The Best Movie You Never Saw: Halloween III: Season of the Witch

Welcome to The Best Movie You NEVER Saw, a column dedicated to examining films that have flown under the radar or gained traction throughout the years, earning them a place as a cult classic or underrated gem that was either before it’s time and/or has aged like a fine wine.

This week we’ll be looking at HALLOWEEN III: SEASON OF THE WITCH

halloween iii season of the witch banner

THE STORY: A troubled doctor (Tom Atkins) stumbles upon an evil plan hatched by the diabolical CEO of the Silver Shamrock Novelties company, where, on Halloween night, the masks they’ve created for children come to life and kill their wearers.

THE PLAYERS: Directed and Written by Tommy Lee Wallace. Starring Tom Atkins, Stacey Nelkin & Dan O’Herlihy. Score by John Carpenter & Alan Howarth.

halloween iii season of the witch

THE HISTORY: Following HALLOWEEN 2, John Carpenter, who was already reluctant to participate in a sequel, decided Michael Myers had run his course. Instead, his idea was to turn the HALLOWEEN franchise into a series of anthology movies that could be loosely connected by the holiday, but independent of each other. To that end, Carpenter took a step back, hiring Tommy Lee Wallace to write and direct the new film, which departed from the slasher formula and took the film into the world of witchcraft and science-fiction.

“There are still people that come up to me and say they hate Halloween III because it didn’t have Michael Myers in it. I tell them that was 25-30 years ago. Get over it. We had a wonderful time making it and I think Its a good standalone movie. John [Carpenter] originally wanted to make a story every Halloween that would be different, but the producers said no because Michael Myers is making so much money. They told him that we could shoot Halloween III, but then they’re done with those different stories." Tom AtkinsDaily Dead Interview 

With Carpenter favorite Tom Atkins as his leading man, and a very modest $2.5 million budget, Wallace made a pretty interesting little movie that’s wholly original compared to the original. Despite a few good reviews, the movie tanked at the box office, grossing $14 million, not bad for such a cheap film but far less than Universal was anticipating. Apparently, fans were disappointed Michael Myers wasn’t in it, and ever since, he’s been a constant presence in the franchise.

halloween iii season of the witch

WHY IT'S GREAT: Unlike many of the other movies featured in this column, I’m not going to argue that HALLOWEEN III: SEASON OF THE WITCH is some kind of ignored masterpiece. But, if you’re a fan of vintage era John Carpenter and eighties horror, this is manna from heaven. While Carpenter didn’t direct, Wallace was his protégé and his handprints are all over it. For one thing, it feels like a Carpenter movie thanks to his synth-score, co-written with his frequent eighties collaborator Alan Howarth. The importance of this can’t be overstated as anyone familiar with his music knows it gives the movies a pulse that’s as strong as anything else. They also have the original’s Dean Cundey as the DP, so even if Michael Myers isn’t around, this still feels like a HALLOWEEN movie.

“It should have just been called Season of the Witch and not put Halloween with it at all because it didn’t have Michael Myers and people thought: “What the hell is this?” Over time, it has become very popular on its own, as it has always intended to be.” – Tom Atkins - Daily Dead Interview

It’s worth noting that Dan O’Herlihy’s CEO of Silver Shamrock (“happy, happy Halloween – silver shamrock!”) is way more evil than Myers. Sure, Mike chalked up a big body count, but O’Herlihy wants to use his Pagan magic to kill thousands of kids with his evil masks. What a prick! O’Herlihy, who became known to my generation a few years later as “The Old Man” in ROBOCOP, is perfect as the baddie, as is Tom Atkins as our everyman hero. To me, there’s something very authentic about Atkins in all his eighties films, and while he’s maybe a little too surly and drunk to be playing a doctor (even a burnt-out one) he’s an awesome hero – and no one can say he doesn’t play the part to the hilt.

halloween iii season of the witch tom atkins

Being the eighties, there’s also lots of gratuitous nudity and some really creative gore. It’s a shame Carpenter’s anthology plan didn’t work out. A few more fun one-offs like this would have been way better than the mediocre HALLOWEEN sequels we got over the next twenty years.

“Fans used to come up and defend it and say ‘I love it, I don’t care what anybody says’, and I really appreciated that, but these days I just tell them, ‘Hey, you don’t have to do that anymore, because it found its audience’. It’s extremely gratifying.” – Tommy Lee WallaceHalloween Daily News Interview

BEST SCENE: There’s a great scene where Atkins winds-up captured by O’Herlihy’s goons, where he explains his whole diabolical plan and even gives Atkins a ghoulish demonstration on an annoying wholesaler of Silver Shamrock products. And that jingle – listen to it once and it’s stuck in your head forever.

SEE IT: HALLOWEEN III: SEASON OF THE WITCH is easily available on most streaming sites, and on DVD/Blu-Ray.

halloween iii season of the witch

PARTING SHOT: Again, HALLOWEEN III isn’t a classic like the original, but on its own merits you really can’t go wrong watching it – especially around this time of the year. For me, it’s one of the great hidden gems in John Carpenter’s filmography, and I recommend checking it out for a good time.

Source: JoBlo.com



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