Movies I Like That Others Didn’t: Halloween 3 (Season Of The Witch)

Everyone has a movie they love that has been butchered by critics, movie goers and/or under-performed at the box office. It might be a comedy that was so unfunny that it should have been a drama, was not as exciting as the trailers, contained poor acting, poor directing, excessive plot-holes, too complex, weak climax/ending etc.

…and if there is any movie at risk of bombing, it’s a sequel, for a myriad of reasons:

  • Characters were removed or replaced with different actors (“The Mummy Pt. 3”)
  • It was released so many years later that it lost its momentum or pizzazz (“Tron” [1982] – “Tron Legacy” [2010])
  • A new director takes on the project with a different approach or vision
  • It deviated from the general theme of the first movie(s), etc. (“House Party 2 & 3”)

Which brings me to my reason for this new series: Movies I Like That Others Didn’t. You see, for every 99 people leaving the theater, wishing they’d made a different choice at the ticket booth, there’s always that one who left smiling and ready to sing about it. More often than not, that person is me…

…and in this case, I want to talk about the box office flop “Halloween III: Season Of The Witch”.

Warning: Here be spoilers (and some possibly disturbing imagery)…

I vividly remember plopping down in my theater seat back in 1978 in anticipation of the movie everyone was talking about, John Carpenter’s “Halloween“, starring Jamie Lee Curtis and Donald Pleasence. Halloween, featuring the tagline, “The night HE came home” told the story of mental institution escapee Michael Meyers, who returned to his hometown of Haddonfield, Illinois 15 years after murdering his older sister on Halloween night when he was 6 years old. Halloween set a new standard for horror, introducing a killer that simply could not be killed. It paved the way for other supernatural monsters such as Freddie Krueger (“A Nightmare On Elm Street”) and Jason Voorhees (“Friday The 13th”). I recall leaving the theater blown away by the final scene, where after having been shot 6 times and seemingly falling dead over the balcony, his body disappeared, indicating (and warning) that he was far from finished. It was especially eerie when they showed a montage of places in the house he had been (and still could be) as you heard the sound of his breathing, before cutting back to Laurie (Curtis), who sat there crying and in fear.

NAILED IT!

Then there was the sequel “Halloween 2”, which picked up exactly where the original left off; set the very same night and taking place in the local hospital. WOW!

And then…

…there was “Halloween III: Season Of The Witch“.

It would stand to reason that any 3rd installment of a saga would be a continuation of the storyline set by its predecessors. It’s expected. It’s standard. It’s an unwritten rule. It’s Federal LAW, right? Wrong.

Right out of the gate, avid fans were confused. The trailer had a different feel, leaving no indication that Myers was the movie’s antagonist, or worse, even IN the movie. Suspicions and concerns were soon confirmed when audiences found themselves watching an entirely different story starring Tom Atkins, Stacey Nelkin and Dan O’herlihy (“Robocop”).

H3 introduced Conal Cochran, deceptively kind toymaker, intent on murdering the children throughout the country via Celtic ritual that would kill anyone and everyone (mainly children) wearing his wildly popular Silver Shamrock Halloween masks while watching the night’s Halloween television special and giveaway. Hence the cleverly appropriate tagline, The Night No One Comes Home.

For what it’s worth, Michael Myers did eventually appear in the movie, but not in the way you’d expect. He was seen on television, in character, in the movie “Halloween” of all things. His story was a Hollywood movie within this story. It was both surprising and (to many) disappointing, but a nice homage to the now cult classic. And this is one of the largest reasons H3 was panned by critics and audiences alike: New “monster” in an entirely different “Halloween” movie.

So how did this happen? Director Carpenter was approached about making a 3rd installment, to which he was initially hesitant. He eventually agreed, with the mutual understanding that the next project be an all new tale, focusing on other characters. In fact, he foresaw the expansion as just that: a series consisting of different plots with different characters. Halloween 1&2 were to be the beginning and conclusion to the Myers story with what appeared to be a clear and definitive ending. Ok, fair enough, I get that. Where he went wrong, in my opinion was not effectively promoting his concept and message that H3 was to be an entirely different tale, paving the way for even more projects of variant themes.

So how was his idea received?

Fans went ballistic, writing in to voice their disapproval and desire (actually, DEMAND) for the return of their new cinematic icon, Michael Myers (which was actually a good idea because this gave birth to the genre of indestructible villains aka the Slasher Movie craze). The cries were heard and project heads responded by finding a (questionable) way to bring Michael back from the dead for “Halloween 4: The Return Of Michael Myers”, “Halloween 5: The Revenge Of Michael Myers” and so forth and so on.

