Movies You Missed

Movies you missed: Halloween III

Okay, this one is going to be a little bit different. Most people have at least a passing awareness of the Halloween franchise and Michael Myers is an iconic character.

Then there’s this movie.

Before we get started, let me just make it clear that this will contain spoilers.

Warning complete.

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Where the Hell Is Michael?

Trick or treaters in Halloween III: Season of the Witch
Trick or treaters in Halloween III: Season of the Witch

The first thing to address and the thing that damaged this film’s reputation is the complete lack of The Shape. While the Halloween franchise is synonymous with the silent killer, this is not a Michael Myers film.

I can remember watching a Halloween marathon on USA sometime in the early 90s. This was my first time seeing part 2 and I enjoyed it, though not as much as the first installment.

Then we get to Halloween III: Season of the Witch. I didn’t even finish it once I realized that it was a departure for the series. For years I dismissed this film because of that.

I was wrong. Halloween III is an enjoyable horror movie. Plus, it takes place in a reality where the original Halloween exists, as evidenced by a television commercial that we see in this movie.

Speaking of commercials, they play a huge role in this film, but we’ll get to that in a bit. First, let’s take a look at why this movie is an outlier in the series.

But Why?

Tom Atkins in Halloween III: Season of the Witch
Tom Atkins in Halloween III: Season of the Witch

Horror legend John Carpenter had no interest in revisiting the character of Michael Myers, feeling the story had been done. Reluctantly, he agreed to write the script for Halloween II though he declined to return as director.

Since that movie ends with the—seemingly—obvious deaths of both Myers and Dr. Loomis, one could have assumed that was the end of the series, at least in terms of the Michael Myers lore.

Of course, when you have a profitable franchise on your hands, people are loathe to let go. Both Carpenter and Debra Hill (the duo who wrote the screenplays for the first two installments) were approached regarding a third entry; both were hesitant to sign on.

An agreement was reached for their participation, contingent on the third film not being a direct sequel. Instead, the idea was to mold the franchise into an anthology, with each subsequent film focusing on a different story.

I’m a huge fan of this idea and can’t help but wonder what they might have done over the years had this formula been followed. Alas, Halloween III performed poorly at the box office, effectively dooming the anthology structure.

It’s a shame because I don’t think this movie deserves the amount of hate that it’s gotten over the years.

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Halloween III: A New Beginning

Tom Atkins and Stacey Nelkin in Halloween III: Season of the Witch
Tom Atkins and Stacey Nelkin in Halloween III: Season of the Witch

With a plan in place to stray from the formula, Carpenter and Hill returned as producers, not as writers. That job originally went to British screenwriter Nigel Kneale, who produced a script that gave much of the plot that we see in the finished project.

There were, however, requests for changes to Kneale’s script, resulting in his request to be uncredited. The task for revisions fell to first-time director Tommy Lee Wallace, who had worked as a production designer and editor on the original Halloween (he had also received and declined the director’s gig for Halloween II).

Carpenter also served to create the soundtrack, along with frequent collaborator Alan Howarth and the score they crafted not only fits perfectly but is instantly recognizable. The synth-heavy music helps create a creepy vibe for this very different entry in the series.

Now, I mentioned commercials earlier.

All of you who have seen this movie know exactly where I’m going.

Throughout the movie are commercials for a line of Halloween masks from Silver Shamrock Novelties. Accompanying each of these commercials is a jingle set to the tune of London Bridge is Falling Down.

This song will haunt your nightmares. Don’t believe me? Well, my sweet, summer child, just watch the movie and see for yourself (or check it out here).

The Delivery

A dark encounter in Halloween III: Season of the Witch
A dark encounter in Halloween III: Season of the Witch

The film opens with a man running through a desolate area before finding temporary refuge in a junkyard. We learn that the man is Harry Grimbridge (Al Berry), a store owner. Harry encounters a man in a gray suit and a fight ensues resulting in Harry killing his attacker.

Harry later ends up at a gas station, passing out with a pumpkin mask clutched in his hand. The station’s attendant drives Harry to the hospital, though his rest is cut short when another gray-suited henchman rams his fingers into Harry’s eyes and breaks his skull apart.

We meet Dan Challis (the always awesome Tom Atkins), a doctor with a penchant for beer and younger women. Dan runs outside in pursuit of the murderer only to find the man sitting in a car, his face cold and emotionless. The man douses himself with gasoline and sets himself on fire. Everyone’s like “WTF?” and the remains—nothing more than ash—are taken for identification purposes.

The late Mr. Grimbridge’s daughter, Ellie (Stacey Nelkin) tracks Dan down at a bar, carrying the mask her father had with him when he died. Due to the manner of her dad’s death and some strange events beforehand, Ellie is suspicious about Silver Shamrock, the company who produces the masks.

