To understand just how large a failure Halloween III: Season of the Witch was, first consider the premise. An evil scientist/company owner seeks to use a vaguely mystical and ancient pagan technology to kill millions of children wearing Halloween masks. Now say that out loud. Sounds awful, doesn’t it? And yet this was the story that John Carpenter and Debra Hill ostensibly signed off on for the third installment in Carpenter’s legendary Halloween horror series.
Look, bonus points to Carpenter and Hill for boldly moving away from what was already becoming a tired genre — the slasher film. It’s hard to imagine now, but their 1978 original was just that — original. And the sequel, while not nearly as groundbreaking, was almost as good. But by 1982 it was already clear that Hollywood studios smelled blood in the water and so a glut of Halloween copycats were released — some good, most of the atrocious. The heyday of the modern horror/slasher was underway.
But while I give Carpenter and Hill all the credit in the world for not bring Michael Myers back from the dead, that’s all I can give credit for. Because while the idea had a little potential, the entire thing was an exercise in bad judgment. Halloween III is nothing more than prime Mystery Science Theater 3000/Rifftrax material, and no amount of revisionist cult love can change that.
On just about every front the movie fails. The direction and acting is stale, bordering on amateur. Tom Atkins, a Carpenter mainstay in the early ’80s, is stiff and almost laughable as the protagonist, Dr. Dan Challis. Stacey Nelkin, who plays his awkwardly placed love interest/partner in investigation Ellie Grimbridge, is little more than a pretty face and body. It’s like the worst buddy cop comedy ever, shoehorned into a mediocre science fiction/horror movie.
To be fair, there are elements of Halloween III that work. Some of the film’s early death sequences are workmanlike but effective, and those masks are actually quite cool. But those elements are simply buried under piles of bad direction, clumsy screenwriting, and about a thousand lame horror clichés. And don’t give me any jazz about how the movies is really a subtle dig at American consumerism and herd mentality. That’s revisionist apologism, nothing more.
And let’s not even get into the giant plot holes. Such as — how was Conal Cochran’s (Dan O’Herlihy) evil plan to inflict bug-infested death through Silver Shamrock commercials supposed to work, when the climax was supposed to take place at 9pm on Halloween night? Had he not heard of time zones? What East Coast kid would be up on midnight for a silly TV giveaway? Did he not expect any reprisals to take place once everyone put 2 and 2 together regarding millions of dead kids wearing masks from the same company? How exactly was he able to keep the entire town of Santa Mira under his thumb?
And don’t even get me started on what was almost a really neat horror scene, when the fat salesman’s kid bites it with his jack o’lantern mask. A poisonous snake just happens to come out of his head and kill the father? Ugh. Oh, and I also can’t forget the completely inappropriate and unrealistic “romance” between Dr. Challis and Ellie. Oh, my father just died and I suspect he was murdered in a very mysterious and nefarious way. Let’s make love even though we just met, we’re in a creepy town, and, oh yeah, you’re at least twice my age.
After not having seen Halloween III for many years, I really wanted to like it. I wanted it to be better than its reputation. But it’s simply not. I can’t help but wonder how much better Season of the Witch could have been had Carpenter directed it. Maybe he could have saved it from becoming B-movie schlock. Maybe not. But man, just about anything else would’ve been better than this stinker. Where’s my Silver Shamrock mask? I’d rather put one on and become bug food than go through this again.
Oh, and just because I’m cruel, watch this and try to get it out of your head before Christmas. Mwahahaha!