Halloween III: Season of the Witch: My Favorite Horror Film
Halloween III: Season of the Witch is my all time favorite horror film. It’s been my favorite for a few years now. The Halloween franchise is my favorite horror franchise so I’ve seen all the entries numerous times. I remember I always skipped this one because I was told that it had nothing to do with Michael Myers. I finally watched it and it grew to become my favorite horror film of all time. I’m going to be discussing my thoughts on everything so spoilers! Watch this film!
Why is this in the Halloween series if this has nothing to do with Michael Myers? Well, this film was supposed to be the starting point for a Halloween anthology series. John Carpenter and Debra Hill came up with the idea since Michael Myers died at the end of Halloween II (1981) and they didn't want to continue that storyline. The studio actually agreed and we got this film. Unfortunately it didn’t do as well financially and the anthology idea was scrapped. To this day, it's the biggest missed opportunity in cinematic history that the studio didn't stick with the anthology series. Imagine all the possibilities and creative films based on the holiday of Halloween. It's a damn shame. I wish we got to see what else Carpenter and company would've come up with.
The plot of this film is fucking insane and I love it. It’s about Dr. Daniel Challis and Ellie Grimbridge investigate the owner of Silver Shamrock Novelties, Conal Cochran, who has a plan to bring Halloween back to its sacrificial roots. Silver Shamrock sells three popular Halloween masks to children; a jack o’lantern, a green witch, and a white skeleton skull. Conal Cochran is actually an ancient Irish witch who’s using pieces of Stonehenge and a TV signal to sacrifice children wearing those masks on Halloween night. The TV signal is “The Big Giveaway at 9 p.m.” that Silver Shamrock promotes on TV throughout the film and when the children of the world watch the Big Giveaway with their masks on, bad things happen. Yes, that’s the plot. It sounds confusing but really it’s not. The idea came from Debra Hill and it boiled down to Witchcraft meets the computer age. I think they nailed it in spades. By far one of the most creative and batshit insane horror plots I’ve ever seen.
Tommy Lee Wallace directed this masterpiece and it was his directorial debut. He’s also credited as the writer but according to him that’s far from the truth. Nigel Kneale wrote the first draft but it was rewritten by both John Carpenter and Tommy Lee Wallace. Kneale and Carpenter didn’t want credit so Wallace is the only one who gets credit. Wallace said that Kneale’s original script is about 60% of the final product. Anyway, Wallace’s direction is so top notch. He was Carpenter’s protégé and it shows in this film. I can feel Carpenter’s spirit throughout the film but Wallace really goes all out. I love the scene when Cochran shows Challis his Final Processing lair and the way the camera pans around the large room. It’s excellent. This is one of the best directed films in my opinion.
What I love most about this film is how it puts me in the Halloween mood. I wrote a piece earlier this month about how I love October and horror films. The atmosphere of this month is something I love. This film captures that spirit and atmosphere perfectly. The score by Carpenter and Horwath and the cinematography by Dean Cundey really make this film’s atmosphere so perfect. This is one of the most beautifully shot films I’ve ever seen. Cundey is a legend.
This film has one of the greatest film scores of all time. John Carpenter and Alan Howarth teamed up once again and they go so fucking hard. The score is one of my all time favorites. It really helps with making this film’s atmosphere feel so creepy and Halloween like. I have it on vinyl and CD and I listen to it constantly around this time of year. I like how they didn’t just copy the score from the first two films and made a whole different one. My favorite track is Chariots of Pumpkins. They also created one of the most annoying yet catchy jingles of all time. The jingle is a rendition of London Bridge is Falling Down and the film plays it A LOT. The jingle does get creepier as the film goes on. I personally like it.
Dan O’Herlihy as Conal Cochran is one of my favorite performances of all time. Conal Cochran is the antagonist and he’s so goddamn good in this film. Cochran is an ancient witch who wants to bring Halloween back to its sacrificial roots. Cochran’s plan is fucked up beyond belief and that adds to why this film is so awesome. He wants to kill millions of children in awful ways because he wants to sacrifice them to the druid gods and the planets. I love those kinds of villains, where they believe what they are doing is right, no matter how fucked up their plan is. O’Herlihy’s performance feels so believable and unsettling. I love Cochran’s speech to Challis explaining his plan. That is my favorite scene in the film. It’s so chilling and beautifully done. The whole trope of the villain explaining their plot to the hero is tiring but in this case, I believe Cochran told Challis his plan because Cochran surrounded himself with robots and servants under his spell. He hasn’t had a human connection in a long time so he finally gets the chance to show off his master plan to someone who will react. Conal Cochran is my favorite horror villain and one of my favorite performances of all time.
