On October 22nd, 1982, Michael Myers did not come home. The date would mark the first – and probably, the only instance – in which a Halloween film would not feature the iconic killer. Instead, audience members were greeted by something much stranger. To many, this would be blasphemous and disappointing.
The story of Halloween III is bloated and filled with enough crazy and outlandish ideas to make those not fluent in 1980’s horror scratch their heads in confusion. Yet, to many, that’s exactly the charm. Halloween III is both undeniably strange to an almost nonsensical extent, while also presenting us with a bleak, anti-consumerist message. But first, a little background.
To understand Season of the Witch, you first must understand John Carpenter. As shown in the first Halloween film, the man has always done things his own way, a true horror movie punk rocker in his own right. The first film saw John Carpenter and cowriter Debrah Hill creating a movie that they wanted to make, in a way that they wanted to make it. After the story in the first movie concluded, Carpenter felt that Michael Myers was done. Dead. Finished, despite the open ending.
You know how the rest of the story goes, because you know how movies work. The movie made money. Money made a demand. And soon, a sequel was concocted. This time, Michael Myers would really be dead. Carpenter and Hill devised a script in which there was no possibility for the ominous slasher to recover, and so, they felt their character could rest peacefully.
The third film in the series, which would go on to be known as Halloween III: Season of the Witch, would make it possible so that the Halloween series could continue on in a more logical way. The movies from here on out could be part of an anthology series, and each separate movie could tell a separate story while still having one thing in common: Halloween. It was pure. It was innocent. It was forward thinking, and most of all, it was still untainted by Busta Rhymes.
Tommy Lee Wallace, who served as art director on the original 1978 film, would direct the third entry, while a Hill and Carpenter would produce. Wallace would write the story, along with Carpenter and Nigel Kneale, who would both remain uncredited. Carpenter and Alan Howarth (who worked on Halloween II and numerous Star Trek Films) would compose the score. The story would stray from the slasher elements found in the first two, and instead, focus on Witchcraft and forgotten Celtic fairy tales. How could things go wrong?
Well, easy – fans wanted more Myers. And in Halloween III, he was nowhere to be found.
Season of the Witch focuses on Daniel Challis (Tom Atkins), a doctor who uncovers the murderous intentions of Conal Cochran (Dan O’Herlihy). Cochran is the owner of Silver Shamrock, a mask manufacturer whose masks are the most popular item this particular season. He plans to murder as many children as possible through these masks on Halloween. This will be achieved by the activation of a microchip hidden in the mask that contains small fragments of Stonehenge that will be triggered through a Silver Shamrock TV jingle once it airs on Halloween. This is an attempt by Cochran to bring back the age of magic and witchcraft. Oh, and by the way, there are somehow androids involved, as well. I told you it was crazy.
Detractors can fight it all they want, but many also believe that there are many positive aspects to the film. One of which is the masks. Don Post Studios, who created the original Michael masks, would create three new ones for the Silver Shamrock line: a skeleton, a pumpkin, and a green witch. The design of these masks are wonderfully done, and the sight of children donning these sinister latex faces is unsettling. The children in this film would also add to the sinister tone. Instead of a killer picking off teenagers who drink and have sex, the targets here are children. And not just one or two, either. All of them. Cochran wants to kill all of the children. That’s an insane premise in itself.
Silver Shamrock’s commercial features a song to the tune of London Bridge is Falling Down, which is infuriatingly catchy. The lyrics instead are changed to fit Shamrock’s motive:
Eight more days ’til Halloween,
Eight more days ’til Halloween,
As you can guess, the number eight changes. As each day inches closer to Halloween, the countdown grows smaller. After the song, an announcer’s voice can be heard encouraging the purchase of the Silver Shamrock masks. A sinister plot, indeed. That’s not the only great musical aspect of the film, either. Carpenter’s score, as usual, is phenomenal.
Though the story is completely whacked, it’s one of the greatest things about Halloween III. It’s 1980’s insanity at its finest. It’s got a strong atmosphere and perfectly captures the essence of the season – no Michael Myers needed. And although it’s got its flaws, it’s a movie that has been poorly treated throughout the years because of the fact that Michael Myers did not return for the film.
A clear message is being expressed here: the dangers of capitalism and consumerism. Cochran uses the television and the entertainment desires of the general public to destroy them, driven mad by the commercialization of Halloween. Though it’s told in one of the least direct ways possible, it’s still there. This is yet another reason why fans have fought so hard to defend the film, regardless of how much hatred it has been given.
There’s been a long-running argument from proponents of the film that, if you take the word “Halloween” out of the title, the film would have fared better. I disagree. It’s a little more complicated than that.
If this was not a Halloween film, it would have never been made. The fact that Wallace and Carpenter were bold enough to try an idea such as this adds to the appeal for this movie. It’s anti-establishment in existence alone. Without the title, the movie would not have been controversial. In fact, there is a chance that it may not have even been remembered for this long.
I can hear it now: “Well, yeah, they tried something new, but that doesn’t make a bad movie any good.” Maybe that’s true. But my point is, Halloween III is not a bad movie. If you go into it expecting Michael Myers, well, yeah, you may be a little irked by his absence. The film is entertaining enough without him, and as much as I love the character, there are about 37 other films with him in it.
So, deal with it. Season of the Witch isn’t going anywhere.