So, what do they decide to do? If you said “call the police” then smack yourself across the face. They do the safe and logical thing: drive to the town that the mask maker is based out of to do their own detective work.

And each other…I’m not going to go into that.

The Devil's Backyard

Welcome to Santa Mira!

Dan O'Herlihy in Halloween III: Season of the Witch
Dan O’Herlihy in Halloween III: Season of the Witch

The unlikely duo arrive in Santa Mira, a small town that is entirely dependent upon Silver Shamrock for prosperity. They check into a motel and promptly run into two other salespeople who are in town to visit the Silver Shamrock factory.

What luck!

That night, one of the salespeople is in their room tinkering with one of the masks when a label falls off. Seeing electronic equipment inside of the label, she decides to prod around in it. This proves to be a fatal move when a beam of light shoots into her mouth.

The unlicensed oral surgery leaves her not only dead but with an ungodly case of bug-mouth. The noise of the incident arouses attention around the motel and Dan tries to help. He’s prevented from entering her room by a group of men dressed in lab coats who are taking the body to the factory.

Arriving on the scene is Conal Cochran (the wonderful Dan O’Herlihy), the head of Silver Shamrock. He assures everyone that everything is okay and that the “injured” woman will receive the best possibly care at his factory.

The next day Dan and Ellie tag along on the tour in the hopes of finding out what kind of sinister business is going on. They don’t find much inside, though Ellie does spot her father’s car in a storage building on the factory’s property. The pair are stopped before they can check out the car and return to the motel.

You’re Gonna Like the Way You Look

Cochran (Dan O'Herlihy) revealing his plan to Dan (Tom Atkins)
Cochran (Dan O’Herlihy) revealing his plan to Dan (Tom Atkins)

Back in their room, they find that they’re unable to call anyone out of town, ratcheting up their suspicious and anxiety further. Ellie goes missing and, while looking for her, Dan notices a collection of suited thugs waiting outside the motel.

The men take Dan to the factory where Cochran spills the details of his master plan. Using a stolen piece of Stonehenge (did I not mention that?) as a power source and one of those catchy commercials as the trigger, Cochran plans to kill every child in America who happens to be wearing a Silver Shamrock mask.

Okay, I admit, the plot is more than a little convoluted, just go with it.

Cochran demonstrates the efficacy of his plan by killing the salesman from the tour, his wife, and his son. Dan watches via CCTV as the horror unfolds before being tied up and placed in a storage room. Before leaving his captive, Cochran places one of the masks on Dan and turns on a TV in an attempt to ensure that the nosy doctor meets the same grisly fate.

Naturally, Dan escapes and finds Ellie; together they make their way up onto a catwalk and dump a box of the microchip-laden labels onto Cochran’s workers. They activate the commercial on the monitors below, killing the men and triggering a reaction from the giant stone.

Cochran is struck by two beams of energy which cause him to temporarily turn into Frosty the Snowman from the 60s cartoon before disappearing completely.

Dan and Ellie flee the factory and run back to the motel, getting into Dan’s car to leave tow. Their sole intent is stopping the commercial from airing and saving countless lives.

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How the Turn Tables…

A gruesome end
A gruesome end

A short time into their drive, Ellie attacks Dan, causing him to veer off of the road and crashing. Here, it’s revealed that Ellie is an android (when did this happen? who knows!). Thanks to a trusty tire iron, Dan is able to dispatch Robo-Ellie, though only after a fight scene that rivals They Live in terms of length.

Dan runs off and ends up stumbling across the same service station that Harry Grimbridge found earlier. In a manic fit, he uses the station’s phone to call and get the commercials stopped. Who does he call? Hell if I know, but it appears to work as the first channel cuts out. The second channel shortly follows suit.

The third and final channel? We don’t know because, as the commercial approaches its crescendo, Dan is yelling “stop it” at whoever he is talking to. The screen goes black and the credits roll.

Why You Should Watch

Cochran meets his ultimate end
Cochran meets his ultimate end

Yes, the plot is a little out there and requires a solid amount of reality suspension.

No, there is no Michael Myers committing wanton acts of murder.

There is, however, a very interesting and entertaining movie to be seen. Honestly, it’s one of my favorites in the series and I lament the time I wasted hating this film. It was a bold move to take a fledgling franchise in a new direction. It didn’t pay off financially but it did give us one hell of a fun ride.

Where To Watch

Dan (Tom Atkins) frantically tries to stop the commercial from airing
Dan (Tom Atkins) frantically tries to stop the commercial from airing

Unfortunately, Halloween III isn’t regularly available through any streaming service that I found. You can buy or rent it digitally on Amazon, or you can pick up the Blu Ray.

If you enjoyed this post, check out my other movie entries:

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