Underrated Horror: Halloween III: Season of the Witch
The Halloween series is a hard beast to talk about. Perhaps one of the most unbalanced horror franchises to come out of the 80s, it was originally intended to serve as a long anthology. The conceptual brainchild of horror visionary John Carpenter, every Halloween film was to feature a different plot, characters, and villain. The only common theme? Violence and suspense leading up to Halloween night. Unfortunately, most people know Halloween as Michael Myer’s franchise.
Original Halloween baddy Michael Myers was indeed the first film’s anchor, but he’s also the reason why the series doesn’t work in the long-term. Originally intended to only star in the first Halloween film, the terror behind this character’s grisly presence prompted surprising returns, and Carpenter was coerced to give him a sequel in order to better expand on his character and tie up any loose ends. At the time, feature film sequels were nowhere near as common as they are today. Audiences everywhere were surprised to see “Halloween II” posters, and quickly flocked to theatres to make the follow up another huge success.
This was the point in which the series tried to go back to its roots. Halloween III: Season of the Witch has nothing to do with Michael Myers or any of the characters previously in the Halloween series. Instead, the plot revolves around a Halloween mask company called Silver Shamrock that has ties to witchcraft and seeks to sacrifice millions of children using said masks on the night of Halloween as a massive pagan ritual. It’s really interesting, but it became a heavy target of criticism in the 80s for its use of “Halloween” in the title. Fans, thanks to Halloween II, had certain expectations of the Halloween franchise. Because Myers wasn’t returning, neither were they. Inspite of being a mild critical and commercial success, Halloween III: Season of the Witch is widely considered to be the first “dip” in the Halloween franchise.
People boycotted it because it wasn’t more of the same, and one of the most underrated horror movies of the 80s was left to collect dust. You’ve likely never seen Halloween III: Season of the Witch because no television stations ever air it during Halloween marathons. It’s the one movie in the entire franchise that is continually ignored and spat on by ignorant people who wouldn’t even think about actually watching it. It also happens to be my second favourite entry in the entire Halloween series, Myers or no.
Season of the Witch isn’t just a “good” horror movie — it’s friggan’ fantastic. The film doesn’t need Michael Myers, as Conal Cochran ends up being a far more effective and intimidating villain. I mean think about it: Myers only killed about a dozen people per movie, whereas Cochran was directly responsible for at least that many and it is implied that he could go on to kill half of the nation’s children. To do this, he uses three distinct Silver Shamrock Halloween masks. These masks have sensors in the back that activate once a certain Silver Shamrock Halloween commercial plays on television (the commercial still gives me chills). Once it activates, the children’s heads are turned to mush as creepy crawlies slither out of their skulls. It’s very visual and far more effective than a butcher knife. Our protagonist, Dr. Dan Challis, is trying to figure out what is happening in his town and his investigation leads him to Cochran’s activities. I won’t reveal any more about the plot, but I will say that it’s unique and the ending is spectacular.
John Carpenter stepped out of the director’s seat for this film, but the film doesn’t suffer as a result. Instead, John Carpenter produces and was responsible for the musical score, which I dare say is as good (if not better) than the original Halloween score. Chariots of Pumpkins is another track which has become a fan favourite. Furthermore, the music in the Silver Shamrock television commercial will creep you out every time you see it in the future.
It kind of kills me that this movie did as poorly as it did. Had it only been released as “Season of the Witch,” I think movie audiences would have eaten it up. Instead, you really have to seek it out yourself to indulge in the experience. It is worth it though, especially if you’re a fan of the 80s. There’s no crying over spilt milk, but Season of the Witch does make me wonder what the series would have looked like had they gone the anthology route. I certainly wouldn’t have seen Myers killed off by a complacent rapper.