[dropcap size=big]W[/dropcap]hen it first opened in 1982, Tommy Lee Wallace’s Halloween III: Season Of The Witch opened to an unforgiving reception. Both critics and audiences disliked the absence of Michael Myers, indeed the centerpiece of the original Halloween film and its sequel, Halloween II. The film would earn an $11 million gross, making it the poorest performing Halloween film commercially. It’s clear how people derided Season Of The Witch, but oddly, reappraisals three decades later give it a significantly greater value as a capricious entry to the franchise—albeit a squandered one.
Fans consider Michael Myers the lifeforce of the first film, Halloween. Of course, there’s John Carpenter’s deft direction, pulsating score, and the blunt conflict central to the film. What sticks among the rest, however, is Michael Myers. The personification of evil, an entity made unambiguous and inextinguishable. Strip him away from the franchise, and you get a reaction as crude as what Season of the Witch had received.
Michael Myers is untouchable
So why bench Michael? The original idea for the third Halloween film is to introduce a new story that’s completely removed from the first two, which delved largely into debating whether or not Michael’s evil was nature or nurtured. Rather than repeat themselves, the studio opted for a different story that shares only the tone of the previous films. The idea is to conjure a different monster every sequel and build something of a Twilight Zone-like anthology all set in Halloween. Fans, however, made it clear that the franchise should center on one thing only – the main man of movie monsters, Michael.
The idea is to conjure a different monster every sequel and build something of a Twilight Zone-like anthology all set in Halloween. Fans, however, made it clear that the franchise should center on one thing only…
Although it doesn’t have a literal “monster” as its villain, Season Of The Witch isn’t devoid of terror. The monster in it is veiled only so thinly under a bright sprightly little jingle for Halloween masks. Carpenter, who co-wrote the script, would more definitively touch on the evils of commerce and mass media in his magnum opus, They Live. Instead of grotesque extraterrestrials, however, what’s living underneath is something that’s far more familiar: greed.
The most Reagan horror film during the so-called “revolution”
Season Of The Witch succinctly summarizes the anxieties of its zeitgeist. The 80’s was an era of such unrest that the idea of a genocidal tycoon doesn’t feel out of place. In the film, a wealthy Irish businessman named Conal Cochran (Dan O’Herlihy) plans to extinguish all living children in America. To accomplish this, he draws mystic strength from an ancient hedge stone possessing dark magic. It allows him to mass-produce not only an entire militia of brainless droids but also heaps and heaps of in-vogue Halloween masks. A product that the American working class gobbles up and buys for their children.
The 80’s was an era of such unrest that the idea of a genocidal tycoon doesn’t feel out of place.
The film finds its unlikely hero in Dr. Daniel Challis (Tom Atkins), a father estranged to his own children. He isn’t very eager to win his children by way of toys; in fact, he fails to buy them Silver Shamrock masks (a.k.a. Cochran’s cursed Halloween masks). It is this sense of detachment that enables Dr. Challis to see through Cochran’s nefarious plans and to try and stop it. By the end of the film, much like Laurie (Jamie Lee Curtis) in the first film, Dr. Challis finds he’s faced with evil that’s bigger than himself. Even if he succeeds in stopping it now, it only lives on.
The irony of losing all American youth in the most American way possible doesn’t escape me in the film’s final moments. What does, is an entire volume of stories as potent and punkish as this one. When fans and critics collectively dismissed Season Of The Witch, they also said yes to H20: Halloween—which is just damned criminal. Better to have taken the red pill.