Halloween was a big deal in the 80’s. Not only was it more of a kid friendly holiday (before Megan’s Law and 9/11) but October was big business for movie theaters (and drive-ins). Growing up, we would bug the sh*t out of our parents every weekend for four weeks, just to go see the 4-5 monster movies the would premiere that week… but we had to be picky. There would be so many horror movies that if you didn’t see it that weekend, chances are it would be gone the following weekend, replaced by the newest Hollywood splatterfest.
Of course, seeing another Halloween movie was a no-brainer and I was excited when Halloween III: Season of the Witch came out. Not only was it another Halloween movie but I was old enough to see it in a theater (with a parent) – ah, the life of a 8 year old! Too bad it was about killer masks instead of Micheal Myers.
Season of the Witch starts off with a shop owner running for his life from thugs through a junkyard. Right away, Thug No.1 gets crushed between two cars as our victim narrowly escapes to find help at an auto repair shop. In a near heart attack state, the man says these haunting words, “They’re coming to kill us all” and passes out with a jack-o’-lantern Halloween mask in his hands. An so begins one of the strangest movie sequels ever made.
Fast forward a bit and Dr. Dan Challis (Tom Atkins) is called down to the hospital to check on the new patient when Thug No.2 shows up and with superhuman strength, snapping the poor shop owner’s skull in two by gouging his fingers into his eye sockets like a bowling champ getting ready for a strike. After the night nurse enters the bloody room and goes bonkers, Thug No.2 calmly walks to his car, douses himself with gasoline and blows himself up. The cops blame drugs (sure, why not, it’s the 80’s!) but Dan just doesn’t buy it and as soon as you can say “CHECK THE MASK,” the Doc turns into a junior detective.
Before long Dan, with the help of the shop owner’s daughter Ellie, are off to investigate the Silver Shamrock Mask Company. Long story short, the masks are armed with microchips and slivers from a stolen slab of Stonehenge (yeah, really, Stonehenge). With the help of science and druid magic, the mask company, lead by owner Conal Cochran (Dan O’Herlihy), plans on playing one final trick on the world… by ending it on Halloween.
Some of you might say, “But Rube, isn’t this the piece of crap that doesn’t have Michael Myers in it?” Well, yeah, it doesn’t have the 6ft tall mute wearing a spray painted Captain Kirk mask and OshKosh B’gosh overalls stabbing slutty teens in their underwear… but trust me, Halloween III isn’t a bad movie. In fact, I really like this horror film. It helped that I was 8 years old, saw it when it first came out, and it scared the BEE-jesus outa me… but I always wanted one of the Pumpkin masks (there was also a Skull and Witch), which Don Post Studios sold in record numbers that year.
I think that Halloween III tells an intriguing story that’s full of suspense and just overall quite creepy. John Carpenter’s musical score is awesome and there’s some intense gore despite the absence of Myers. Tom Atkins (Night of the Creeps, The Fog) and Dan O’Herlihy (Robocop, Twin Peaks) are great in it. Yeah, the main plot device (a Stonehenge tablet) is absurd, but so what?! Is an air duct sturdy enough to support John McClane’s weight any more absurd? We don’t bitch and gripe about Die Hard do we? Nope, you just go with it. Sometimes you just have to let a little thing like “grand theft of a 5-ton stone slab that was airlifted by, I assume, two helicopters, dropped off at a port, brought across the Atlantic and then shipped to a California mask company within one night” go.
Other than that tiny plot hole, I really like this movie. Yeah, it’s kinda cheating with using HALLOWEEN in the title, but when John Carpenter first talked about the film, the original plan was to do these films as an anthology (ie. Tales From the Crypt). He felt that the story of The Shape was concluded and that there would be a new story every Halloween. Unfortunately, the rights were sold and we were stuck with seven more celluloid abortions.
Even though Season of the Witch received horrible reviews upon release, it did clear $14 Million on a $2 Million budget… not too shabby. Still, the film was deemed a failure at the box office. While this may seem even more absurd than the plot, take in account that it was opening up against Fast Times at Ridgemount High, Poltergeist, First Blood, Rocky III and blockbusters such as E.T., re-issues of Star Wars and Empire Strikes Back, Creepshow… man, Halloween III never stood a chance!
After two weeks the film was dead and long forgotten BUT, since it was considered a dud, as kids we were lucky enough to see it on TV every October… that is, until it was cheap enough to mass produce on VHS, Laserdisc, and then later to DVD. I’m sure if you’re lucky Walmart should have a DVD copy floating around for $5 or, if you’re feeling really ambitious, Shout! Factory’s Collector’s Edition on Bluray. Trust me, it’s a good buy and will be perfect addition to any horror movie marathon.
8/10 Pumpkin Masks
This article is part of the Countdown to Halloween blogathon, a month-long blogging marathon dedicated to honoring the Halloween season. For more information and a full list of participating sites, please visit www.countdowntohalloween.com.