Halloween III: Season of the Witch - Collector’s Edition

  • Reviewed by: Dr Adam Jahnke
  • Review Date: Sep 10, 2012
  • Format: Blu-ray Disc
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Director

Tommy Lee Wallace

Release Date(s)

1982 (September 18, 2012)

Studio(s)

Universal (Scream Factory/Shout! Factory)

Review

The long, uphill climb of Halloween III: Season of the Witch from outright failure to something approaching respectability is well-known to fans. John Carpenter and Debra Hill sought to relaunch the franchise as a Michael Myers-free series of individual Halloween-themed horror movies. It was a gutsy move and one that clearly did not pay off. Fans balked at the new direction and Halloween III died an inglorious death at the box office.

Taken on its own terms, Halloween III actually isn’t a bad movie that’s slowly but steadily gained a loyal cult following over the years. Horror movie stalwart Tom Atkins stars as the hard-drinking, womanizing Dr. Challis. He’s on call when a man clutching a jack-o-lantern mask is brought in, suffering from shock and gibbering that “they’re going to kill us!” After his patient is killed by a mysterious Man in Black who then douses himself in gasoline and lights a match, Challis teams up with the man’s daughter, Ellie (Stacey Nelkin). They retrace his final days, tracking him back to the Silver Shamrock Novelties company in northern California. Run by the sinisterly jovial Conal Cochran (Dan O’Herlihy), the company’s maddening jingle and triumvirate of witch, skeleton and jack-o-lantern masks hide a secret plot to, as the man said, kill us all.

For approximately its first two-thirds, Halloween III is a pretty good little movie. It has some interesting ideas, excellent visuals, and unforgettable moments. Things fall apart once Cochran reveals his master plan, which is…um, convoluted to say the least. Even so, the movie retains a kind of lunatic charm throughout. It wraps up with a go-for-broke energy that suggests the filmmakers themselves knew things had stopped making a whole hell of a lot of sense but were determined to go out swinging in any case.

Scream Factory’s winning streak continues with this disc, starting with a stunning high-def transfer and a solid DTS-HD 2.0 audio track. It’s fair to say that nobody has ever seen Halloween III looking quite this good. Dean Cundey’s images and Don Post’s masks have never looked better.

Extras start off with the documentary Stand Alone: The Making of Halloween III: Season of the Witch. It’s a bit shorter than the Halloween II doc but no less fascinating. Writer/director Tommy Lee Wallace, actors Tom Atkins and Stacey Nelkin, and returning participants like Yablans, Cundey, Warlock and Howarth, among others, speak freely and candidly about the intent, style, successes and failures of the picture. It’s another great documentary directed by Michael Felsher. Sean Clark also returns for another top-notch installment of Horror’s Hallowed Grounds, accompanied for much of the trip by Tommy Lee Wallace himself. Wallace, Clark and Rob G also provide the first audio commentary, with Tom Atkins and Felsher taking the mic for the second track. Wallace’s commentary is fine, although he inevitably ends up covering much of the same ground he discussed elsewhere on the disc. Atkins’ track is a lot of fun and more wide-ranging, with anecdotes from the entire history of the actor’s career. The disc is completed by another high-def still gallery, some TV spots, and the theatrical trailer. Again, the newly designed cover artwork by Nathan Thomas Milliner includes the original promotional art on the reverse, should you opt to flip it around for the more “classic” look.

It would be a stretch to call Halloween III a neglected masterpiece but it is a good deal more interesting and entertaining than its reputation suggests. The movie’s biggest mistake was adding that number three to the title, creating a not unreasonable audience expectation that there might actually be some connection between this and the first two. But if you put aside your memories of Michael Myers, Halloween III delivers a fun, if occasionally slightly silly, ride.

- Dr. Adam Jahnke

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