Halloween III: Season of the Witch Review

Contributor: Rick McGimpsey

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With Dr. Loomis and Michael Myers apparently dead it was decided to continue the Halloween franchise as an anthology series in which each film was a separate Halloween-themed story instead of a continuation of the events from Halloween II. Halloween III was to be the first of the all new Halloween movies and it left fans extremely disappointed. After only two films Michael Myers had already become a horror icon and fans expected more of him in the sequels to follow. In the horror genre no one cares if you killed off a villain. There are ways to bring them back. I mean just look at the Saw films. There the main villain exists solely through flashbacks from the fourth movie onward.
To put it simply there was no demand for an anthology series and fans wanted more Michael. In the end Halloween III was an unwelcome addition that put the franchise on hiatus for five years.

Per se, the idea of an anthology horror series isn’t a bad one. American Horror Story, Creepshow, and Tales from the Crypt have all done fairly well after all. I think one of the reasons it didn’t work for Halloween was because the first sequel was a continuation of the original. At that point it was too late to turn the franchise into an anthology because that would be inconsistent. Also Halloween and Halloween II were three years apart which gave the first movie plenty of time to become iconic. By 1982 Michael Myers was irrevocably connected to the Halloween series and removing him could only be a mistake.

That being said I acknowledge that it is a trifle unfair to criticise a film for what it is not and, yet, fail to talk about what it is. So Halloween III, Michael or no Michael, does have a story worthy of review.

The film opens with a man running in the dark clutching a pumpkin mask. He eludes the men chasing him and is found by a gas station employee who takes him to the hospital. The man keeps raving that someone is coming to “kill us all” before he is sedated. While the doctor, whose name is Dan, is filling out paperwork a mysterious man in a business suit with black gloves walks into the patient’s room and kills him by gripping his face and crushing his skull to pieces. The nurse discovers the patient dead just as his murderer walks out of the hospital. Doctor Dan tries to catch up with the killer; but before he can do so the man gets into his car, pours gasoline over himself, and sets himself alight with complete serenity and emotionlessness.

Dan is at a bar later contemplating the bizarre events at his hospital. He is understandably stressed since strange men murdering his patients is not his only problem. He has two kids and an ex-wife who hates him enough to take sadistic pleasure in seeing his children disappointed in him. He bought them some cheap Halloween masks which they rejected since their mother already bought them some better made ones from a company called Silver Shamrock. This novelty company specialises in a lot of toys and gags like fake puke, gum that tastes like dirt, and other things kids buy to stress their parents and neighbours out. His kids prefer the Silver Shamrock masks which come in three varieties: Skeleton, Pumpkin, and Witch. It was one of these masks that the victim in the hospital was holding before he was killed. As a marketing gimmick Silver Shamrock has been airing a series of commercials with an irritating jingle that sticks in your head for hours reminding children to wear the masks on Halloween when the company will air a special Halloween program sponsored by the company. All the kids across the country are pumped about this upcoming special while exasperated parents are draining their wallets purchasing these masks for them. The annoying song seems to only add insult to injury for the adults and so Dan is obviously irate when the television at the bar in which he is drinking his sorrows away begins playing one of those infernal commercials. I cannot say the commercial is quite as bad as those Head-On ads, but it is still annoying and I don’t blame his indignation at having to hear it. Strangely enough the Silver Shamrock company is also sponsoring a TV airing of the original Halloween movie, but before we have time to ponder this fourth wall-breaking Dan is thankfully distracted by a young woman named Ellie who reveals herself to be the daughter of the man killed in his hospital.
She informs Dan that her father was a former employee of Silver Shamrock and that she suspects the company of taking part in a conspiracy connected to her father’s murder. So despite the fact that he has to take his kids out for trick-or-treating on Saturday, had no personal relationship with the victim, and is a simple doctor not trained in espionage or crime investigation Dan decides to aid her on her quest. Why Ellie approached the man who only just prescribed the man meds is a mystery to me. That would be like asking the school janitor for help with math homework.

The Silver Shamrock Novelties factory is located in a predominantly Irish town called Santa Mira and so it is there that Ellie and Dan take themselves. They pose as a newly married couple and stay at a local motel run by a manager who tells them that much of the town’s prosperity is thanks to one Conal Cochran who owns the Silver Shamrock company. Ellie makes a comment about the strangeness of Irish Halloween masks and Dr. Dan agrees with her. This is pretty dumb when you consider the Celtic roots of the holiday, but apparently we can’t expect a well educated doctor and the daughter of a company insider to know that.
Two other rooms at the motel are occupied. One by a saleswoman who just recently bought a Silver Shamrock mask for her son and the other by a family consisting of a man, his wife, and their son. The father’s name is Buddy Kupfer and he is here on business with Cochran.

