Halloween 3: Season of the Witch

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"I do love a good joke and this is the best ever: a joke on the children "

Sept 21st, 2011

To most Halloween fans this is the bastard entry that never should have been. Not only the sequel to fail feature Michael Myers it's actually set in an entirely different universe with its own continuity. To say that people were pissed was an understatement as outrage followed with viewers claiming they had been duped into seeing a film under false pretences. I never had this this experience of when I saw the film. I didn't know the history behind the film and when I actually did see it on TV I didn't know that I was watching Halloween 3, I missed the title sequence.

Like most kids of the late 80's early 90's I relished the slasher movie icons of the decade. Being too young to go to the cinema to watch these films my experiences with them came from watching them on TV (buying a VHS copy back then was too dam expensive). I had no idea how many sequels a franchise actually had, I never read magazines about film (quite rare then) and there was no internet. As such I was at the mercy of the TV schedule which never actually aired any of the flicks in the correct order. As such aside from the nightmare series (all of which were housed at my local video shop) I saw all of the franchises of the 80's in the wrong order.

Halloween 3 in my recollection never aired on terrestrial television and I always wondered why (probably due to the un-connectability with the franchise and its universal hate). Many years later but still without the knowledge of what part 3 was about I came across a listing for the film showing on the sci fi channel (long before it changed to that SYFY logo non sense) I was so happy as we'd only had cable for a couple of weeks and I'd seen many movies that I'd always wanted to see. Watching some other show prior I unwittingly missed the opening titles.

About 10 minutes in I was quite sure this wasn't the film that had been advertised. Not only did it lack Michael but the tone and look of the film was completely off it didn't even seem like a horror movie. I was disappointed but I accepted it the TV guides back the quite frequently got listings wrong especially with the explosion of extra channels. That said I had already spent 10 minutes watching it I decided to watch it to the end. I can't tell you how many times I've stumbled across great films by accident.

So as a review standpoint my first viewing experience was one that came untainted. I was actually able to watch this stand-alone entry and judge it solely on its merits and failings without any bias in terms of what was promised.

Halloween 3: Season of the witch begins with toy shop owner Harry Grimbridge is admitted to hospital after collapsing only to have a mysterious man in a suit enter, kill him then himself. (I joined the film at the beginning of the deaths).Grimbridges' daughter Ellie and his Doctor, Dan Challis decide to team up and investigate the deaths (as movie heroes tended to do back then). Set over the Halloween period (at no point did I consider this link to the Halloween films, kids are dumb) a creepy advert on TV is prompting children to purchase Silver Shamrock Halloween masks. As Ellie and Dan investigate further they discover a shocking link to the masks and the death of her father. Traveling to a small town things get a little bat shit insane with the inclusion of secret organisations, robots and witchcraft.

Now I know some pretty horrific things happen in this film but I can't shake the feeling it's not completely a horror film. The investigation of our two leads takes precedent throughout the majority of the run time and really makes this a thriller at heart. I've seen many an action movie with similar levels of violence it's not until the final act that this really reveals its true intentions.

The story is actually quite subdued and one that I'd seen many a time before. Characters investigating a mysterious death are nothing but cliché and while I enjoy this type of plot device I can't praise the film for having originality. In fact I see two camps usually when it comes to this film. Those who cry foul and brand it absolute shite and those who praise it unanimously as a great genre piece. In actual fact it's neither as its decidedly average fare. There are no moments that set it that much apart from its contemporises at the time and a muddled script doesn't help it cause.

As I've mentioned above the ending is crazy with wild revelations and illogical conclusions that really should have the film stamped with bad movie making and yet something here just works. It's hard to place my finger on it exactly but the final third is so far removed from reality it takes on a dream like quality. I can't even brand it as so bad its good because the performances are so solid you buy into the silly dialogue and explanations.

The thing is I can't effectively discuss what makes it stand out without quite a few SPOILERS so for the next paragraph I'll be discussing the film in a little more depth **SPOILERS BEGIN** Ellie and Dan discover that the Silver Shamrock masks are part of a nefarious plot to murder the world's children, the adverts on Halloween will broadcast a signal that will activate their mystical properties (an act we see as a child is tested on, shocking child death follows one of the first I had seen on screen). The way they gather this information is not from their own investigations but due to the main villain of the piece explaining it to them ala James Bond. The problem is that none of these plans tend to make a lick of sense. For some reason our mad doctor wants to bring back the occult origins of Halloween by slaughtering a bunch of kids? Perhaps there was a second stage we weren't privy to but for the life of me I can't understand what he intended to achieve, why he needs robot henchmen and why he stole a huge block from Stonehenge and had it transported to America (yes this really is in the film). Yet it's all perfectly mixed, does it make sense, no does it entertain yes**SPOILERS END**

With Tom Atkins (Dan) and Stacey Nelkin (Ellie) we get some fantastic performances that elevate this b-movie above its station. Both are likeable and believable within the universe no matter how farfetched the storyline gets they sell this as a believable reality. That's not to say all the acting her was on par, the supporting cast are quite atrocious at times struggling to convey emotions beyond a wooden plank. Fortunately most of the screen time is focused on our twosome and others are only used to further the plot to a degree.

What really elevates the film has to be it brilliantly chilling ending. The stark place we leave our heroes at the end of the film was one of the first films that actually left an impact on me. I won't spoil it here but it's up there with the Wicker Man and more recently the Mist for mean spiritedness and I loved it.

While the visuals complement the stark nature of the material I can't help but feel it looks a little cheap. I actually thought this was a much older film than it was with the quality evoking many horror flicks of the 70's. This isn't a bad thing and didn't affect my viewing but for people watching at the time it was made I can understand disappointment on that front. I have seen this on DVD recently and it looks a lot better with cleaner visuals.

The music is perfectly ominous and is of course very similar to the other Halloween flick (in fact we get a few blasts from the original Halloween score as it plays on a couple of TV sets). The horribly creepy children's singing from the silver shamrock ads is perfectly crafted and stay with you long after the credits roll.

In regards to it as part of the overall Halloween franchise I can understand while it is looked down upon. I myself was rather disappointed when I found out that I had actually seen Halloween 3 a couple of years after seeing it. I can also see how the intention of making the Halloween films an anthology series was a nice plan but it was implemented poorly. If we had got this film straight after the first maybe this could have been an interesting franchise. I also feel the title was indeed deliberately misleading the film could have easily been called Halloween: Season of the Witch rather than adding it as a numbered entry. I also feel the tag line "the night no one came home" is a cleaver play on the original but only reminds you of it drawing unneeded attention to how the films are different.

Halloween 3 may have been a let-down to most but I actually enjoyed my time with it. While it's not a movie I'd rush to share with others it's not something that deserves the hatred it has gained over the years. In all truth its passable time filler elevated past average only by a couple of strong performances and a killer ending. If you are one of those who have skipped over this because of the lack of Myers I advise you to give it a chance, you may be pleasantly surprised although not blown away.

Other reviews in the series

Halloween (1978)
Halloween II (1981)
Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers
Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers
Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers
Halloween H20: 20 Years Later
Halloween (2007)
Halloween II (2009)

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Movie Details

Movie Poster Here
Director:Tommy Lee Wallace
Screenplay: Nigel Kneale
John Carpenter
Starring:Tom Atkins
Stacey Nelkin
Dan O'Herlihy