Recently, I put forward three opinions of mine that I felt were not likely to be shared by many in the Horror community. As I explained at the time, I have never minded swimming against the tide of popular opinion, and had I not limited myself to three such opinions, then the article would’ve been a book. But if I had made the list four opinions long, then the fourth might have been the most controversial of all—I happen to think that Halloween III: Season of the Witch is a pretty good movie.
Now, before effigies of the Unimonster are lit ablaze for this heresy, let me explain. In 1982, I was as disappointed and angered as everyone at the blatant head-fake on the part of everyone connected to the film, especially John Carpenter and Debra Hill, who made it a condition of their involvement in the project that it not be a sequel to the first two films, thus forcing the decision to not have Michael Myers in this movie. As with most fans, in the days before spoilers, scripts, even the completed films could be leaked on the internet months in advance, I went into the theater for Halloween III expecting to see my favorite Slasher once more carving his way through the population of Haddonfield, Illinois. And like most, if not all, fans, I left unhappy with what I watched.
Halloween III was quickly forgotten in the flood of much better Horror films that seemed to appear on a weekly basis in the 1980s. In time Michael himself would return to the screen, in the aptly named Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers, and all would once more be right with the franchise. Well, as right as it could be when discussing the Thorn trilogy films. And for most of the next twenty years, I seldom thought about Halloween III; I certainly didn’t go out of my way to watch it again.
In October 2000, however, I began collecting Horror movies, in order to occupy my mind and fill my time in the wake of my divorce. The collection was to have no boundaries; new, old, good, or bad, if it was a Horror film, then I wanted it. As a consequence of that choice, I was forced to reevaluate my opinions on a number of movies. Some that I had once loved had aged badly in the years since I had last seen them, leaving me sadly disappointed. A few, however, like fine wine had improved with age, developing a character and quality that had eluded me upon my initial exposure years earlier. Halloween III is one of these.
In 1982 I was too focused on what the movie was not to appreciate it for what it was. The eighteen-year-old Unimonster wanted a Michael Myers Slasher film and didn’t get one. The fifty-seven-year-old Unimonster looks at it on its own merits, and sees a good movie, one capable of entertaining even so jaded a viewer as me. Not perfect, not a great film by any standard by which one might choose to measure it. Then again, most films aren’t. Viewers are content with most movies if they can simply be described as “good.” If I watch Halloween III today and see a good movie, how did I not see it then?
It has long been my contention that there was only one real mistake made in the development of the third Halloween movie, and that was making it a Halloween movie in the first place. Had it simply been titled Season of the Witch, without a misleading connection to the Michael Myers Halloween
I’m not saying that the movie doesn’t have problems quite apart from the expectations of the audience going in. The plot has holes large enough for the cast to walk through; said cast, with the possible exceptions of Tom Atkins and Dan O’Herlihy, not so much stumbles as they meander listlessly through their performances; and the Silver Shamrock jingle, carrying the signal that will activate the deadly microchips in the masks, is so annoying one finds oneself wishing that it did actually melt brains, if only for some relief.
But those negatives are balanced against some very positive points. The concept is very good, even if the execution was somewhat lacking. The masks, created by Don Post Studios, were very effective, and are still popular among fans and collectors. And while most of the performances left quite a bit to be desired, both Atkins and O’Herlihy were on point. Tom Atkins is one of my favorite actors, and he doesn’t disappoint here, and Dan O’Herlihy can chew scenery with the best of them.
Halloween III will never be a favorite of mine and will always rank near the bottom of the list when it comes to the Halloween franchise, with only the two Rob Zombie efforts earning a lower score. On its own, however, it can surprise a viewer. Just forget how bad Halloween III was and open your mind to how good Season of the Witch can be.