Synopsis: A large Halloween mask-making company has plans to kill millions of American children with something sinister hidden in Halloween masks.
Stars: Tom Atkins, Stacey Nelkin, Dan O’Herlihy
Director: Tommy Lee Wallace
Running Length: 98 minutes
TMMM Score: (5.5/10)
Review: When Halloween II was released to theater in 1981, its box office success and the rising popularity of sequels meant that another installment was surely on the way. In an interesting move, Universal Pictures decided to go in another direction for the sequel and not have any connection to the previous films. This turned out to be a huge blunder and it’s the main reason1982’s Halloween III: Season of the Witch has been constantly dogged in the twenty years since it was originally produced.
Look, Halloween III is no classic…you aren’t going to get an argument out of me on that one. Take away the Halloween part of the title, though, and just call it Season of the Witch and then you may find yourself slightly enjoying this mediocre horror that at least has its head in the right place.
The director of the original Halloween, John Carpenter, had originally envisioned these films as anthology-style in nature so each new entry would tell a different story (sort of like what TV’s American Horror Story is doing now). The problem with that notion was that by making Halloween II a continuation of the first movie, audiences were thrown for a loop when Halloween III showed up and there was no Michael Myers chasing down nubile teens. Ever since, Halloween III has gained a reputation of being the one film of the series that has nothing to do with any of the other installments.
The director and screenwriter of Halloween III was the editor on the original and would go on to direct the strong TV film adaptation of Stephen King’s IT. Wallace had a nice idea for this film that he couldn’t really see through to the end…at least that’s the feeling you get when you watch it now. The story involves a plot by a demented toymaker to use television and holiday consumerism to wipe out, well, everyone via a nasty trick with no treat. At the time, it was a nice meditation on the danger of excessive greed and consumption of popular culture. That theme does hold some weight in our current media-obsessed culture and I wonder if the film couldn’t be tweaked for a nice update.
Though it has some nice touches by featuring a few members of the original Halloween in bit parts, there’s a curious lack of dedication from most of the actors. It’s as if everyone was signed on to do the movie but could only work a few hours a day on it. Nothing seems really polished or professional, though viewing the film in HD now there is an appreciation for the production design and some of the more gruesome make-up effects that still hold up under closer scrutiny.
Even though it s a bumpy ride, there was something about Halloween III that I found oddly enjoyable. Maybe it was the old school nature of the approach Wallace and company took to tell their story. Or maybe it was the appreciation that the studio tried something radically different – and even if it failed at least they resisted the urge to do what everyone else was doing.
Michael Myers would be back for several more sequels under the Halloween moniker and this film would become a distant memory – but if you’ve never seen it I’d cautiously tell you to give it a try. It’s not up to snuff in sequel terms…but once you realize it’s not a sequel and get your head around the fact that it’s a totally different film you may get a kick out of the scary stuff on display.