Cult Corner: Halloween III – Season Of The Witch

1982 – USA

Director: Tommy Lee Wallace

Starring: Tom Atkins, Stacey Nedkin, Dan O’ Herlihy

Words: O. Innocent

Halloween 3: Season of the Witch has got to be one of the most audacious sequels in horror movie history; jettisoning (almost) everything that made the first two Halloween movies such big box-office draws, it’s purporting to be a sequel while at the same time having absolutely nothing to do with it predecessors inevitably lead to critical and commercial woe. The result of producer John Carpenter (he gave up the directorial reigns after part one and distanced himself from the series completely until a producing credit on comeback Halloween H20), tired of further pursuing the Michael Myers-centred stalk and slash, wanting to broaden the scope of the series by having each subsequent film be a standalone feature centred around the concept of Halloween. This was a daring but ultimately stupid (at the time at least) move, Carpenter’s plan for more standalone Halloween films falling by the wayside while Halloween 3 fell into cult movie obscurity.

However, taken on its own merits as a standalone feature, Halloween 3 reveals itself to be a brilliant little horror thriller in its own right. It focuses on everyman hero Dr. Daniel Chalice who uncovers Irish toymaker and megalomaniac Conal Cochran’s dastardly plot to sacrifice America’s unsuspecting trick or treating kids by wielding the power of Stonehenge, a TV commercial with the most annoying jingle you’ve ever heard, and deadly Halloween masks! Utterly bonkers yet surprisingly unsettling, Halloween 3 definitely has to be seen to be believed. Aside from the barmy but chilling premise, perhaps the film’s biggest asset is its intense leading performance courtesy of cult movie icon Tom (The Fog, Maniac Cop, Night of the Creeps et al) Atkins. It’s to both the filmmakers and Atkins’ credit that his character isn’t just another cardboard cut-out hero. Playing it more down to earth, the guy isn’t perfect by any degree, bailing on his ex-wife and kids for the Halloween holidays for a jolly jaunt with a pretty young girl nearly half his age. Yet despite, or perhaps because of, his foibles, he’s still an endearing character we want to root for as he desperately tries to do the right thing at the haunting climax.

The directing and editing is also spot on, director Tommy Lee Wallace, obviously inspired by his Carpenter tutorage, going for a menacing, unsettling style with gliding, prowling camera pans juxtaposing short, sharp jump shocks. Carpenter once again provides another of his trademark synthesiser scores, perfectly setting a paranoid, disconcerting tone. Further upping the ante, there’s also some surprisingly nasty gore and controversial images such as a child’s head being crushed by a mask, bugs and snakes crawling out of the remains while his parents scream on, shocked and bewildered. Then there’s the nihilistic, gut wrenching ending – one of the most memorably chilling in the entire series – where Atkins screams down the phone for the last deadly commercial to be stopped, only for the screen to abruptly cut to black, leaving us with a bitter aftertaste as we contemplate the pitch-black consequences of Atkins simply being too late to prevent the final mass sacrifice. Not just another Michael Myers stalk and slasher then; Halloween 3 is a tremendous, weird, affecting one-off that is ripe for rediscovery. Be sure to add it to your viewing list this Halloween.         

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