Halloween III: Season of the Witch (1982)

Maybe I’m just a VHS-addict, but I’m not even two minutes into Halloween III: Season of the Witch and I’m already smitten with the staticky VHS grandeur on display. So smitten, in fact, that it took four viewings before I realized that the screen on display isn’t random, but instead slowly creating the jack-o-lantern we’re treated with in the end.

Halloween III Season of the Witch - Staticky

I promise to be more “on the ball” for the rest of the film. (Or at least I’ll attempt to be more on the ball.)

So Halloween III is infamous for being the series’ first muck-up. Carpenter, after watching Mike Myers die in Halloween II, wanted a clean break for the franchise. A fresh start so that the series could grow into something bigger than just one killer. (While Carpenter wasn’t the scriptwriter, he was still on-board as a producer.) Unfortunately the fans didn’t care for the new direction.

Halloween III Season of the Witch - Silver Shamrock Masks

And I can understand the public’s confusion. Halloween III is completely different than its predecessors. Not just for not including either Mike Myers or Laurie (Jamie Lee Curtis); aesthetically it’s completely recast too. The location shots that I loved so much in the first two, the locations that lent the films so much atmosphere, are completely gone. Everything here is Hollywood; obviously sets, obviously (hammy) actors, the whole nine yards.

And I’m loving every second of it. It’s the perfect tonal switch. Imagine the lovable but fake look of Spaced Invaders mixed with a healthy dose of Village of the Damned, topped with a light sprinkling of 007 for good measure. You can’t lose!

Halloween III Season of the Witch - Silver Shamrock Factory

Halloween III Season of the Witch - Smile! You're On Silver Shamrock CCTV!

Story-wise it’s the tried-and-true, but still brilliant, company town caper. A mysterious death sends lecherous divorcee doctor Daniel Challis (Tom Atkins) to Santa Mira, home of the Silver Shamrock factory. The Silver Shamrock is run by Conal Cochran (Dan O’Herlihy), who also runs everything else in the town. (There are cameras on every street corner (remember, this was way back in ’82!), a 6 PM curfew, and the town’s hospital is located inside the factory.) He’s an amiable, old man, famous for making novelty gag gifts for ages. Novelty gifts and killer robot henchmen.

Halloween III Season of the Witch - Silver Shamrock Masks II

Halloween III Season of the Witch - When the Robots Attack!

Now the robot henchmen/factory workers are rather brilliant. I mean, if I was going to create Halloween masks that, when exposed to a certain song, would cause their wearer’s head to explode in a mess of spiders and poisonous snakes, I’d probably want a factory of automatons too. Less chance of your secret getting out. What’s not explained though, is why the town loves Cochran so much. It is hinted that there’s some resentment because he doesn’t employ the natives in his factory. And since the factory is the only game in town, you’d figure this would be a big snub.

Also, a more importantly, no one seems all that concerned that none of the robots live in the town. Or outside of town. They just exist in and around the factory. Which, being a small town, should be rather noticeable.

Halloween III Season of the Witch - Lamest Homicide Attempt Ever

Another flaw is the age-old James Bond problem: why does Cochran keep Daniel alive? His robots kill everyone else, but the man who digs the deepest is not only told Cochran’s nefarious plan by Cochran himself, but also given a delayed death sentence. A fate which is predictably avoided.

Speaking of stereotypical James Bond dilemmas, Cochran wants to sacrifice children to celebrate Samhain and appease the gods. Which is all fine except that the Silver Shamrock has been around for years. And now it’s going to sacrifice decades of good will to bring in a good harvest? Not to mention the inevitable criminal charges against Cochran. I mean, there’d be hundreds if not thousands of dead children around the US, all found with exploded heads inside one of his masks. Even if he escaped jail time his reputation would be shot. Making next year’s harvest nonexistent.

Halloween III Season of the Witch - Misfire

How this experiment (that of the film itself, and not that of Cochran) failed is beyond me. I mean, Cochran’s operation screams SPECTRE. Lab-coat wearing henchmen, pieces of Stonehenge imported from England, Cochran is a (slightly) more hirsute Blofeld. It’s hard to believe that an action/horror hybrid was unpalatable even in ’82 considering how big it’d become two decades later (the Resident Evils, the Underworlds, et al.).

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