And then, in 1982, the story of Halloween went off the rails in what I feel was the coolest way possible. And to think, some felt Rob Zombie’s Halloween II went off the mark.
Halloween III: Season of the Witch was mostly a flop when it was released. It managed to make the money to cover the film’s budget, but the film was hurt by the lack of connection to the original series. I think most people at the time were just expecting to see more of Michael Myers and wondered just what the hell this was about. Imagine if The Force Awakens had absolutely zero ties to the main characters in the Star Wars Universe. Actually, you might end up with The Ewok Adventure, but that’s a different review for a different time. Still, Season of the Witch was just that kind of shake up when it was released.
Tommy Lee Wallace sat in the director’s chair this time around. Having actually played Michael Myers in the first Halloween film, Wallace does well here, showing he learned something about setting the scene. It all moves well, and the pacing isn’t too slow. Viewers expecting gore and attacks might find themselves sighing and fast forwarding a bit, but then again, it’s not that type of film. Season of the Witch has a slew of jump scares, though it does go a little overboard in the second half of the movie. Were it cut down to an hour, Season of the Witch could serve as a good Tales from the Darkside / Crypt episode. As a horror story, the body count is low (which is typical for a Carpenter story anyway)
From a writing standpoint, Season of the Witch is solid, though somewhat predictable. Writing duties were handled by John Carpenter (who couldn’t fully walk away from the project), Nigel Kneale, and Wallace himself. My favorite horror tales are the ones that surround the one or few individuals that have discovered something wicked, only to find that they can’t seem to get anyone else to believe what they’ve witnessed. It’s one thing to be chased by a maniacal killer or space creature. It’s another thing entirely to find out you’re the only thing standing between the creature and the rest of humanity. Films like The Wicker Man, every version of Invasion of the Body Snatchers and Count Yorga: Vampire are examples of this, and Season of the Witch handles this very well, particularly after everything is revealed to our hero and to the audience. Okay, the truth’s out. Who’d even believe you, if you told them? That’s always bothered me. The focus in Halloween deals more with it’s Celtic origins and the celebration of Samhain, and this honestly adds to the creep factor if you do a bit of background reading on it.
Season of the Witch starts a few days before Halloween, with a man on the run from men in black suits. He’s able to defeat the men after him, but not without taking on a few injuries. It’s in the hospital that we’re introduced to our hero in Dr. Dan Challis, played by Carpenter film alum Tom Atkins (The Fog, Escape From New York & Night of the Creeps). Challis has a pretty normal life – a good job, a wife and two kids. When the new patient warns him about some strange danger looming on the horizon and passes along a Halloween mask, Challis decides to share his information with the man’s daughter, Ellie (Stacey Nelkin). Ellie believes that her father died due to foul play, and nothing is going to stop her from finding out why it happened. Challis makes a quick call to the Missus, lies about what he plans to do (he spends a great of his conversations with her like this, as he’s basicially cheating on her), and continues on the mission. Dan and Ellie find their way to a small town called Santa Mira and to Conal Cochran (played by Dan O’Herlihy, also in The Last Starfighter & Robocop), owner of the Silver Shamrock company.
The trailer and videos actually give away more of the film than I ever could. If you have the chance to watch it, give a try. I don’t think it’s the worst film ever, but others expecting knife wielding killers may find themselves disappointed. Besides, if you take nothing else away from the film, there’s always the catchy Silver Shamrock Jingle to remind us of the fun in Halloween. The jingle was created by Wallace and Carpenter, with Tommy Lee Wallace providing the vocals and reminding us all to get our Silver Shamrock masks.