Looking back at Halloween III: Season of the Witch

October 1982. John De Lorean gets arrested for selling cocaine to undercover FBI agents. In Orlando, Florida, Walt Disney World opens EPCOT Center, the second largest theme park in the world. Sony releases the first compact disc (CD) player to the public. While on movie screens across the country Halloween III: Season of the Witch premiered.

The first Halloween had been a hit. The second one was no different. The slasher movie craze was in full swing. It was only natural there’d be a demand for a third installment of “The night He came home”. Original Halloween scribes John Carpenter and Debra Hill were reluctant to pledge their commitment. Both felt they’d said all there was to about Michael Myers. Halloween II had ended with Myers burning to a crisp. How could you bring him back? The only way the duo would be on board for a third Halloween was if it had no relation to the first two. They agreed upon doing it if they could turn the series into an anthology. Their idea was to do a film every year that focused on some aspect of the Halloween season.

Science fiction writer Nigel Kneale, creator of British sci-fi character Professor Bernard Quatermass was hired to write a script. He went for more psychological horror with his script. Dino De Laurentiis, owner of the film’s distribution rights however wanted a more graphic horror film. The film’s director Tommy Lee Wallace revised the script, adding more gore. These alterations displeased Kneale, who had his name taken off the script.

Character actor Tom Atkins (A personal favorite) was cast in the lead. Stacey Nelkin landed the female lead, only having had small roles on television series like CHiPs and The Waltons prior. Irish character actor Dan O’Herlihy was cast as Conal Cochran, the owner of Silver Shamrock Company. Halloween III was the directorial debut of Tommy Lee Wallace, he’d served as art director and production designer for Carpenter’s original Halloween and had been offered the director’s chair for Halloween II, which he’d declined. The soundtrack was composed by John Carpenter and Alan Howarth, the duo had scored the previous year’s Halloween II.

Sadly Halloween III performed poorly when it was released. Critical response was poor as well. Most felt the story was too much of a “jumbled mess” and too outlandish. Fans were disappointed that Haddonfield, Illinois number one son wasn’t in it, save for a brief cameo on a television screen.

You know what? Halloween III: Season of the Witch is my second favorite of the franchise. I dig the Invasion of The Body Snatchers meets Quatermass vibe the film captures. I’m a big fan of the ’70’s Body Snatchers remake. Halloween III does a good job capturing the feel of that film and giving it an injection of ’80’s. It’s anti-capitalism, anti-television message is a sort of forerunner to Carpenter’s own They Live. Tom Atkins plays a character we should hate, a drunken, womanizing doctor, and makes us like him. Stacey Nelkin’s Ellie, always came across as a character straight out of a ’40’s film. Knowing what she wanted and going for it. I’ve had a crush on her since I first saw the film ages ago. It’s a shame she didn’t go on to make bigger things. And Dan O’Herlihy’s Conal Cochran? He steals every scene he’s in (like in RoboCop) and seems to be having a blast doing it.

One more thing, who could ever forget that darn Silver Shamrock jingle. After you hear it once, it’ll always be with you, rattling around in your head.

“Eight more days ’til Halloween,
Halloween, Halloween.
Eight more days ’til Halloween,
Silver Shamrock.”

A special thanks to The Retroist’s own Daniel Th1rte3n and Sean Hartter for providing the art for this article.

Professor Brian Oblivion

Part Time Lord. Part '80's horror film. All Nerd. If they made a movie of my life it would be shot on video and directed by Herschell Gordon Lewis.

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11 thoughts on “Looking back at Halloween III: Season of the Witch

  1. It took a while, but the movie eventually grew on me. I watch Halloween and Halloween 2 on October 31st as tradition. Halloween III made it into my 5 Days Til Halloween movie rotation a few years ago. It stands well enough on its own.

  2. Scorpio says:

    If your expecting Mikey to slash everyone up in his normal style, you’re going to be dissappointed. However, if you appreciate the film for what it is, and more importantly what it isn’t, you’ll have a great time. Sure, your going to have to suspend your disbelief, but that’s what Halloween is all about! The rubbery effects, grainy film, and over the top plot are what I love about it. Turn out the lights, put some popcorn in the microwave and enjoy a great Halloween story- 80’s style!

  3. Atari Adventure Square says:

    Great nod to an underappreciated gem, Prof!

    Saw this on a big screen when it came out. Audience was mystified and underwhelmed by the end of it. I was rather thrilled for all the reasons you mentioned!
    The sci-fi elements were very welcomed and brought some new angles to a horror experience.
    Once me and my gang began to watch this annually on VHS and movie channels, we all had a blast.
    When Atkins is in bed with the hot teenager and screams from next door get their attention, his reaction brought the house down – in our living rooms and back in the theatrical first viewing.
    Priceless moments like this fill the movie.

    And Cochrane is one scary, slimey S.O.B.
    His (admittedly incomprehensible) menace to a nation of kids is more ominous than regular monster fare.

    This movie is a near perfect Halloween staple, next to Great Pumpkins, returning Kirk-faced killers and Headless Horsemen.

    Puts one in an appropriately spooked and silly mood.

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