My problem with his return in H4? I seem to remember Dr. Loomis shooting out both of Michael’s eyes before igniting his lighter in the oxygen gas-filled room, supposedly killing them both (H2). But I can’t be angry. He was beheaded at the end of H7 (“Halloween H20: 20 Years Later”), only to he brought back for H8, where it was revealed that in H7, he put the mask on the ambulance driver and crushed his larynx so he couldn’t speak. So the wrong man was killed.

Oh well. C’est la vie.

The Myers storyline became so incredibly popular that it was rebooted in 2007 by Rob Zombie (for TWO movies) and then re-issued by original creator Carpenter, dismissing EVERYTHING after the first movie and classifying the 2018 project with returning star Jamie Lee Curtis as the “true sequel” to the 1978 film.

And what of H3? Sadly, because it was the only film that “strayed” from the Myers saga, it is hugely considered the “black sheep” of the family and not even respected as part of the Halloween bloodline. But as I mentioned earlier, it was never SUPPOSED to be.

So WHY did I like it? Well for starters, it had a really cool concept – a maniacal supporter of the pagan Festival of Samhain, hellbent on destroying families around the nation for their failure to acknowledge and respect the origin and meaning of Halloween. Fresh idea and interesting.

If I have to honest… …after seeing Stacey Nelkin in National Nampoon’s “Up The Academy”, I was kinda weak over her too. So that’s another reason. Shhhhh.

It also had great sound editing, strategically woven into unexpected screen entrances or plot twists. Great way to shock the audience.

Speaking of plot twists, how cool was it to learn that villain Conel Cochran’s henchmen were not human? I got a genuine chill down my spine when Daniel looked out of the window to discover them standing still, staring at him before beginning pursuit, walking at a suspenseful moderate pace (not unlike Michael Myers – hmmmmm).

And how many of you lost your popcorn when Silver Shamrock customer/distributor Marge tampered with the circuitry in back of the mask’s badge, causing it to misfire? What followed resulted in the first and only time I EVER looked away from a screen in horror and disgust during a movie.

What about that shocking moment when we learned that kidnapped/rescued Ellie (Nelkin) had been murdered while in captivity and replaced by a robot?

I was 15 at the time and nearly jumped out of my seat when her doughy-eyed stare revealed the shocking new development.

It also had a great “crowd applause” moment when hero Daniel (Atkins) discovers a way to escape and destroy Cochran and ALL of his “men” through the sabotaging of their computers and the Stonehenge boulder (one can’t help but laugh at the movie’s sappy explanation of how they stole and transported it to America with Cochran’s open-ended line, “You wouldn’t believe how we got that here. We had a DEVIL of a time…”). And did you make the connection to the news story in the background at the beginning of the movie, when they said one of the stones was mysteriously missing?

Even the final scene had a brilliant Stephen King-esque conclusion: Daniel makes his way to town and calls the television stations, begging and pleading for them stop the airing of the dooming show. You feel a sense of victory as he succeeds with two channels, but discovers a third (I guess it’s that easy; a raving lunatic can call the TV station with a half-baked story with unfounded evidence, but that’s enough for us to stop airing the show). He screams frantically for the station to interrupt programming, screaming “Stop it! Stop it!” before finally looking at the screen and yelling, “STOP IIIIIIIIIIIT!”

…cut to black screen – roll end credits.

I LOVED that ending, although it didn’t sit well with many movie-goers at the time. I guess we can blame that on society’s need for closure in all things (Hey, sometimes, you need to leave the movie theater guessing, like in “The Thing”, “Inception”, “Shane” and others, which is a popular movie ending style these days).

And if you think about it, it had one of the catchiest commercial jingles that I promise you’ll keep singing, long after you read this line:

(To the tune of “London Bridges”)

Haaappy, Happy Halloween, Halloween, Halloween
Haaappy, Happy Halloween, Sillllverrrrr Shamrock!!

(Dammit Kenny, now I’m gonna be singing that song all day!)

If you ask me, the movie was indeed cheesy with some questionable acting and a not-so-believable villain; yet and still, I loved it. But considering the success of the franchise, I guess Carpenter would have fared better had he released it without the number “III” and used an entirely different and unrelated title. But in fairness, he had no idea.

…and obviously, no one else did either.

What do you think? Is your original opinion worth reconsideration, based on my commentary? Do you think you might watch it again? Is it worthy of the classification of “stand-alone cult classic”?
Please leave a comment with your opinion. And don’t forget to follow my blog and be sure to share it with others!

And if I may, I’d like to close out with my favorite line from the movie, given by Mr. Conel Cochran…

“Happy Halloween”

Now watch… …waaaaatch… …watch the magic pumpkin…

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