Halloween III: Season of the Witch
was producer John Carpenter's attempt to get the series away from the original psycho-on-the-loose storyline and turn it into a vehicle for more far-fetched Halloween-themed horror tales. Incredibly, the fans voted for more of the same and Carpenter walked away for others to rehash the Michael Myers plotline in a succession of lookalike movies that are still turning up every few years.
Though original screenwriter Nigel Kneale (of the Quatermass series and The Stone Tape) removed his name from the final film after a coarsening rewrite by director Tommy Lee Wallace, his strange touch is evident in the offbeat story. After the mysterious deaths of a toyshop owner, a doctor (Tom Atkins) and the man's daughter (Stacy Nelkin), an investigation takes place in the Irish-dominated Northern California community of Santa Mira, a company town owned by the Silver Shamrock Novelty corporation, whose bestselling Halloween masks are pushed by an amazingly irritating TV jingle you won't ever be able to get out of your head ("Two more days to Halloween, Halloween, Halloween").
Atkins and Nelkin are typical low-rent horror movie protagonists, dim-bulbs who discover an Invasion of the Body Snatchers-style conspiracy involving sharp-suited corporate robots. But guest star Dan O'Herlihy steals the film as a Celtic joke tycoon ("the man who invented sticky toilet paper and the dead dwarf gag") who hates the way American kids are despoiling the religious spirit of Samhain and decides to teach them a nasty lesson. His scheme, which involves a stolen Stonehenge megalith ("sure, you'd never believe how we did it") and a techno-magic spell that turns the heads of TV watchers into writhing masses of snakes and insects, is value for money. O'Herlihy mixes enough serious malice into the charm to come across as a great screen baddie.
On the DVD: Halloween III: Season of the Witch is a disappointment on disc. After letterboxed titles, this defaults to full frame throughout, severely cramping Dean Cundey's Panavision cinematography, and it's a grainy, indifferent print that ill-serves the performances or the atmospherics. However, the severe cuts to the gruesome scenes made to previous video releases (in order to preserve the theatrical 15 rating) seem to have been restored. With an extras-packed Halloween disc on the market, it's a shame the most interesting of the follow-ups rates such a flimsy release--with not so much as a trailer as an extra. --Kim Newman
Halloween Iii - Season Of The W