cochran, I can only respond thusly: ‘Do I need a reason?’
Turns out I don’t.
David Sodergren lives in Scotland with his wife Heather and his best friend, Boris the Pug. Growing up, he was the kind of kid who collected rubber skeletons and lived for horror movies.
Not much has changed since then.
His first novel, The Forgotten Island, was published on October 1st 2018 to critical acclaim. Up next is Night Shoot, a brutal throwback to the early 80s slasher movie cycle has just recently been released.
He has several more books in various stages of development.
You can follow David on Twitter @paperbacksnpugs
To find out more about David please visit his official website www.paperbacksandpugs.wordpress.com
Find David on Instagram here
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