Fall of 82: Halloween III: Season of the Witch - Mania.com

Fall of 82: Halloween III: Season of the Witch

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  • Starring: Tom Atkins, Dan O’Herilhy, Stacy Nelkin, Ralph Strait and Michael Currie
  • Written by: Nigel Kneale and Tommy Lee Wallace
  • Directed by: Tommy Lee Wallace
  • Studio: Universal Pictures
  • Rating: R
  • Run Time: 99 minutes
  • Series:

Fall of 82: Halloween III: Season of the Witch

And yet no Donovan song in sight.

By Rob Vaux     October 22, 2012
Source: Mania.com

 Our Summer of 1982 series went over so well, we thought we’d hold it over into the fall! First up, a strange curiosity befitting the upcoming holiday.

I’m not sure we’d be talking about Halloween III: Season of the Witch without that misleading Number 3 in the title. This is not a Halloween movie, just a Halloween movie. There’s no Michael Myers, no Dr. Loomis and no Laurie Strode. The producers slid a completely different film into the franchise to boost its profile, turning an otherwise unremarkable effort into a unique cinematic curiosity. In and of itself, it’s kind of a disaster. Throw it in with one of slasher-dom’s signature franchises, however, and the Funky Factor makes it worth some attention.

 It certainly features a clever hook, though it doesn’t exploit it the way a truly great horror movie might. A crazed Irish businessman – and really, is there any other kind? – hits upon the prank to end all pranks, courtesy of some old-school witchcraft and a series of bestselling monster masks produced in his coastal California factory. An alcoholic doctor (Tom Atkins) catches brief wind of the plot after treating a patient clutching one of the masks in his hands. Why doesn’t he go to the police? No reason, except that they might have more luck than he does, and what fun would that be?

The cheerfully ridiculous story includes robot duplicates, suicide killers, a smuggled chunk of Stonehenge and the most annoyingly catchy fake commercial ever conceived. As high camp, it works brilliantly. As a legitimate horror film – certainly one connected however tangentially to the immortal John Carpenter original – it continually trips over its own shoelaces. The storyline makes no rational sense, and director Tommy Lee Wallace coats it in that uniquely 80s low-budget sheen that betrays the film’s grindhouse roots. A few money shots score, notably the first big reveal of the masks in action, but most of it hinges on Atkins’ willingness to take it all seriously rather than snicker up his sleeve with the rest of us.

At the same time, its silliness can be a great deal of fun with the right mindset. I stand in awe both of the bizarre ideas it clings to with a fanatic death grip, and the gaping logic holes it miraculously ignores in the process. Nigel Kneale – creator of The Quatermass Experiment – wrote the screenplay on what I can only assume was a lethal combination of bennies, lighter fluid and Guinness Extra Stout.  It’s really more science fiction than horror, with shades of The Stepford Wives and Invasion of the Body Snatchers jockeying for attention with all the black magic. The futuristic trappings coexist queasily with the Olde Tyme witchcraft. It’s like seeing Gandalf the Grey in an astronaut’s helmet: you can’t ever be comfortable with it, but watching the movie try to make it work constitutes a perverse fascination.

Hard-core horror fans will find more to enjoy here than laymen. It’s great watching Atkins – a veteran character actor normally relegated to supporting roles – play the hero for a change, while Dan O’Herilhy goes gleefully over the top as the devilish industrialist behind it all. A few clever nods to the original Halloween show up as well (such as Jamie Lee Curtis voicing a telephone operator), and Wallace maintains the feeling of dark desires beneath it all: some black and forbidden trick that part of us really wants to see played out. Halloween III also adds a very 80s anti-business critique that never really catches hold, but further enhances its strange concoction of ideas.

To top it all off, it sits in the middle of a franchise utterly unconnected to it in any way except the title. Carpenter and his late partner Debra Hill served as producers on the film, and envisioned it as a leap-frog away from the Michael Myers saga. They wanted the Halloween films to become a kind of anthology, with an entirely new Halloween-themed story told with each new movie. It didn’t turn out that way, and more’s the pity: the concept sounds far more interesting than the endless, wretched regurgitation of slasher crap we ultimately received. 1982 produced a lot of horror classics, and fair number of shitty sequels to boot. This one lies somewhere in between: not good by any stretch of the imagination, but weird, unique and even kind of fun in the right mindset.  And where do those qualities feel so much at home, if not on that wonderfully subversive holiday in the title?


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countzenith 10/22/2012 1:08:06 AM

I have a serious dislike for this movie.  The story is so bad.  When I was a kid I could easily suspend my disbelief on a bad movie, but not this one.

Dazzler 10/22/2012 4:06:33 AM

Sounds like this needed a title change at the time.  Might have saved it.

DarthBob 10/22/2012 4:37:44 AM

Terrible story, terrible dialogue, terrible acting = a down right awful movie.  I've heard the whole anthology thing before and it still doesn't change the fact that this movie is a steaming pile!

RobertTrate 10/22/2012 7:12:30 AM

 I watched it recetnly and loved it. I had also never seen it before. It is far better than any Halloween sequel after 2. 

CaptAmerica04 10/22/2012 8:56:59 AM

The "anthology" concept would have been FAR better than all the stupid resurrections/near-misses/returns/etc. of Myers.

mellowdoux 10/22/2012 9:39:39 AM

 Well... I'm actually in the same camp as Mr. Trate.

This is easily the best movie in the Halloween series after the Original. The story is clever as are the ideas (not, Rob, Cochran's scheme wasn't just a big practical joke... it was a mass-sacrifice to the Druidic forces he believed in), Dan O'Herlihy's performance is superb (he plays the role like a cheerful, favorite Uncle, then transforms with a sudden look that betrays the true darness of the character) and the ending packs a fantastic wallop.

Yes, there are some major flubs, such as the time-difference factor that I think Trate mentioned in his initial review, but as far as horror movies go... in an era dominated by Friday the 13th sequels and one masked slasher after another terrorizing stereotypical teens, Halloween III was a breath of fresh air that has, in recent years, finally found the respect it deserves.

TheDarksmyth 10/22/2012 10:02:06 AM

This is really my favorite in the sequels of the series. OBVIOUSLY the Original is the best in the series. Just watched this with my wife Saturday for her first time. Its a laugh. We laughed at the campiness of it and lunacy. I watch it every October before watching again, OBVIOUSLY, Halloween & Halloween II the night of Halloween. It's flaws make it a classic and the concept of an original Anthology would have been great a la the current American Horror Story on FX. Each season is a new horror story, new cast.

dalgoda 10/22/2012 2:05:02 PM

I was 10 when this came out and always liked it.  Our kids now like it as well, especially the Silver Shamrock commercial.

CyanideRush 10/23/2012 10:49:48 AM

For those who hate it; I highly recommend taking another look (if you haven't seen it in years and years. Much of it's stigma is attached to memories of outrage around it's release. Taking it as it's own film, much further along, it's a great movie. If you still hate it after taking another look, that's totally fair.


xJokersxWildx 10/23/2012 1:41:54 PM

It also showed the original Halloween on TV during a part, and featured Dick Warlock aka Michael Myers in part 2 as one of the robotic killer dudes in suits.

Tom Atkins rocks .... stop it stop it stoppppppppppppp it !!!

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