Halloween III: Season Of The Witch (1982)

Director: Tommy Lee Wallace

Starring: Tom Atkins, Dan O’Herlihy, Stacey Nelkin

“Halloween, the festival of Samhain. The last great one took place 3000 years ago, when the hills ran red with the blood of animals and children.” (Conal Cochran, Halloween III)

Despite the success of the first two Halloween films, rather than sticking with the same formula the third movie went in a completely direction and scrapped Michael Myers, opting instead to tell a completely different story altogther. It was a move that in my opinion paid off, even if it’s a film that’s not really remembered these days.

Indeed, had this been simply named Season Of The Witch and not contained the word ‘Halloween’ in the title, it would have probably received a much better response from horror fans. As it is however many people tend to see this as the bastard son of the series despite the fact that, lack of Myers aside, it’s one of the stronger Halloween films.

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A hospital patient is brutally murdered and his attacker dies soon after when his car blows up. Dr Dan Challis witnesses these events and decides to investigate, along with the daughter of the murdered man. They soon discover that Silver Shamrock (a Halloween mask-making company), led by the evil Conal Cochran, is plotting to revive the original idea of Halloween: mass murder. How does Cochran plan to do this? By triggering all the masks they’ve sold to kill whoever is wearing them at a certain time on Halloween. Now that’s a quality idea.

From the opening credits we know we’re still in Halloween territory, despite that key missing ingredient of Mr Myers. As a crude pumpkin is drawn on screen using an old computer (probably an old BBC Micro or something) the music is reminiscent of John Carpenter’s score from the first two films.

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The idea of how Cochran plans to kill the children of America is also sheer brilliance. Using the addictive power of hype to control these impressionable children and lead them Pied Piper-like to their eventual demise is a stroke of genius which really should be used more often in films. It isn’t for the simple fact that the killing of children is still fairly taboo in cinema plots, so when Halloween III‘s most grisly death involves an eight-year-old boy it’s ruddy effective stuff.

There are some nice death scenes throughout, including a genuinely jump-inducing scene in a motel room (with a grotesque aftermath) and the infamous, aforementioned child death. Needless to say this is a very uncomfortable moment to watch, and while some may complain about it, I instead feel it’s a very powerful image and is perfectly handled.

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Tom Atkins is great in every film he appears in and here he is no different. The fact that he looks like a normal Joe and not a well-built stereotypical “hero” figure allows us to connect with him on a better level than we would with, say, Busta Rhymes in the later Halloween: Resurrection. At times his acting borders on over-theatrics, but it’s so cheesy and typically ’80s that you can’t help but love it.

As for evil super-villain Conal Cochran (well, he must be a super-villain if he plans on killing every child in the country), Dan O’Herlihy plays him as well as possible given the script he has to work with. After all, no human being on this planet could successfully manage to explain how the masks are powered with rock from Stonehenge without some hint of cheese and scenery-chewing involved.

In all, Halloween III is top class ’80s horror. As long as you go into it with an open mind you should enjoy it. This is not really a Halloween film, so don’t expect one. Block Michael Myers out of your mind for 92 minutes, settle down with some Doritos and Coke, and enjoy a good slice of ’80s terror. You won’t regret it.

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