The Tricks and Treats of Halloween III


By: Eric Flapjack Ashley (@flapjackashley)

Every old school horror franchise has one installment that doesn’t quite fit in with the others. For A Nightmare on Elm Street, it was the immediate sequel, Freddy’s Revenge, that strayed off course. For Friday the 13th, New Beginning was anything but a new start the series had hoped for. When it comes to the October holiday namesake Halloween, the third entry is the black sheep. But it’s time Season of the Witch got its due.

Tales from the All Hallow’s Eve

Producing partners John Carpenter and Debra Hill seemingly wrapped up the story of Michael Myers in 1981’s Halloween II, killing him off in a fiery hospital explosion. Heroine Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) survived, but not many others did – including Michael himself. But the franchise was still pretty hot (see what I did there?), so what to do?

Halloween III: Season of the Witch was born out of an idea to transform the Halloween series from following the footsteps of Friday the 13th and not make one character the centerpiece. Instead, Carpenter and Hill hatched the idea of a long, yearly series of films that would be self-contained fright stories – a la Tales from the Crypt – and would have the common theme of the holiday of Halloween being the time frame.

The first burn-off story was Season of the Witch, a rather inventive tale of a sinister toymaker who designed Halloween masks that would be triggered to kill the kids wearing them by watching a certain repeating pattern on the screen. Taking elements from Invasion of the Body Snatchers, the story featured robots, human androids, snakes and exploding badges…a far cry from a man in a mask. The cast featured genre favorites Tom Atkins and Stacey Nelkin, but it is the masterful performance by Dan O’Herlihy that steals the show. That, and the infamously repetitive tune heard in the film to the melody of “London Bridge is Falling Down.”

The Missing Boogeyman

Halloween III came out a year after part two, and dropped substantially at the box office after it’s first weekend. Vague teasers and trailers didn’t tip the movie’s hand that Michael Myers was not in the film, and it angered fans like no tomorrow. It was such a disaster that Carpenter and Hill sold their stake in the Halloween franchise, and the series was effectively killed off for six years until Michael returned (although without Jamie Lee Curtis) in 1988’s Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers – a title that left no doubt to who was back.

Plot Twist

But the plot twist is that, looking back on it now, Halloween III is not a bad movie. In fact, it’s far from it. Taken on its own, Season of the Witch is a very inventive and sinister movie. It has the balls to even put children in real danger – something most movies don’t do unless it’s for a cheap and brief scare, and this whole movie’s plot is about killing kids. Its elements from Body Snatchers and even Carpenter’s own The Thing make for a film in which you not only are unsure as to what’s happening and why, but it throws in the confusion of people not being who they claim they are. In fact, the movie is so mysterious that it isn’t until about a half hour in that the viewer actually get a feel for what the plot even is.

But the point is that Halloween III is better than you remember it being. It doesn’t fit in with the rest of the series, but I would sure take Season of the Witch over Halloween: Resurrection any day of the week. Give it a go when it shows up on television this Halloween. I think the movie’s biggest trick is that it is actually a treat.

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