Halloween III: Season of the Witch (1982)

I’ll start with the obvious. This is not a sequel to Halloween II, at least in the normal parlance of “sequel.” There is no Michael Myers or Laurie Strode. There is no slashing of any sort, really. It’s an entirely standalone horror film, apparently intended to launch the “Halloween”-branded line of annual anthology scares. (Even “Season of the Witch” is a bizarre name, as there are, as far as I can tell, no witches involved.)

What ties Halloween III: Season of the Witch to the series’ previous entries is two traits: First, it depicts an unfortunate happening on October 31. Well, actually, it starts on October 23 (which is easy to remeber because there’s a recurring ”eight more days to Halloween!” jingle that plays in the opening half), but its climax happens on Halloween.

The second thing that ties this third entry to the series is that it’s very obviously a John Carpenter movie like the first two, which is perhaps unintuitive because it’s not directed by Carpenter — nor was Halloween II. The film’s anti-corporate, anti-mass media theme is a wacky carnival extension of what he was saying in They Live — though that one didn’t imply that the evil plot was a great Irish conspiracy. Halloween III’s use of boxy industrial spaces with a tint of post-apocalyptic grunge feels squarely in Carpenter’s wheelhouse, as does Tom Atkins as the dad-bod alcoholic protagonist. Carpenter once again co-writes the score, and Dean Hundey returns as cinematographer, so it feels quite Halloweeny, too.

Regardless its DNA, this is not a stabby or particularly scary movie. It is a goofy lark of a horror film in ways I immensely enjoyed. It was never, ever predictable. Even when the twists were ludicrous malarkey, the film was all-in on the silliness, ready to sell it. Stabbing people with a butcher knife is too cliche, Halloween III convincingly argues. It’s much more interesting turn them into bug/reptile pods that emit yellow goo when they wear a mass-produced mask with a microchip that is activated by a blinking light on TV. I can’t help but agree.

I suspect the movie won’t hold up to replay all that well. The first half lumbers along fairly slowly, and only my bewilderment at the film’s escalating absurdity kept my eyes glued. It also doesn’t do nearly enough interesting visual things for most of its runtime. Director Tommy Lee Wallace seems guided by a “be like John” ethos, which more-or-less holds the film together, but he still comes across as a hack.

The moments of tension and dread are undercut by black comedy; there’s a weird skull-pinching kill move that gets used a few times; the film’s mask MacGuffin has bizarre and inexplicable powers that seem crazier with each successive scene (They can summon lightsaber beams? Explode? Create snakes like the Book of Exodus?); the sex scene is terribly awkward and abrupt; and the villain gives a slow clap to the hero as he’s vaporized by a Stonehenge laser. Oh yeah, there are Stonehenge lasers.

I can’t help but admire and enjoy the film overall. It is more enjoyable than most horror movies I’ve seen. Is it good? Hell if I know. It’s fun though. I just know I wish the film had been a hit and we had a whole anthology series in this vein. But one oddball Halloween is better than none, so I suppose I’ll take what I can get.

Is It Good?

Good (5/8)

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