Tom Adkins plays Dr. Dan Challis, our protagonist, and he’s awesome in this. I call his character an Anti Protagonist. I don’t mean Anti-Hero. What I mean by Anti Protagonist is the protagonist having no bearing on the plot. In this case, Challis has no reason to be involved with this mystery. He only goes on this adventure for a possible piece of ass. I think that’s hilarious! I can understand people having an issue with this but for me I think it makes this film unique. He’s an alcoholic asshole in this because he drinks every five minutes and he abandons seeing his own children to go on an adventure with this young chick he just met. It helps that Tom Adkins is very charismatic and likeable in general otherwise I wouldn’t like the character as much. I think he delivers a great performance.
Stacey Nelkin as Ellie Grimbridge is good in this as well. She actually has a reason to go on this adventure due to her father being murdered in the beginning. I think she was turned into a robot in the end instead of her being one the whole time. I also really like the side characters in this film too. Starker, Rafferty, the Kupfer family, Marge, and Teddy. They aren’t in the film much but their scenes add a lot in my opinion.
One of the best scenes in the Halloween franchise is in this film. The “Demonstration Scene” where we see what Cochran has in store for the children who watch the Big Giveaway. The Kupfer family is brought into a creepy test room dressed as a living room with a TV. The Big Giveaway is put on the TV and Little Buddy puts on his mask and watches the magic pumpkin. The Jack O’lantern flickers on the TV as the creepy jingle turns sinister. Soon, he falls to the ground clutching his mask as it melts. It’s revealed that his head melts as bugs, snakes, and reptiles pour out of his head. His parents freak out and die from the poisonous snakes. Cochran has an evil smirk on his face as he watches Challis squirm with fear. I LOVE this scene. For one, it’s disturbing as hell. This film has the balls to kill a kid. Two, this establishes that this will happen worldwide so the stakes are raised exponentially. It’s genius and awesome.
The intro to this film is one of my all time favorites. The score and the lines flickering on screen is creepy and establishes the tone right away. The bright orange lines and the light blue font have a nice contrast. I like how, in the end, it’s revealed to be the Big Giveaway’s Jack O’lantern.
I do have one issue with this film and that is the sex scene. Yes, I can agree that the scene is awful and cringey. It should’ve been cut down or cut all together. I usually fast forward through it or leave the room to refill my drink. The line “How old are you?” after they had sex once is so awful I can’t believe that it was included in the final product. That whole scene is weird and gross.
The ending of this film is one of my favorite endings of all time. Challis defeats Cochran and escapes. Ellie is turned into a robot and he unfortunately has to kill her. He’s traumatized as hell but he has to stop the Big Giveaway before all the children, including his own, are killed. He runs to the gas station from the beginning of the film and is able to shut off two of the channels but the third one keeps playing. He repeatedly yells “Stop it!” until the screen turns black. I love this ending. It’s really ambiguous and makes you wonder if he was able to stop the third channel. I think that he doesn’t and Cochran’s plan still succeeds. I like these kinds of endings because it always leads to discussions and they’re way more interesting.
Quick side note, it’s fascinating to me how the three kids wearing the silver shamrock masks are like the mascot of this film because they’re barely in this film.
If you don’t like this film because it lacks Michael Myers then I strongly suggest you check this out again. It has the perfect Halloween atmosphere. I love how the film is unconventional. The hero is an unlikable asshole, the love interest isn't saved, and it doesn't have a happy ending. The ending puts a chill down my spine every time I watch this. Plus this film is full of creative and brutal deaths. The practical effects are solid as hell. Sure this film isn't perfect. There are some flaws. The timeline is inconsistent, some of the acting isn't good, and there are some cheesy dialogue and moments. It doesn't bother me because I have a blast watching this film. It’s my all time favorite horror film and I couldn’t recommend it enough.
Happy Halloween! Don’t forget to watch the Big Giveaway at 9!