In their motel room Dan and Ellie suddenly get intimate for what seems to be no reason at all. They were hitherto only posing as a couple, but since they are sharing the same room they apparently decide “hey, why not.” This feels like the plot to a porn movie and it happens with no real explanation or depiction of their relationship developing in any believable way. In The Terminator Kyle Reese and Sarah Connor at least got to know each other before having sex in a motel room and it helped move the plot along. Here it just seems like they added a sex scene to help an already tedious movie reach its 90 minute run time.
Meanwhile, while they are getting it on the saleslady is taking a look at the mask she bought for her kid and she begins to examine a Silver Shamrock logo that fell off. On the back of the logo is a computer chip which seems to serve no purpose since the mask is not an electronic product. She starts poking at the chip with a hairpin which causes the logo to suddenly discharge a laser beam which kills her instantly. Why she was poking at the chip in the first place is beyond me. She was a saleswoman, not an electronics technician. What was she even trying to do? Is scraping at microchips with a hairpin her version of popping bubble wrap? If so she should have found a less fatal stress reliever.

Anyway, the next morning Dan, Ellie, and the Kupfer family go on a tour of the Silver Shamrock Novelties factory guided by Mr. Cochran himself. During the tour Dan notices that many of the employees bear an eerie resemblance to the man who murdered Ellie’s father and are even wearing the same business suits. While touring the grounds Ellie notices her father’s car parked in a warehouse and she rushes up for a closer look. Two of Cochran’s workers block her way and Mr. Cochran laughs it off for the benefit of the Kupfer family as his employees just zealously protecting trade secrets.

Back at the motel Dan and Ellie are packing to leave town when they are attacked by the men in suits. Dan escapes but Ellie is kidnapped and taken to the factory. With the town’s phone network down Dan is unable to contact the police so he takes it upon himself to rescue her. He sneaks into the factory, but is caught by some of employees. He manages to overpower one of them and discovers during the struggle that the men in business suits are all robots manufactured by Cochran to do his bidding. This, of course, begs the question why these men are wearing gloves when they kill people. It’s not like their fingerprints would trace back to real people. But, such plot holes aside, Dan is eventually captured and taken before Cochran who reveals his sinister plan. Turns out that Cochran is fed up with the Western commercialisation of Halloween and wants to revitalise the holiday by bringing it back to its darker, more pagan roots. Annoyed by harmless trick-or-treating, lawn decorations, and Peanuts specials he wants to celebrate Halloween retro style. Blood sacrifices, Celtic rituals, and heathen cultism are more up to Conal Cochran’s speed and he wants America to celebrate Halloween his way. If you ask how he is planning to do all this you will hate yourself for asking. Like most things in this movie his plan is quite stupid.
Conal Cochran stole one of the pillars from Stonehenge, captured its magical essence, and concentrated it into the microchips planted in the logos attached to the Halloween masks. The Silver Shamrock Halloween special that is going to air on the 31st will somehow trigger the mechanism which will melt a wearer of one of the mask’s head into a pile of snakes and insects. And, naturally, the robots he built helped him accomplish all of this.
I simply cannot see how Mr. Cochran supposed to get away with doing such a thing so I am forced to assume he never intended to. Whatever music he was to face afterward was evidently worth all this to him.
Conal goes on to demonstrate his plan by having the Kupfer family’s son test the mask and watch the Halloween special. It goes even better than Conal planned and the boy’s head is successfully converted to a pile of snakes and bugs while his horrified parents are killed offscreen. Most horror movies don’t stoop to killing children and it always takes a lot of balls when they do. The only other film I can think of that does this in an effective manner is the 1931 Universal Frankenstein. However, killing off a child is not this film’s worst fault. Being a stupid movie is.

To make an already long story short Dan manages to escape, rescues Ellie, dumps a ton of the microchips into the factory’s computer lab just before turning the commercial on the monitors’ screens. This kills Cochran and much of his employees, but I imagine the snake and insect population in Santa Mira was tripled that day.
In Dan’s car on the way to a payphone to warn TV stations not to air the commercial Ellie suddenly turns on Dan and tries to kill him. It soon comes out that the real Ellie was killed in the factory and replaced by one of Mr. Cochran’s robots. Dan manages to destroy the robot and gets away to a gas station where he calls up all the TV networks and demands they pull the TV special. Most of them comply, but one does not and continues to air the special despite the angry doctor’s pleas. The film ends here and we are left to assume that thousands of kids across the country have snakes where their faces used to be.

This movie has left Halloween fans divided into two very distinct positions. And honestly I think they are both wrong. Many of the Halloween fans who hate this movie hate it because Michael Myers is not in it. Unfortunately, this is not the most viable criticism to lay at the film’s feet since it never purposed to have Michael in it in the first place. Consequentially it thus did not fail in its aims at all. As I said earlier an anthology series is not a terrible idea. It was just too late to start one for this franchise.
The second position is the fans who like the film and defend it as a good horror film in its own right. They claim it might have been better received if Halloween was not in the title. However, I completely disagree. If you removed the Halloween III and just called it Season of the Witch it would still have been a stupid movie. The plot makes no sense, the characters act in ways that no normal person would act, and the villain is given a very weak motivation and even weaker exposition on how he proposed to do everything he does. How did he manage to steal a pillar from Stonehenge? When and where did he learn how to build robots? How did he know he could capture the power of Stonehenge in a microchip? I am not well-read in Pagan literature, witchcraft, and ancient grimoires bound in human flesh like some people, but I am fairly certain they are devoid of info on how to program black magic into a computer chip! Mr. Cochran was awfully confident in a plan that was so unconventional.
This is a really stupid horror movie and its being a part of the Halloween series is only an insult added to injury, not the injury itself.

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