“Two more days ’til Halloween/ Halloween/ Halloween/ Two more days ’til Halloween/ Silver Shamrock!”
“But where’s Michael Myers?” audiences and critics alike cried upon the 1982 release of Halloween III: Season of the Witch. The lack of the iconic serial killer in favor of a bizarre hybrid of computers and Stonehenge-infused witchcraft left people scratching their heads. As a result, the film was savaged by critics and did not fare well at the multiplexes. The change was the idea of the original film’s screenwriting-producing-directing team Debra Hill and John Carpenter, who felt that the Halloween series should work as an anthology, each film based around a different horror story centering around the holiday. They recruited the original film’s production designer and art director Tommy Dee Wallace (the 1990 TV miniseries IT) to direct, as well as a handful of John Carpenter’s regular character actors including Tom Atkins (The Fog) and in a small role Nancy Kyes (nee Loomis, from the original Halloween). The end result, in my opinion, is much better than its reputation at the time would have you believe.
A man is being pursued by several men in suits. He eventually collapses at a gas station where an attendant takes him to a hospital, and while he’s there, one of the men finds him and crushes his face before immolating himself in the parking lot. The man’s daughter Ellie finds the doctor who treated him drinking at a bar, full of questions about a mysterious and heavily advertised children’s mask her father was holding at the time of his passing. They trace its origins to a nearby town, thriving thanks to the masks’ manufacturer Silver Shamrock. When they find the manufacturing plant, they find much more than they bargained for, and the fate of all the children who have purchased the Silver Shamrock masks hangs in the balance.
Alright, let’s talk about the masks. They’re much creepier than anything you’ll find on the shelves for kids these days, which is unfortunate for us. They’re well-crafted, besides their murderous intent, and the jingle in the commercial that’s featured several times will be stuck in your head for days (it’s to the tune of “London Bridge,” yet more infectious than I’ve ever found that song). It’s definitely believable that these masks, made by Irish immigrants and robots in small-town California, would be a hot ticket. Were I to have kids and not know what our protagonists know, I’m exactly the kind of sucker that would buy one for my children.
The acting is pretty decent across the board, and Tom Atkins is pretty much good in everything I’ve ever seen him in (like in my last reviewed feature Creepshow!). The atmosphere throughout is appropriately creepy and the town is a strange and unsettling place. John Carpenter scored this one and, as always, it’s very effective. He knows his way around synthesizers. Another element I really like is, at its core, it’s an anti-corporate movie. The whole movie is about how corporations don’t have the consumer’s best interest at heart, which may have been very ahead of its time and unwelcome in the era of Reaganomics. It’s also a bit ahead of its time in portraying the Silver Shamrock as a corporation surveilling its nearby citizens, which we would learn is actually happening now to some degree with targeted advertisements on social media and the Alexas of the world eavesdropping on our conversations. It’s more prophetic than anyone would have expected and it works.
Should I show this to my five-year-old?
Oh definitely. Your child is never too young to learn about corporations and their occasional malevolent intents. This is also an excellent teaching opportunity for letting your children know they can’t just put on any old mask they find. You never know what the mask will do to you (note: this might even make a good double feature with 1994’s Jim Carrey vehicle The Mask if you’re going this route with your child). Another nice thing you might be able to show your kids is what they’re missing out on with cheap plastic masks modeled on completely unscary superheroes. If I have one message for the children, it’s to put the ghouls back in Halloween where they belong.
This movie is much better than its reputation would suggest. It’s a lot of fun and, dare I say, the ending is much grimmer than any of the others in the series. Perhaps even more so than most horror movies of any era. The ending is bleak (SPOILER- YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED: The movie’s end credits were supposed to use the sounds of all the children in the world screaming as they perish, instead of the score they wound up with). The gore is weirder than any of the other movies in the series and there are plenty of creepy bugs crawling about. I would recommend this to anyone even remotely curious of what a Halloween series that was actually an anthology might have turned out like, and also to general 80s horror movie fans. This movie rules and you can currently find it on HBO Now.
I’d like to take this moment to announce a special contest: the Watch Halloween III: Season Of The Witch With Greg At His Apartment Sweepstakes. To enter, tweet at me “Hello, my name is (your name) and I would like to come to your apartment and eat popcorn and watch Halloween III: Season Of The Witch.” One lucky winner will be selected and win a no-expenses paid trip to sunny Salt Lake City to drink a beer or beverage of your choice and eat popcorn and watch this movie with me. (BYOB, by the way)
-Jamie Lee Curtis makes a vocal cameo as the voice on the Silver Shamrock PA that appears periodically once they arrive in its town.
-Irwin Yablans, who produced this and the previous two, was deeply opposed to the lack of Michael Myers in this film and did very little work. He made a decent salary, however.
Greg Orme is a comedian/writer based out of Salt Lake City, where he lives with his five plants. You should follow him on Twitter if you aren’t already.
If you’ve never seen Halloween III you can pick up your own copy! Hurry, because there’s only six more days ’til Halloween…(80s Baby may receive a commission)