Halloween III - Season of the Witch Reviews
It is said that Halloween III: Season of the Witch would find its audience if it didn't have a title synonymous with the story of serial killer Michael Myers. Though I wasn't necessarily amazed by the film, I can certainly believe it. Halloween III: Season of the Witch is a very 80's horror film which combines elements of witchcraft and small aspects of science fiction into its oddball horror premise that evokes feelings of Lovecraftian horror. One must understand Lovecraftian horror to appreciate the film because it is a subgenre of horror which needs tenacious focus to execute. And while Halloween III: Season of the Witch doesn't necessarily push the boundaries on reality too much, the elements of witchcraft and motivations of the villains push into this territory. It's the kind of premise which will captivate some viewers just as easily as it isolates others, and for me I can see both sides to it.
Halloween III: Season of the Witch is clearly a low-budget production. Maintaining the same level of finance given to Halloween II (1981), Halloween III: Season of the Witch ends up with similar production values. Since Halloween III: Season of the Witch is more premise-oriented, the budgetary limitations hold back how much of the story can be explored and so the scale of the film is very small. However, it also means that the creativity of the film rests more in the writing than the spending. Tommy Lee Wallace takes the opportunity to explore his own vision of Halloween horror and creates a premise which ties into the holiday with more relevance than the preceding films. The central themes in Halloween III: Season of the Witch are the satanic roots of the Holiday and how contemporary America has smothered that beneath consumerism and materialism. Audiences are frequently reminded of this by the use of the advertisement for the Silver Shamrock Novelty company being played out repeatedly throughout the film. It's a key part of the story due to its dominant presence depicting extensive reach that the corporation has over America, though it does get annoying within the story. Nevertheless, there is a greater presence of social commentary in Halloween III: Season of the Witch than in the first two Halloween films. And as the film goes on and audiences learn more and more of this through discovering the motives and tactics of the film's antagonists, the various plot twists really keep audiences guessing. Keeping with its Lovecraftian nature, Halloween III: Season of the Witch is definitely no predictable film which is refreshing after the heavily formulaic nature of Halloween II.
Halloween III: Season of the Witch has nothing to do with the story established in its predecessors. In fact, it goes in such a completely different direction that it has no chance of attempting to mimic the Michael Myers story. However, there is still a very John Carpenter feeling to the film. There are many aspects of Halloween III: Season of the Witch that are familiar to the director's Lovecraftian horror film In the Mouth of Madness (1995). Both offer stories that keep twisting in various directions as the protagonists search for an answer to the evil in the narrative world, and both experiences have a creepy feeling to them. Tommy Lee Wallace is a long-time close collaborator of John Carpenter's, and so the fact that he retains the John Carpenter spirit in the one Halloween film that steps away from the Michael Myers story is very admirable. However, while Halloween III: Season of the Witch lacks the convoluted nature of In the Mouth of Madness, the underbelly of the film's mystery doesn't set in until deep into the film. As a result, there is a lot of waiting around for things to get good as prophecies of supposed evil seep their way into the narrative. This means that viewers have to face a slow pace and a lot of generic dialogue while the story slowly develops. Some of the narrative hooks implemented to keep viewers interested work better than others; the clear references to Psycho (1960) are stylish attributes while the romantic subplot is so meaningless in its presence that it almost seems to be a joke. Either way the point is that Halloween III: Season of the Witch doesn't offer much enticing horror in the mystery until it starts answering it. It's mostly just thinly-sketched characters investigating things with sporadic death scenes. Most of the deaths in Halloween III: Season of the Witch are executed with style with a few exceptions, but given that the film prefers to focus on its story it is a shame that the tale doesn't always hold up with its entertainment value.
As far as Tommy Lee Wallace's role as a director goes, his debut is a fairly solid one. Given that he was extensively involved in the writing process, the fact that he brings the film to life with such twisted results is a sign of real ambition for the man. His story is one which offers a climax that can prove too ridiculous for some, but fans of Lovecraftian horror should hopefully embrace the material. The man also diverts the budget well because the scenery for the film gives a perfect feeling of isolation from the outside world. And though the cinematography doesn't experiment with many things, it captures the imagery of the film well enough. The cast in Halloween III: Season of the Witch also work to bring out a solid effort.
Tom Atkins makes a strong leading effort. Dr. Dan Challis is a simple everyman dragged into a complicated situation, and Tom Atkins captures this part with a genuine sense of confusion that suggests even he does not know what is coming next. The lack of characterization in the script is no problem for him because he brings humanity to the role and makes a likable lead in the process. The highlight of his performance comes from the end of the film when he comes to learn the mysteries behind what he has been investigating and fights to prevent it from happening. This is where Tom Atkins raises the tension in his performance and empowers the climax, epitomizing his dramatic potential. Tom Atkins leads Halloween III: Season of the Witch with instinctual skill.
Stacey Nelkin similarly captures an everyman feeling with her performance. With the appearance of a typically 80's girl, Stacey Nelkin captures the mood of the film by constantly remaining in a state of confusion and fear. She doesn't go overboard with this, she simply conveys reluctance to get in too deep with the story. And as it goes on, we see her progressively growing stronger as a character with restrained tension in her spirit. Stacey Nelkin makes a compelling duo with Tom Atkins, and even though their romantic chemistry seems a little too cheesy for the film they still make a good pair during moments of greater dramatic capacity.
Dan O'Herlihy also makes a charming presence. The man's eloquent articulation of his words gives him a convincing facade, but the way that he diverts it into the passionate yet restrained sadism makes him a cleverly manipulative antagonist. Dan O'Herlihy is an effectively charming presence without predictability.
Halloween III: Season of the Witch is a slow horror film which doesn't consistently carry entertainment value until the mystery begins to resolve, but the story eventually develops into cleverly twisted John Carpenter-style homage to H.P. Lovecraft.