Oct 4, 2014


There was once a time – somewhere after Michael Myers returned to the Halloween series with Halloween 4: er…The Return of Michael Myers, when Halloween 3: Season of the Witch was considered the black-sheep odd-ball entry. Once that titular boogeyman Shat his face back on (see what I did there?) for the first time since Halloween 2, Halloween 3 seemed like a strange temporary diversion on what was, at that time, a still-linear and expanding mythos. Yet, now that said series also contains both versions of Halloween 6 (neither of which are good, and both of which are confusing as hell), a proper sequel that saw the return of Laurie Strode and subsequently ignored Halloween 4-6, an entry in which Laurie Strode was unceremoniously killed off as if the character were never more than a trivial footnote, and then Rob Zombie’s very controversial misfiring entries, I think it’s safe to say that Halloween 3 is no longer the odd-ball entry.  And it’s certainly not the turkey that many series fans like to say it is. I admit that I used to think like that: Season of the Witch used to be a punch line. It was derided for chucking out what “worked” – meaning, a slowly over-saturating storyline about Michael Myers that soon achieved the heights of ridiculousness that producers John Carpenter and Debra Hill had feared and tried to avoid. To many people, it became synonymous with the expression “jumping the shark.” 

Halloween 3 was supposed to be the first of a new direction for the Halloween series: standalone entries released yearly or bi-yearly that celebrated and examined the October holiday in some way, none of which would be tied back to previous entries. Kind of a strange move, considering Halloween 2 already existed, and was a direct continuation of the first film – its very existence seemed to laugh in the face of that idea – but when the tiny Compass International Pictures releases your first film, and then suddenly, mega-studio Universal wants to fund the second – ya know, the folks that released Jaws – I could understand caving in on that original intention.

Halloween 3: Season of the Witch features no Michael Myers, no Dr. Loomis, no Laurie Strode. It does feature: Tom Atkins (rocking the mustache this time!), ruminations on old Celtic beliefs/traditions as they pertain to Halloween, an evil corporation, Stonehenge, booby-trapped bug-filled Halloween masks, and, fuck yeah, robots. Here’s the thing, though, and hold onto your butts: While Halloween 3 is nowhere near a better film than the groundbreaking original (ha ha; Lord, no), it does a far better job of incorporating the actual day of Halloween – and all the myths and iconography and history that come with it – directly into its storyline. We’re not just talking about some guy walking around in a mask on the day/night of Halloween and getting away with it because Halloween=masks. We’re talking about a revisitation of old-school Halloween; how it was celebrated and observed in lands foreign from our own; how the very idea of Halloween itself – one whose enduring popularity is credited to legions of children – is both the inspiration behind and the vehicle through which Halloween 3’s antagonist will carry forth his dastardly plan: essentially, to end the world as we know it. If you know the legends and lore of Halloween, you know (or should assume, anyway) that the Halloween of today is a sanitized and watered-down version of what it used to be. It is this embracing of genuine Halloween that makes Season of the Witch an entertaining watch, but it’s not the only aspect worth praising.

Halloween 3 also succeeds and exceeds because of everyone behind the camera. Carpenter’s involvement with this series diminished over time, producing/writing/directing the first film, writing and producing the second, and now only producing the third. This meant someone had to step up and take on the role of writing and directing what would be a radical departure for this newborn series. Things didn’t work out all that well with Rick Rosenthal, who directed Halloween 2, and was a person Carpenter et al. didn’t know personally, so this time the major creative roles were entrusted to Tommy Lee Wallace, who had been part of the filmmakers’ repertoire since nearly the beginning. Though a rearranged version of the original team that struck gold with Halloween, the major players were still there, injecting into the films their own DNA. Carpenter and Hill returned as producers; Dean Cundey as director of photography; Carpenter and Alan Howarth as composers.

Carpenter’s first three films (Assault on Precinct 13, Halloween, and The Fog) had by then established what a "John Carpenter film" was – how it looked, sounded, who appeared on-camera, and the story it was telling. This aesthetic carried over to the subsequent Halloween films where Carpenter opted to take on lesser roles, but still accounts for a large part of their success and their reputations that would slowly grow over time. Much like Halloween 2, Halloween 3 feels like a Carpenter film – from the collection of actors and actresses making return appearances (Tom Atkins, Nancy Loomis, and voice work by Tommy Lee Wallace and Jamie Lee Curtis) to the film’s score (which is probably Carpenter's all-time best next to The Fog), to the added benefit of being grandfathered into a series that Carpenter and co. had created. And this isn’t, in any way, to diminish what writer/director Tommy Lee Wallace (director of Stephen King's IT) brought to the film. He was the man behind the typewriter and behind the camera. His gonzo script (heavily rewriting one by Nigel Kneale) about ritual sacrifice, the apocalypse, a womanizing Tom Atkins, and mothafuckin’ robots works because of how cartoonish and insane the events become. When it gets to the point in the film where Tom Atkins is being strangled by a severed robot hand, or you see that one single pillar from Stonehenge has somehow been uprooted from England, shipped over to the U.S., and planted in the middle of a concrete factory (you DO know how fucking big those stones are, right?) you have to know by then whether you’re on board…or not.

I totally am.

The cast of professionals and not-so-professionals brought it and did what needed to be done. Atkins is Atkins, and we love Atkins. Dan O'Herlihy as the villainous Conal Cochran brings as much gravitas and legitimacy to his role as Donald Pleasence ever did. Cochran's monologue about the real origins of Halloween may not be as chilling and exciting as Dr. Loomis' rant about "the devil's eyes," but O'Herlihy's performance is just as steely-good.

And Stacy Nelkins looks pretty good in a towel. And nighty.

Is Halloween 3 as good a film as Carpenter’s original? We’ve already been over that, and the answer is still no. But is it better than most of the entries to come, up to and including Rob Zombie’s scientific experiments? Absolutely.

Still very much a family affair, Halloween 3: Season of the Witch belongs alongside its previous two entries. Though it ditches everything that came before in favor of something new, it still somehow feels like the proper third part of a Halloween trilogy.

To me, this Michael Myers-lacking, Loomis-less, Carpenter-lite entry will forever be more of a proper sequel than Halloween: Resurrection ever will.


  1. I have seen every entry into the Halloween series except for this one (and the ones by Rob Zombie which I know I wouldn't like so I'm not going to bother with those) mostly because I always heard how awful it was, how it wasn't related to Michael Myers, blah blah. But it looks better than I thought so maybe this will be the October I FINALLY watch it. Also: I'm loving the new title banner. Those kids in the creepy old costumes are putting me dangerously close to wetting my damn pants...

    1. Do it - it's a lot of fun. Wet your pants, I mean.

  2. HIII is a fantastic little horror flick, and I think it would have been far more respected if it had simply been titled "Season of the Witch". Audience expectations were really what caused this one to be so poorly received, and it really is a shame. If they had touted this as a new film from the creative team behind "Halloween", but not connected it with the title, perhaps it would have gotten the response it deserved.

    1. Agreed with everything! Even though I love Halloween 4 and Halloween H20, I would gladly give them up in exchange for horror films made about the Halloween holiday every couple of years. There's so much untapped Halloween lore out there that could make some great film concepts. Thanks for taking the time to read and respond.