Halloween III: Season of the Witch has always been the black sheep of the franchise, mainly because it’s the only film to not feature Michael Myers as a character (though, there are Halloween TV commercials playing in the background), but it’s always been my second favorite entry. The original film does a great job of establishing a villain who is just plain evil without the use of an unnecessary long-winded explanation or convoluted back story, and has an ending that drives the idea that evil can never really be defeated home. With the exception of Season of the Witch, every other film in the series tried building up the mythology and failed because they were based on a half-baked idea (the sister thing is still dumb, but the Thorn cult could’ve been neat – key word here is “could’ve”), boring, edited into oblivion, or a combination of all three.
Season of the Witch junks the slasher blueprint under the watchful eye of producer John Carpenter and writer/director Tommy Lee Wallace (“The Shape” from Halloween, as well as the film’s editor and production designer), and creates a new mythology around the actual holiday and not the man in the mask. A riff on Invasion of the Body Snatchers, among many other things, the plot is kind of daring in that it centers around an ancient magic that will kill a huge population of children in one fell swoop. The great Tom Atkins plays Dr. Challis, who, along with the daughter of a deceased patient, travels to Santa Mira, California to look for clues about a recent murder at his hospital and begins to suspect that Silver Shamrock – a novelty company and manufacturer of Halloween masks – is somehow involved.
Atkins’ mustachioed hero steals the show, railing an attractive woman half his age while stopping an evil corporation from murdering children, and Dan O’Herlihy is also memorable (and very over-the-top) as Conal Cochran, the villainous novelty company owner. There are a lot of other things to like about the film, including the weird plot, catchy-as-hell Silver Shamrock theme song, and Alan Howarth/Carpenter score; in general, it’s really charming.
To be fair, Halloween III: Season of the Witch is often silly, cliché in parts (James Bond villain speech!), and leaves more than a few things unexplained (How many people is Dr. Challis sleeping with anyway? Why does the town allow itself to be given a 6 PM curfew by a weird toymaker? How in the hell did Cochran manage to smuggle a piece of Stonehenge into his warehouse?), but it’s a blast to watch. The ending even stays true to the Halloween formula and leaves things hanging with good not definitively triumphing over evil. I’d be lying if I said that I haven’t ever wondered about what the franchise would be like if it had kept going as an anthology series; Halloween III: Season of the Witch was certainly a step in the right direction that was sadly cast aside. I can tell you this much: we wouldn’t have Busta Rhymes drop-kicking Michael Myers and saying “Trick ‘r treat, muthafucka!”
Scream Factory’s 1080p transfer for Halloween III is light-years ahead of the picture on the bare bones Universal DVD, but it does have a few problems. While color saturation is pretty good overall, white and other bright colors look a bit blown out and sometimes produce light halos around objects – the strobing jack o’lantern from the Silver Shamrock commercial, for example. Some scenes also seem a bit dull looking in terms of detail (faces, backgrounds), but that can be attributed to the age of the film. Most of Season of the Witch looks marvelous though, and the transfer captures Dean Cundey’s cinematography nicely. The DTS-HD 2.0 mono track is fine, but doesn’t really have any oomph, save for anytime the Silver Shamrock theme is playing. Sadly, the dialogue is a little flat and just sounds “okay.”
Commentary – The first of two tracks features writer/director Tommy Lee Wallace, who chats about the film’s plot and history with moderators Rob G. (Icons of Fright) and Sean Clark (Horror’s Hallowed Grounds). It’s plays out more like a Q&A than an organic discussion, as the two super fans spend much of the track cajoling information out of the director, but they all seem to be having a good time – especially Wallace, who hasn’t ever really had such a large platform to speak about the movie on before. There are a few pockets of silence during the discussion, but it’s otherwise solid. The second track features Tom Atkins (insert schoolgirl giggle) and DVD producer Michael Felsher, who cover similar grounds but are a tad more interesting to listen to (and definitely funnier). Both are good fan tracks and offer up a lot of scene-specific observations, but the latter is superior.
Stand Alone: The Making of Halloween III: Season of the Witch (33:09) – You always run the risk of coming across well known information when watching a new documentary on an old film – it comes with the territory – and Stand Alone is sadly almost nothing but. Maybe it’s because Halloween III has significantly grown in cult popularity over the last decade and there’s been countless articles written about it, and sure, THESE people haven’t ever said it THIS way before, but there’s really nothing to sink your teeth into. It’s also kind of odd that Carpenter is nowhere to be found – maybe they wanted to give Wallace the spotlight? With all that said, it is entertaining and well made, and will probably stand as the film’s definitive documentary because of all the information collected in one place; just don’t expect anything that’ll change your entire perception of the film or its production history.
Horror’s Hallowed Grounds: The Locations Of Halloween III (19:44) – Sean Clark takes viewers on a tour of the film’s locations as they currently stand. Wallace joins him midway and talks production tidbits. These are usually fun, and the one for Halloween III is no exception.