After a horror film slasher icon was born with Halloween and its sequel, director John Carpenter decided that the franchise should go back to the original direction that he foresaw the series going and that is each sequel would be a different story that covers a unique aspect of the holiday. The third film was the first feature to veer away from Michael Myers and the critical and fan response wasn’t positive and it forced the studio to bring back the killer in the William Shatner mask. So, to celebrate my favorite holiday, I am revisiting Halloween III: Season of the Witch and asking the important question: Was it THAT Bad?
Season of the Witch centers on a doctor (played by Tom Atkins) that sees a raving and paranoid man enter his care and is then murdered by a mysterious stranger—way to drop the ball doc! The victim was found clutching a Jack-o-lantern mask and, as any of us would logically come to, believes that the mask has something to do with the death. The daughter of the victim (played by Ellie Grimbridge) joins the doctor on his investigation and it takes them to a secluded small town run by a menacing man named Conal Cochran (Dan O’Herlihy). They quickly learn that Cochran is using the mask in a wildly complex plan that involves ancient magic, Stonehenge, robots, one of the most annoyingly catchy songs you’ll ever hear, and a mass sacrifice.
Now, was Halloween III: Season of the Witch that bad?
Short answer: Yes.
Halloween III was in a bit of a no-win situation as the first film crafted a slasher icon that has stood the test of time and has been able to remain relevant despite the fact his backstory has been completely ruined by silly pagan nonsense, an endless parade of weak and disappointing sequels and an absolutely abysmal remake. I won’t deny that there is an unlimited amount of potential to this film and it makes me wish for what might have been if each Halloween film was a unique and different story. However, this potential doesn’t save the fact that this movie is pretty weak.
For one, the story is just horrendously written and the plot is lazy. Why exactly does the daughter of the victim fall for the uncharismatic and very scummy doctor that accompanies her on her investigation? Who the hell knows? It’s never really developed properly and we’re pretty much left to assume that they developed a deep, emotional connection on their drive to the factory that holds the secrets to the man’s murder and we were just unlucky enough for it to not make the final cut.
There’s also a huge, massive let down in the form that this investigation uncovers nothing and the evil villain’s plan is lazily just shown to the protagonist doctor. Sure, he sees some suspicious things mucking about but nothing about the reveal of why this is being done is the result of him unearthing anything. The antagonist just sees him snooping around and, before he can find anything, decides to lay out his plan for him in great detail and even treats him to a tease at the exact horror his ancient magic and the masks can have on people.
And speaking of the plan in this film, it so desperately needed to be simplified. What Conal Cochran is doing is honestly something really cool and the film plays off the common theme of horror movies utilizing popular technology against people fairly well—in this case, the tech is television. The metaphor of people dying while glued to the TV set sticks with the typical formula of a great scary story but Cochran’s plan is undone by the fact that the writers are including too much superfluous stuff attached to it. Ancient magic, Stonehenge and robots all play a part in this man’s play to make the ultimate sacrifice but is there really a need for the robots? Honestly, no. Ancient magic and Stonehenge would have been enough to make a nice supernatural horror film but the addition of robot enforcers to protect and see his plan done is the tipping point that makes the already precariously balanced story fall into the chasm of accidental comedy.
Yeah, Halloween III: Season of the Witch is that bad. While the film has attained cult status it doesn’t change the fact the product is really poorly written, lacks engaging and interesting characters, and contains a ridiculous story that has too many needless factors entered into it. Sure, Dan O’Herlighy’s performance is great (in the limited amount of time we see him, that is), there’s some really good practical gore effects, it has a tremendous ending, and the score provided by John Carpenter is too good for the events you are seeing but sitting through the rest of it is a chore and it’s no wonder that audiences were furiously demanding for the return of Michael Myers. I like the potential this film had and the “What If?” it could have provided with future films but the feature is just such a sloppy job and prime example of poor filmmaking that it makes even the weakest of Michael Myers-infused sequels something far superior to watch. Although, it’s not as hard to sit through as Rob Zombie’s remake or the sequel to his remake—so, it has that going for it.