6. Halloween III: Season of the Witch (1982)
Directed by Tommy Lee Wallace.
Starring Tom Atkins, Stacey Nelkin and Dan O’Herlihy.
Released less than a year after Halloween II, this sneaky adjunct to the core Michael Myers mythos is understandably the most divisive of all the Halloween movies, a completely Myers-free excursion focused instead on a nefarious Halloween mask manufacturer plotting to sacrifice America’s children in a witchcraft ritual. Yup.
John Carpenter’s pal and original Halloween editor Tommy Lee Wallace undertakes directing duties this time, in an intensely silly horror film – even for this series’ later standards – that’s clearly only been slapped with the franchise moniker for disingenuous reasons. This leaves an undeniably sour taste from the outset, but even on its own terms, the movie rarely rises to become anything more than a warmed-over Twilight Zone special with just a demented splash of David Cronenberg.
Even if you’re able to get fully on-board with the shamelessly silly premise, the pacing is all over the place, with Wallace allowing long, airless stretches to unfold without much happening. The concept of a killer Halloween mask and the introduction of witchcraft are ideas that actually land on the right side of nutty often enough, but the script struggles to find substantial connective tissue, and Wallace’s flat direction doesn’t much help. Even when things ramp up in act three, the finale ends up feeling painfully drawn-out.
So, what works? First and foremost, the cast. As protagonist Dr. Challis, Tom Atkins boasts far more charisma than the movie deserves, and as female lead Ellie Grimbridge, Stacey Nelkin has a sure fresh-faced appeal.
Their inevitable romantic tryst is completely arbitrary, but at least the pair display solid chemistry, and it has an amusingly Freudian dimension given their age gap and the death of Ellie’s father at the start of the film. That’s not to forget Dan O’Herlihy, who gives a deliciously slimy performance as Silver Shamrock’s sinister owner Conal Cochran, fully amplifying the movie’s sledgehammer-subtle takedown of consumerism and big business.
Though the iconic Halloween theme is nowhere to be heard, Carpenter and Alan Howarth’s synth score is a kitschy delight all on its own, while the iconic Silver Shamrock theme song will be left rattling around in your head for days after finishing the movie.
While Season of the Witch commits to a suitably dark ending, it’s sadly in the service of a jumbled, sluggish, half-baked horror that pulls itself – and the audience – in too many different directions at once. If you’re going to put the franchise icon on the bench for seven years, you sure as hell better come out swinging with something brilliantly bold, and this just wasn’t it.
The black sheep of the franchise for reasons both justified and not, Halloween III cynically critiques consumerism all while tethering itself to a brand name in the craven pursuit of more money.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★
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