Essays · Movies

Junkfood Cinema: Halloween III — Season of the Witch (31 Days Of Horror)

By  · Published on October 15th, 2010

Welcome back to Junkfood Cinema: now with 100% more! Time to shake off the cobwebs, crack the padlock on the pantry, and get back to ruining your weekends by filling your eye sockets with tasty schlock. Yes, I have been away for awhile, but I have returned with a renewed fervor to liquefy your brains whilst simultaneously broadening your silhouette. Each week I investigate every nook and cranny of my favorite turkeys while also lavishing it with a sweet, geeky dressing of praise. I will also pair each film with a deliciously terrible-for-you snack food in the hopes that you too can obtain the Adonis-like physique of Gene Shalit.

In honor of October, I will be serving up the best of the bad horror movies all month long. First up is the threequel with no equal… Halloween III: Season of the Witch. It’s the story of a man investigating a company that makes Halloween masks which seem to do more harm to children than just make them visually-impaired speed bumps like they are supposed to.

What Makes It Bad?

I want to affirm this right out of the gate: this film is NOT bad. But, it garners an unjust reputation as the worst of the Halloween film franchise for one reason, and one reason only: its association with that terrible Donovan song. No, actually the biggest problem most seem to have with Halloween III is its painfully evident lacking of Michael Meyers. Even if people are hesitant to label the film as worse, the missing murderer is enough to cause an overwhelming avoidance of the film.

I will concede that when you build your foundation on a boogeyman of that caliber, removing him from the picture and still anticipating high returns at the box office does seem a fool’s errand. I mean, imagine if Friday the 13th Part 3 had decided Jason was old hat and replaced him with a thieving ninja! It would have taken place at Camp Crystal Dragon and revolved around a sinister, black-clad wraith stealing all the sports equipment and forcing the champion kickball team to forfeit their big match. ARRRRGGH!!!! SCARY!!!!! Or what if the killer in the first one wasn’t Jason at all but an old woman in a bad L.L. Bean sweater who – oh, right.

There is also a tonal shift to the third Halloween installment that can be a bit jarring. Where the original film, and subsequently the sequel, is such straight-forward slasher film that it helped to invent that genre as it was perfecting it, Halloween III is a supernatural perversion of capitalism. I’ll leave you to decide if corporate America or a mass murdering psychopath is more frightening. While there are moments that are quite unsettling, the overall film is more of a mystery with less emphasis on scares and more on discovery. The mystery moments can wear on you and make you seriously contemplate the chemical composition of candy corn between the sparse kills.

What I am about t0 say will spoil a “big surprise” in the film so if you are the sort of dolt who reads an in-depth review of a film you haven’t seen and becomes incensed when something is spoiled for you, you are a moron but should also stop reading this. Ok, now that they’re gone, can you believe the selfishness? Reading my column and tossing their naivete around like it’s a license to dictate when I can talk about things?! Anyway, the girl who turns out to be a robot? At no point during the film does she do anything even slightly robotic or even out of sorts, but then we’re supposed to just accept the fact that she’s a cyborg?! It is one of those moments that you would call a head-scratcher except that it would actually cause you to scratch so hard that you would grind down the skull, begin tearing at bits of your cerebral cortex, and eventually it would make sense to you.


Given all that, I suppose I understand all the complaints and can see why so many people don’t appreciate Halloween III. On the other hand, they are all boobs and should move Svalbard with the other commie polar bears! This movie is great. It’s not ironically good, it’s not so-bad-it’s-good, but just plain great. This is an interesting example of when a film was hampered by being tagged as part of a franchise. If the film had just been called Season of the Witch with no numerical association with the other Halloween films, I think people would have loved it. It is creepy, well-acted, well-directed, and a bizarrely apt tribute to this most spooky of holidays.

I greatly respect what director Tommy Lee Wallace was going for, and don’t blame him for wanting to make this film the third installment of a Halloween trilogy. Tommy was, after all, John Carpenter’s production designer on Halloween and the namesake of the dopey little boy character whom Jamie Lee Curtis babysits. He wanted to prove that he had the skills to stand on his own as a horror director and, while I think this film proves that fact, I wish his loyalty to Carpenter hadn’t caused him to saddle his film with sequelization. His film stands apart from the first two Halloween films for more reasons that just the absence of Michael Meyers.

No small part of what I love about this film is its star. Tom Atkins is horror royalty and if you don’t address him as such I will shove alien brain slugs up your nose until your skull explodes! Atkins lent his undeniable charm to the likes of Escape from New York, Night of the Creeps, The Fog, and Creepshow as well as playing the lead in Halloween III. He is a guy who, despite not being the most physically intimidating, you know inside of the first thirty seconds he’s on screen that you can’t fuck with him. In this film, he is not only badass, but a stone cold pimp as well. He beds every nurse, tourist, and damaged headcase that crosses his path and seems to cause panties to drop at a mere snap of the fingers. He is a phenomenal actor and is pitch-perfect for this role.

I love how beautifully the story of Halloween III synergizes with the natural creepiness of this season…of the witch. Moreso than the original, the third installment offers Halloween the opportunity to be a secondary character in the film and the concept of the mask itself being more evil than the wearer is a fascinating coin-flip from the first two films. This concept also leads to one of the most disturbing death scenes in all of horrordom. The little kid in front of the TV, wearing his mask, as snakes, bugs, and all sorts of crawling nasties permeate from his exploded head? I still have nightmares about this scene.

If nothing else, you’ve gotta love that Silver Shamrock jingle that plays on televisions in the background throughout the film. Its gleeful, cheery lyrics and Moog melody belie the diabolical nature of its intent and it serves as a foreboding ticking clock as we delve further and further into the dark truth about Silver Shamrock. Beyond all of that however, it’s just damn catchy. So let me close this piece by reminding you…16 days til Halloween! Halloween! Halloween! 16 days til Halloween…Junkfood Cinema!

Junkfood Pairing: Shamrock Shake

“But Brian,” you whine, “shamrock shakes aren’t available in October.” While that may be the case, and therefore the wedgie I am currently administering to you is entirely unfounded, I could think of no better complement to Halloween III’s antagonistic corporation than the seasonal yokel-bait of another massive, possibly evil corporation. If banging on the drive through window until you’re a viral video superstar doesn’t convince your local McDonald’s to whip you up a shamrock shake in October, I recommend combining vanilla ice cream, milk, and a metric trough of creme de menthe in an industrial mixer the size of a love seat and diving in headfirst; snorkel optional.

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Longtime FSR columnist, current host of FSR’s Junkfood Cinema podcast. President of the Austin Film Critics Association.