Halloween III: Season of the Witch is best known for being the black sheep of the Halloween franchise. A notable feat since this franchise consists of so many weak entries. Halloween 5, 6, Resurrection and that dreadful second Rob Zombie Halloween movie. The original was a great movie, but as far as franchises go Halloween is probably one of the worst. But the main reason Halloween III is held in such a low regard is because it has absolutely nothing to do with the other movies in the series.
After Halloween II producers John Carpenter and Debra Hill thought it was a good idea to take this franchise in a new direction. Rather than putting out sequel after sequel featuring Michael Myers, their plan was to release a standalone movie each year with an original Halloween themed story. I must admit that this actually sounds good on paper. There are only two problems with this approach:
- The character of Michael Myers was already linked to the title Halloween after two movies. The same way Jason Voorhees is exclusively linked to Friday the 13th.
- A standalone movie needs to be at least as good as the previous movie(s).
That is where Halloween III: Season of the Witch fails. It’s is not a great movie and it doesn’t hold a candle to the original Halloween. A movie that is now seen as one of the greatest horror movies of all time.
The plot revolves revolves around a company named Silver Shamrock which produces masks for Halloween. They’re immensely popular even though their entire collection only consists of three masks: A witch, a skull and a jack-o’-lantern. When doctor Daniel Challis (Tom Atkins) has a patient dying under mysterious circumstances while clamping onto a Silver Shamrock mask he decides to investigate these matters. He does this together with the victim’s daughter. A young woman named Ellie (Stacey Nelkin).
It turns out that the Silver Shamrock company has implanted a chip in each mask which can be controlled by sending out a specific frequency. They do this during one of their TV commercials. The mask then kills the person wearing it in a gruesome, but rather nonsensical manner. It seems as if the person’s face just melts away, but for some strange reason a wide variety of bugs and even poisonous snakes appear. The movie’s explanation to this: magic!
For a movie titled “Halloween III: Season of the Witch”, there are not a lot of witches in it. It also takes place over the course of a week, so the whole season-aspect of the title makes as much sense as bugs and snakes suddenly appearing from a mask. But then there is not much that makes sense in this movie. Even the scheme of the CEO is absurd. Kill millions of kids on Halloween; then what?
It’s not as if he provides a reason. During one of those James Bond style villain-tells-all sessions, he just rhetorically says to Doctor Challis: Do I need a reason? Yeah, you do! You don’t just kill millions of people, kids even, without a reason. Everything we do always has some sort of reason behind it. Halloween III features some of the laziest script writing I have ever seen.
Halloween III: Season of the Witch is nonsensical in every matter. Instead of letting the police take care of things, a doctor deems a murder at his hospital and a subsequent supposed suicide to be something that he must investigate. Something I would leave up to a detective. But not Challis. He just leaves his wives and kids behind for a couple of days without actually saying where he’s going.
But he’s not alone. He’s accompanied by the attractive daughter of the murder victim. They stay together at a motel near the Silver Shamrock company and even have sex on the first night. If committing adultery was his plan, it sure is rather nasty that his target is the young daughter of a recently deceased patient.
I did not understand her motivations either. Her dad just died, but instead of planning a funeral she sets out to this motel with a guy she just met. It seems to me that having sex with a man seemingly twice her age is not something the average girl would do when one’s father has just died. But maybe that’s just me. There’s also a rather awkward moment when she tells him she is older than she looks during sex. That’s what adults usually say when they get caught having sex with an underage teen.
Halloween III also takes a vastly different approach in terms of style. A lot of focus in this movie lies on technology. There are constant shots of security cameras. This creates a sense of the protagonists being constantly under surveillance. The masks make us of a chip and even the opening titles and jack-o’-lantern logo take place on a computer screen. A 1982 computer screen, so it has this really old school vibe to it. To top it off the henchmen of the Silver Shamrock factory are lifelike robots. They tend to crush people’s heads with their hands. Halloween III is sometimes more a Terminator movie than an actual Halloween movie.
Yet, despite the effort it takes to distance itself from the previous movies, it does seem to look for attachments also. The original movie is shown on a television set and in the third act they use the original Halloween theme music. This is a strange choice, since the previous two movies are actually movies in Halloween III. By using the same music it sets the movie in the Michael Myers universe in my opinion. I’m probably thinking way more about a tidbit like this than writer/director Tommy Lee Wallace did about the entire story.
The biggest question Halloween III constantly raises is “why?”. Why kill millions of kids? Why kill toy-shop owners that sell your masks? Why would you run off to a remote town when you’re medical professional and not an investigator? Why would you go with a guy you just met, instead of making funeral arrangements? Why doesn’t anybody alert the authorities? Why, why, why? If you can answer those questions, you’re a lot smarter than this movie.