THAT’S NOT ROTTEN! ‘Halloween III’ Might Be the Most Misunderstood Film Ever Made

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Growing up in the era of the local video store, my friends and I used to discuss various movies worth spending those two dollars on renting. Some of us like the schlocky horror of the ‘80s – the Friday the 13ths, the Nightmare on Elm Streets, the Halloweens. Having seen and loved, as well as almost shit my pants, at the original Halloween, I devoured the sequels except for one – the 3rd film. There was the naïve belief amongst us that nobody watches Halloween III: Season of the Witch. It didn’t have Michael Myers and nobody likes it, just skip it. It was practically gospel. For one reason or another I let this misguided belief stay with me and I avoided Halloween III for a long time. Over the years I encountered more and more praise for the film I was assured that everybody hated. So I finally broke down and watched it. Guess what? Not only is the film not bad, it’s actually quite good. Its reputation is tied almost exclusively to expectations.


Michael Myers was killed at the end of Halloween II (or was he?). Writer-director of the first film, John Carpenter, had an ambitious idea of how to keep the franchise going while steering clear of the masked killer. Halloween III was to be the first of a yearly Halloween movie that would deal with different spooky and supernatural tales that take place around the holiday. It was an interesting idea, a shame that Halloween III flopped and the 4th Halloween film would resurrect Michael Myers, who would be tied to the franchise through eternity. Despite its reputation, Michael Myers does appear in Halloween III, albeit in an advertisement for the television broadcast of Halloween, but he does appear.

Anyways, Halloween III starts out with a man running from mysterious suited figures. Finally reaching the hospital, the man, clutching a Halloween mask, yells, “They’re gonna kill us all!” When the patient is brutally murdered and the culprit burns himself to death, Dr. Daniel Challis (Tom Atkins) finds himself drawn into the mystery. He soon teams up with the dead man’s daughter, Ellie Grimbridge (Stacey Nelkin), to investigate the strange happenings. Suspecting that it may have to do with the Halloween masks manufactured by Silver Shamrock Novelties, the two travel to the company’s headquarters in Santa Mira. A town mostly populated by Irish immigrants, Santa Mira is a sleepy town run by the mysterious Silver Shamrock CEO, Cochran (Dan O’Herlihy). The plans of Silver Shamrock are far more nefarious than imagined, and could lead to the deaths of countless innocents.


Directed by Tommy Lee Wallace, a longtime collaborator of John Carpenter, with a script credited solely to Wallace though Carpenter and Nigel Kneale did uncredited work, Halloween III attempted to break the tired pattern of horror sequels. Sadly, its failure led to the Halloween series reverting back to horror tradition – numerous sequels of diminishing quality featuring a villain that is incapable of being killed. Featuring cinematography from Carpenter’s longtime cinematographer Dean Cundey, Halloween III is shot as well as any of Carpenter’s finest works. The film also features music co-written by Carpenter and Alan Howarth, creating a new creepy, atmospheric sound that distances itself from Carpenter’s iconic theme.

What stands out most about Halloween III is its harsh critique of advertising, specifically advertising towards children. Silver Shamrock advertisements capture the attention of children while annoying adults. At first they’re written off as just another irritating advertisement, but as the film moves forward it’s revealed that there is something much more sinister at play. The film is also ahead of its time in understanding the future of corporate America would be rooted in a form of a surveillance state. Santa Mira is wired with cameras that are monitored at the Silver Shamrock headquarters, a form of metadata collection you might say. Silver Shamrock has no empathy for its customers or the general public, they only care about their twisted bottom line.


It’s nice to see that Halloween III: Season of the Witch has undergone a critical and public reevaluation (there’s a comprehensive special edition blu-ray released by Scream Factory). While the film may have bewildered audiences upon its release, it built a cult following because countless kids out there have grown up inundated with advertising. Batteries not included, accessories sold separately, and be sure and watch the Horror-a-thon are sayings of the same variety. The failure of the public to accept Halloween III for the crazed yet ambitious project it is robbed the world of chance to see where else this series would go. Instead we got more Michael Myers (yawn).





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