I’m not sure how big of cojones one needs to possess to make a third film in a series of films about a singular masked serial killer, and have that film have nothing to do with said serial killer. Really, does anybody know the size of those things need to be? Well, if you’re a fan of the Halloween films then you know that that’s exactly what happened with Halloween 3: Season of the Witch.
In it, Tom Atkins ineffectively plays a doctor trying to figure out why one of his patients died. Along for the ride is the patient’s daughter. The duo travel to the small town of Santa Mira, California where they discover Silver Shamrock Novelties and its owner, the nefarious Conal Cochran, are trying to use masks, Stonehenge, and seizure-inducing commercials to celebrate witchcraft, Samhain, and subpar acting. What Atkins and his love interest don’t discover is Michael Myers, Laurie Strode, Haddonfield, or an intense Dr. Loomis.
The results were decidedly disappointing back in 1982. The idea, according to John Carpenter and Debra Hill, along with the film’s writer/director Tommy Lee Wallace, was that Halloween could become an anthology series of films. Each film being its own story involving Halloween, with Season of the Witch being the first in the series. The idea is actually pretty cool. It’s basically what shows like Tales From The Darkside, Friday The 13th : The Series, and Carpenter’s own Masters Of Horror ended up being(minus Halloween being a constant.) Unfortunately, Season of the Witch was not the right start for said anthology. With the muddy script, so-so acting, and extremely slow pacing, Halloween 3 just made people long for that creepy kid in the clown outfit stabbing his topless sister. The movie has become sort of a cult film since its debut 36 years ago, but even for laughs it’s a tough sell. Though, the masks and the big Silver Shamrock commercial scene make the movie worth the price of admission.
For me, this was one of those movies I longed to see as a kid. I can remember my neighbors having cable TV and the movie channels were scrambled. Halloween 3 had just hit The Movie Channel, and back in the mid-80s when the movie channels were scrambled you could turn to the channel and hear the dialogue even though the picture had lines running through it. Much like if you had a metal plate in your head and you got too close to the TV. I distinctly remember going to the neighbor’s house one summer night and we flipped to TMC and Season of the Witch was on. Hearing that Silver Shamrock commercial as the picture wavered and distorted was an almost hallucinatory experience at the tender age of 8. Later on we’d get a VCR and I would rent Halloween 3: Season of the Witch one October evening and I’d get to see it without all the lines running through the screen. I didn’t dislike it, but I was pretty perplexed. It remained one of my least favorite Halloween films, next to Scooby Doo and the Curse of Michael Myers.
Fast forward to last year. My son and I watched Season of the Witch on a Friday night. We were making our way thru the Halloween movies and I was particularly excited to see Halloween 3 as I hadn’t watched it since I was a pre-teen. I have to say I was pretty underwhelmed overall. I saw the potential there, and the mask scene was still great, but overall the movie was kind of a bore. The one thing that stood out(besides Tom Atkins creepy character) was the excellent score by John Carpenter. It was definitely a case where the music outdid the film. So when Death Waltz/Mondo started issuing the Halloween scores recently I knew I had to have Halloween 3: Season of the Witch. I picked it up today and played thru it 3 times. This may be controversial to say, but I think it’s one of John Carpenter’s best scores.
While the original Halloween Soundtrack is iconic and even 5-year olds hum it to themselves in their sleep, Carpenter really starting hitting his stride with The Fog, score-wise. From there he put out mind-blowing score after mind-blowing score. The Fog, Escape From New York, Halloween 3: Season of the Witch, and Christine all were released within a 3-year period. I feel like H3 and Christine have a real sonic connection. Both are subdued and not over-the-top. Subtlety is the name of the game here. With H3, I’m hearing a lot of what Steve Moore pulled influence from for his work on The Guest and Cub. Carpenter’s pulsating synth and ominous tone are far more engaging and terror-driven than anything in the film it scored. His synth touches are inspired and go incredibly far to legitimize the film.
Though that anthology idea never panned out, we got one hell of a score to enjoy out of the deal.
I do appreciate Halloween 3: Season of the Witch now more than I did. There are some cool effects with the masks turning kids’ heads into mush, and who doesn’t enjoy Tom Atkins as a skeezy doctor with one hell of a porn mustache? Show me the person that doesn’t enjoy that and I’ll show you one sad soul. It’s cult-y vibe and near parody levels of acting(doesn’t Dan O’Herlihy’s Conal Cochran remind of you Herbert Lom’s Inspector Dreyfus from The Pink Panther Strikes Again?)
I think it would be pretty interesting to have someone remake Halloween 3, with maybe them amping up the humor a bit. I mean, don’t make it a laugh fest, but at least somewhat self aware. I think someone like Edgar Wright would do a great job of redoing Season of the Witch. Set it near the Isle of Wight, put Simon Pegg in place of Tom Atkins and have Ben Mendelsohn play Conal Cochran. But leave the masks. Maybe instead of watching a commercial, have the kids all take a Snapchat-like photo at the same time with their masks and something wicked this way comes.
Edgar, are you reading this? Come on, make it happen!