Movie and Film Reviews (MFR) Horror Halloween III: Season of the Witch (1982)

Halloween III: Season of the Witch (1982)

The Season of the Witch film posterHorror

Writer and Director: Tommy Lee Wallace

Harry Grimbridge (Al Berry) comes under the care of Dr. Daniel “Dan” Challis (Tom Atkins) when he shows up at his hospital clutching a “Silver Shamrock Novelty Company” Halloween mask while hysterically screaming, “They’ll kill us!”  Later that night, after sedating him, a man in a business suit enters Harry’s room and kills him with his bare hands.  After this he returns to his car in the hospital’s parking lot, douses himself with gasoline, and sets himself on fire.  Distraught by the occurrence, Dr. Challis files a police report and goes to a nearby bar to unwind.  While there, Ellie Grimbridge (Stacey Nelkin), Harry’s young and attractive daughter, approaches Dr. Challis and talks him into helping her investigate the reason for her father’s death.  The duo travels to Santa Mira, California, the location of the Silver Shamrock Novelty Company, and pose as representatives of her fathers business looking for a missing shipment.

Silver Shamrock Novelty Company sells a line of very popular Halloween masks made famous by a series of television commercials that appear with a very catchy jingle that counts down to Halloween.  The commercials also promise a “big give away” to anyone who watches the end of a presentation of the John Carpenter film Halloween while wearing their Silver Shamrock Halloween masks.  During their investigation, things get very strange for Ellie and Dr. Dan as they get closer to the heart of the Silver Shamrock Novelty Co., especially its nefarious owner, Conal Cochran (Dan O’Herlihy).  During a test it is shown that watching the big giveaway while wearing the Silver Shamrock masks results in everyone in the room suffering a gruesome death, because Cochran plans a mass sacrifice.

Halloween III: Season of the Witch was an experiment that it intended to be a part of a series of films with the Halloween title about Halloween.  Apparently this confused and angered many fans of Michael Myers, so Myers was reintroduced to the franchise in the following film.  However, that doesn’t take away from the fact that this film stands very well on its own.  This film came out when slasher movies were almost all you got in the horror film genre, which made it very original at the time.  What helps it also stand out in particular is the dark and bleak theme of the film.  The men in business suits deal very brutal deaths but much cleaner and more efficient than the classic slow moving slasher.  Even the gore pushed the envelope and done in a style that seemed more grim than most.  The bugs and snakes really add to the yuck factor.

The dark tone of the film plays consistent through Ellie and Dan who aren’t shiny bright heroes.  Dan seems a bit depressed and melancholy about life.  Ellie takes on a relationship with Dan that feels more like its for comfort in her grief than anything substantial.  The characters carry a sense of hopelessness with them that weaves into the overarching sense of hopelessness in this movie.  The bleak tone used for this film is not often seen in many films because it doesn’t appeal to wide audiences but, when done right, it gives the film an artistic integrity.  It works for the film especially in context of the culture of America at the time where the country was coming out of a very turbulent time and an economic recession and the economy was rising with big faceless corporations that seemed ominous behind their cheery facades. This is an unmasking of big business at its most horrifying.

Halloween III stands out among all horror films in that it combines horror and gore with a sense of dread.  However, this doesn’t mean the film is bleak all of the way through.  The cheery jingle from the commercials and the ironic peeks at the “fun” of Halloween provide a contrast to the dark tone that makes it all the more chilling.  While average viewers may be turned off by such a thing, I’m fine with it as long as it’s done the way this film does it.  Horror films are characterized by dealing with themes that people are not always comfortable and this film rises to that challenge in way others won’t try.

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