I completely understand why this film was hated upon release in 1982. Fans of the previous two films wanted more Michael Myers action and that’s not what John Carpenter wanted to do with his franchise. Despite only being part of the franchise in a producer capacity, he considered converting the franchise into a horror anthology not dissimilar from Creepshow or Trick R Treat.
Such an idea might’ve been a radical improvement from the eight Michael Myers movies we would subsequently get…
Alas, in the immortal words of former New York City mayor Ed Koch, “The People have spoken… and they must be punished.”
Halloween III: Season of the Witch would effectively become the black sheep of the entire Halloween franchise because of how different it is. It’s not in canon with the other films, Michael Myers doesn’t show up outside of a small cameo of a TV commercial for the first Halloween film in the background of one scene and the story is radically different.
All that said, Halloween III is easily the most interesting sequel in the entire franchise. I’d go as far as to call it the best film in the franchise as well but the original 1978 film still holds that title by right of being John Carpenters most complete take on the franchise. Because the film goes so far into its own territory though, its able to tell a wholly original and suspenseful story without relying on the formula of the first two films.
That story is quite surprising. The story is set in a small town in the week leading up till Halloween night. The town is being berated by commercials for Halloween masks and strange goings-on begin happening in the margins of the town. Our lead character Dr. Dan Challis is an alcoholic womanizer who stumbles upon the supernatural events when one of his patients whispers “they’re going to kill us.”
When he’s murdered that night by a mysterious stranger, Challis begins personally investigating who killed him and stumbles upon a strange hidden conspiracy to enact a massive occult child sacrifice ritual on Halloween night by a group of scientifically minded Pagans.
I don’t want to reveal too much but the premise is driven by the strangeness of its mystery. Once Dan begins realizing just how serious the situation is, he’s almost too late to stop it and he’s in a position where it’s unlikely that he’ll be able to.
The movie’s atmosphere is wonderful. I discussed the film with a mutual film critic last year on my podcast and pointed out just how wonderful the film is as a Halloween-time-of-year film. While the Satanic Panic aspect of the film’s premise feels a bit out of date, the film works wonderfully as a seasonal film! You really feel the gloomy feel of the holiday as the world of the movie is littered with trick or treaters, pumpkins and the fear of death.
The unique blend of science and mysticism is unique too even for a film of this time. Most horror films of the 1970 and 1980s don’t mix the fear of the occult with fears of the powers modern technology. The additional blend of witch paranoia as metaphor for anti-corporate abuse is a novel way to approach the theme of “corporate evil”.
I’ve joked before that Halloween III: Season of the Witch is the best movie John Carpenter never directed. I mean that in all of the best ways. Despite feeling a bit cheaper than some of his films, it carries the air of high concept storytelling and contempt for the status quo that all of his films have. It’s pungent and stressful in the same ways his best films are!
Even if you haven’t seen the other Halloween films, I’d highly recommend this as a rental for your Halloween movie watching tonight! It’s a great horror mystery film and one of the genuine highlights of a franchise that’s not good enough to deserve an underrated black sheep THIS awesome!
Happy Halloween everyone! 🎃