When HALLOWEEN III: SEASON OF THE WITCH was released on Friday, October 22, 1982, I was just ten days away from my first viewing of John Carpenter's HALLOWEEN on a repeat airing on NBC. Fangoria issue #22 showcased the film on the cover and I was intrigued about it, though it would be some time before I actually got the chance to see it.
HALLOWEEN III never seems to get much respect from genre film fans. It's kind of like the bastard child of the HALLOWEEN films and was originally projected to be the first in a series of yearly films released every October that dealt with different horror stories surrounding the titular holiday. The film did poorly at the box office, so any future franchise plans were abandoned, which is a shame because HALLOWEEN III is a fun little movie in its own right. Like most low-budget films, HALLOWEEN III has never been represented properly on home video. Even DVD hasn't been kind to it, having seen no less than three incarnations in "movie only" editions released in 1998 by Good Times Home Video, and in 2003 and 2007 by Universal Home Video. The fine folks at Shout! Factory however, through their phenomenal Scream Factory line, are releasing a widescreen, feature-rich DVD next month that should satisfy any passing or diehard fan of this film, which was foolishly promoted as the third installment of the popular franchise at the time and was the only film having absolutely nothing to do with the manifestation of pure evil, Michael Myers.
This confusion is arguably a major reason why the film flopped at the box office, which is a shame because it is not a bad film by any means. HALLOWEEN III is more of a science fiction/horror film in the tradition of INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS (1956), the film that the director most obviously paid homage to.
HALLOWEEN III was co-written and directed by Tommy Lee Wallace (after many script re-writes by others) who would go on to direct episodes of the mid-1980's revival TV series THE TWILIGHT ZONE and the 1990 made-for-TV movie adaptation of IT by Stephen King. It features Tom Atkins, who worked with John Carpenter on THE FOG (1980) and ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK (1981) and with George A. Romero in CREEPSHOW (1982). He is also known for Fred Dekker's NIGHT OF THE CREEPS and Richard Donner's LETHAL WEAPON (1987). Mr. Atkins always delivers a terrific performance regardless of the subject matter of the films that he appears in, and HALLOWEEN III is no exception. Here he plays Dr. Dan Challis, who looks no more like a doctor than I do, and ends up playing doctor with Ellie Grimbridge (Stacey Nelkin), the twenty-two year-old grand-daughter of a man who died in his care.
It turns out that a company producing Halloween masks is in actuality a front for a dastardly evil man named Conal Cochran (Dan O'Herlihy) who has produced a legion of androids in the form of well-dressed men, and is the monster behind the television commercials for Silver Shamrock Novelties which are geared towards children. The story has elements of science fiction and reminds one of the aforementioned granddaddy of social paranoia flicks, THE BLACK HOLE (1979), and even BLADE RUNNER (1982). Some critics no doubt have drawn comparisons to George A. Romero's DAWN OF THE DEAD (1978), claiming the film is a social commentary about the pitfalls of consumerism and the power of large corporations. Sometimes, a thriller is just a thriller!
Like so many other horror films made thirty years ago and beyond, HALLOWEEN III, while initially a box office disappointment, became one of those films rescued from obscurity thanks to the availability of home video where so many young horror film fans saw the movie, in addition to screenings on cable television. Were it not for these ancillary markets, it is highly unlikely that so many of these genre gems would have ever retained any sense of life and made it into the homes of fans around the world. While obviously it is better to see such films on the big screen, particularly movies such as HALLOWEEN III which was shot in the 2.35:1 anamorphic aspect ratio, for many of us, was the only way to catch up with these films.
John Carpenter and Alan Howarth provide a terrific synthesizer-driven film score which aids in giving the film a spooky and other worldly feel to it.
And of course, who can ever forget the Silver Shamrock theme?
I myself love going to the locations where movies are shot, and Sean Clark of Horror's Hallowed Grounds does another excellent job of taking us on a tour of the locations for HALLOWEEN III. However, I must say that this is about as close as you would want to get to the town of Loleta, CA. While it looks industrial and low-key in the film, 30 years have not been kind to this location. For one thing, the motel where the aforementioned tryst occurs is overrun by social undesirables; one inhabitant vituperates Mr. Clark and Company from his doorway and a middle school playground verbal match ensues.
If you're going to own HALLOWEEN III, this is the edition to get. This special DVD, which is also available on Blu-ray, comes with the following extras:
Audio commentary with director Tommy Lee Wallace, Sean Clark of Horror's Hallowed Grounds and Rob Galluzzo of Icons of Fright
Audio commentary with actor Tom Atkins and producer Michael Felsher
Stand Alone: The Making of HALLOWEEN III: SEASON OF THE WITCH featuring Tommy Lee Wallace, Tom Atkins, Stacey Nelkin, Dick Warlock, Dean Cundey and more...
Horror's Hallowed Grounds - Revisiting the original shooting locations
Theatrical Trailers and TV Spots