It's time, kids! It's Halloween! So put on your masks and gather 'round the television, because I have a special treat for you this evening.
Today's movie is a bit of a black sheep in its franchise, and it's reception is extremely divisive among fans. After the runaway success of the slasher classic Halloween in 1978, the studio wanted John Carpenter to make a sequel. To say he was reluctant would be putting it lightly, but finally, Halloween II was released in 1981, putting what everyone assumed to be a permanent end to the series' antagonist Michael Myers. But what to do with this lucrative franchise? John Carpenter and Debra Hill returned on one condition, that the third installment NOT be a sequel to Halloween II. After all, the series was called Halloween, not "Michael Myers." Working from the premise of going forward with a different Halloween-themed story every year, the result was today's film: Halloween III: Season of the Witch.
As the film opens, a man named Harry Grimbridge is running from his life from assassins in suits. He collapses in a service station, begging for help and clutching a jack-o-lantern Halloween mask. He is taken to the nearest hospital, where he is treated by Dr. Dan Challis (played by Tom Atkins). Grimbridge issues a grim warning to Challis, "They're going to kill us all!" One of the silent, suited men murders Grimbridge in the middle of the night, and Challis watches in horror as the assassin commits suicide by self-immolation.
Challis and Grimbridge's daughter Ellie team up to investigate the strange murder. Together, using the jack-o-lantern mask as a clue, they travel to Santa Mara, a predominantly Irish community and home of Silver Shamrock Novelties, the maker of the mask, along with two other popular masks dominating the market. From the moment they arrive in Santa Mara, it's clear that something is terribly wrong. After another guest in their motel dies horribly and is taken away by Silver Shamrock employees, Challis and Ellie decide to visit the Silver Shamrock Factory and see just what's going on in Santa Mara, and what it has to do with Henry Grimbridge's death.
Halloween III: Season of the Witch gets a bad rap from fans. Even before I became a fan of the series, I was warned to stay away from it. Fans felt betrayed, because Michael Myers was reduced to a mere cameo on a TV screen. And I'll admit, when I first watched it when I was seventeen, I wasn't impressed with it. It stuck out like a sore thumb. But let's put Michael Myers aside and look at Halloween III on its own merits. Despite all of the fan backlash, Halloween III is a good movie! It's not a slasher like its predecessors, but it has plenty of gruesome kills and genuine suspense. Its plot is suitable for the season! Frankly, if this movie had simply been titled "Season of the Witch" with no ties to the Halloween franchise whatsoever, I'm confident it would be considered a beloved classic.
One of the biggest complaints (aside from Michael Myers' absence) is how the plot delves sharply into science fiction territory with its clockwork men and the high-tech delivery system for Silver Shamrock's murderous signal. Maybe I'm biased because sci-fi is my genre, but that doesn't bother me at all. In fact, I really love how the villain (played brilliantly by Dan O'Herlihy) used technology to exploit and amplify ancient magic. Again, I stress my assertion that were it not for the Michael Myers controversy, this film wouldn't get anywhere near the hate it does. Besides... let's be honest, folks. Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers and Halloween: Resurrection were both far, far worse than this movie.
I don't think I have to spell out my verdict for you. Halloween III: The Season of the Witch is a fantastic science fiction/horror flick that serves as a fun palate cleanser between Michael Myers films. If you haven't watched this one yet, I urge you to give it a shot. Gather 'round the television with your candy, put on your mask and... Oh, man... not this commercial again. Turn it off. Turn it off! Stop it! Stop it! STOP IT!! STOOOOOOOP IIIIIIIIIIIT!!!!!!
See you next year, fiends. Happy Halloween!