Friday, September 2, 2011

Halloween Horror Recommendation! - Halloween III: Season of the Witch

'Halloween Horror Recommendation!' is an ongoing series where we take a quick look at some of my favorite horror movies of all time! Sometimes they are big sometimes they are small but every time they are guaranteed to make you shriek with fright! Updated every Friday from now until October 31st!

 

Halloween III: Season of the Witch is one of the many long forgotten horror films of the 1980's even though it is a sequel to one of the greatest horror movies ever made, John Carpenters 'Halloween'. Originally released in October of 1982 it was produced by 'Halloween' series veterans John Carpenter and Debra Hill, though it was directed by Tommy Lee Wallace. Halloween III stars the great Tom Atkins as Dr. Daniel Challis, as well as Stacy Nelkin and Veteran Irish actor Dan O'Herlihy. Who was cast as Conal Cochran, the owner of the Silver Shamrock Mask Company and presumably some sort of evil witch. Halloween III had an estimated budget of $2.5 million and grossed only $14.4 million during its initial theatrical run in the United States. While initially panned by critics and fans alike for its steep departure from the prior 'Halloween' films the movie today has grown a cult status of sorts and continues to live on as a decent example of an early 80's horror film!

I have often described Halloween III: Season of the Witch as the horror movie that time simply forgot. The reasons are many as to why fans of the 'Halloween' franchise typically choose to ignore the third entry into the series and while they are not entirely invalid they are slightly unjust. Fans wanted Michael Myers, the main protagonist from the original 1978 film and its 1981 counterpart. However write and director John Carpenter as well as long time series producer Debra Hill both felt that after two films they had extinguished the Michael Myers storyline and were ready to move the franchise in a different direction. So when asked to produce the third film in the series, Carpenter and Hill agreed but with one stipulation. No more Michael Myers.

The intended idea was to turn 'Halloween' from your standard horror franchise, where Michael Myers returns at the beginning of each film to terrorize some new arbitrary set of individuals only to be killed off creatively at the end of the film, just to come back and do it all over again in the next sequel. The idea instead was to turn 'Halloween' into a big budget movie version of 'The Twilight Zone' or a much more modern example, something in the vein of 'Masters of Horror'. Halloween III: Season of the Witch was never intended to tie into the mythology of the first or second film. John Carpenter and Debra Hill instead viewed it as a starting point for a whole series of films. With each incarnation different from the last and the only factor that tied them together was the name... Halloween!

This seems like a great idea on paper and one that was actually fairly forward thinking on the part of Carpenter and Hill. Unfortunately for them maybe a little too forward thinking. This was, of course 1982. A time long before the internet and the massive spread of information across the globe. The general public was not aware of Carpenter's intentions with the series, save for the very small few who read Fangoria or other horror movie magazines. When your average movie fan seen the posters and advertisements for Halloween III they expected to see Michael Myers. This is an audience who is now being trained by the "Friday the 13th" formula of movie sequels, after all. Instead of Michael Myers they got this strange little film about an Irish business man trying to kill all the children of the world with Halloween masks and presumably replace them with robots. Halloween III: Season of the Witch tanked at the box office and with it went Carpenter's idea of creating an ever evolving series of films under the 'Halloween' moniquer.

But of course this is 'Halloween Horror Recommendations!" so our story does not simply stop here. As it turns out all these years later, the film is actually not all that bad. As a matter of fact it is a pretty cool example of an early 1980's horror film from that short span after the original 'Halloween' defined the genera in 1978 and 'A Nightmare on Elm Street' would later re-define in 1984.

Tom Atkins is true to form playing an doctor who always seems to find himself with a drink in one hand and some random woman in the other. Atkins is one of my favorite lower budget horror actors, who carved out a nice little niche for himself playing a bunch of characters who are all pretty much exactly what I described up above. Atkins is generally always wearing a brown overcoat too and if memory serves me correctly he spends half the film wearing one of those in Season of the Witch. As for the rest of the cast they give solid performance with the most memorable of the bunch going to the evil Conal Cochran as portrayed by seasoned actor Dan O'Herlihy. O'Herlihy gives a meaningful performance but is never able to match the quality of Donald Pleasence from the original 'Halloween'. While it is slightly unfair to compare O'Herlihy to Pleasence it is a comparison that one cannot help to draw.

The plot is almost total non-since as it involves shipping a piece of Stonehenge to a factory in the United States and affixing part of them to a computer chip hidden deep within the Silver Shamrock series of Halloween masks. On Halloween night the chip will be activated by the insanely catchy Silver Shamrock tune and will blow up the head of whoever is wearing the mask and also unleash a swarm of insects for good measures. It is a crazy completely nonsensical idea for a movie but it completely dates it to that brief period in time when movies like this were perfectly acceptable. Above all else Season of the Witch takes itself completely serious. It does not try to be overly campy or overly silly. It is a honest and true horror film that just so happens to have a plot involving killer masks and Stonehenge.



One of the films many highlights is the Silver Shamrock commercials that are accompanied by this song. I probably should have warned everyone before watching the embedded video above that this song will indeed stick with you for the rest of your life. No matter how hard you try you will never get the darn thing out of your head. You'll sit around for days at a time humming this tune. It may be Halloween III: Season of the Witch's single greatest achievement.

All things considered I think that each and every one of you should check out Season of the Witch especially if you consider yourself a fan of the horror genera. It is much easier to watch the film and appreciate it for what it was and what it tried to accomplish here in 2011 than it was back in 1982.

2 comments:

  1. Excellent review of an unfairly scrutinized movie. It's a favorite of mine.

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  2. Thanks man! Glad to see there are other fans out there of 'Halloween III' !

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