(dir. Tommy Lee Wallace)
The only Michael Meyers-less film in the Halloween franchise, Season of the Witch follows a doctor (Tom Atkins in a role that so steeped in masculinity it becomes parody) and the daughter of a shop-owner (Stacey Nelkin) as they uncover a businessman/warlock’s plans to kill the world’s children through Halloween masks embedded with fragments of Stonehenge so that he can bring back the age of witchcraft. Yeah, it’s just as fucking zany as it sounds.
This film gets a lot of flak for not including Michael Meyers, and as a result it’s pretty underseen by comparison. I skipped over it for years in favor of the continuing story of the Meyers/Strode family, which was unfortunate because Halloween III is pretty awesome in that 80s B/C movie kind of way that only horror can really deliver. The first part of enjoying Season of the Witch is accepting that it’s not going to live up to the quality of John Carpenter’s film. Tommy Lee Wallace is a capable director who delivers some pretty chilling moments, but you’re not going to get the shot composition (though there are a couple standouts) and the careful pacing that made Halloween such a classic. On the script side of things, Wallace opts against the simplicity that’s allowed for the lasting appeal of Halloween and goes for a complicated set-up involving witchcraft, androids, and masks that turn kids’ heads into a mess of snakes and insects in a story that’s ambitious even if it doesn’t always make sense (there’s a very loose understanding of the popularity of cheap Halloween masks, and time zones that just has to be accepted for the story to work.) Wallace does deserve praise for switching up the format, especially considering the boom of slasher movies at the time. The corporate investigation that our leads find themselves involved in, and world-ending stakes are uncommon to the genre at the time, and even when the pieces don’t all fit, Wallace does deliver an incredible amount of tension. This tension is also helped along by John Carpenter and Alan Howarth’s score which really cements the feeling of Season of the Witch being a Halloween film.
What works in greatest favor of the film is how much it feels like the holiday. It’s funny, and frightening, gross, mysterious, and a little bit impenetrable from an outsider’s perspective. It delves right into the folklore of Halloween and our childlike fascination with masks, which is in some ways just as important as the lasting fear and legacy of the Halloween story of the babysitter alone in the house with a killer. As a companion piece to Carpenter’s films, you can really see how this would have worked as an anthology franchise that explored our changing views and fears of the holiday, past, present, and future. As an added bonus, the jingle for the Silver Shamrock Halloween mask commercial is sure to be stuck in your head long after Halloween is over, and you’ll either love or hate the film for that reason alone.
Scare Factor: 2/5 There are some genuinely impressive moments of horror, and a killer ending. While it’s obvious that not all the plot threads come together in a way that makes sense, Halloween III: Season of the Witch is such an immersive experience that you’ll buy into the nonsense it offers enough to be suitably chilled, and have a good time the whole way through. What more could you ask for on Halloween night?
And that’s it for this year! Thanks for reading and if this month was your introduction to the blog, be sure to stick around for full reviews of this fall’s awards contenders and blockbusters.
Lastly, if you’ve yet to get your fill of horror, I co-wrote a list of The 100 Best Horror Movies of the 2000s (so far) so be sure to check it out and browse the site!: http://www.audienceseverywhere.net/100-horror-2000s-lists/