Halloween III: Season of the Witch (1982)
Studio: Shout Factory
Release date: September 18th, 2012
Reviewed by: Brett Gallman
Iíve been banging the drum pretty loudly for Halloween III for a long time. Four years ago, I wrote a review that went to bat for it, and Iíll let that stand and wonít spend too much time waxing poetic about a movie that features killer Halloween masks. But it canít really be said enough--this film, much maligned for years due to its black sheep status in the Halloween franchise, is a great horror throwback. Taking its cue from Invasion of the Body Snatchers, itís a moody pod movie that sees Tommy Lee Wallace take a shot at impersonating John Carpenter--and totally, completely succeeding.
The secret to Halloween III--and early Carpenter, for that matter--is the restraint Wallace brings to the proceedings. Itís a film that flows with a steady hand guiding it, and Wallace terrifically establishes a creeping terror that diffuses throughout, from the sinister Silver Shamrock jingle to the desolate town of Santa Mira. At its center is a sinister plot that continues to explore the darker side of the title holiday; part two introduced the concept of Samhain, but part three is the real deal, the ancient blood ritual writ large into this weirdly trenchant look at a Reagan Era America on the verge of being destroyed by its own willing consumption of mass goods and media.
Sometimes, I think Season of the Witch might be the best sequel in the whole bunch; itís certainly the only one that I make sure to watch every year in October, perhaps because it taps into the spirit of the holiday better than any of the films besides Carpenterís original. Itís steeped in the ancient lore and mysticism of Halloween, the really scary roots that got dug up as the old rituals become commoditized into masks and candy. In many ways, Halloween III is a rejoinder against the commercialization of culture and a prescient warning against diluting horror. Just as Michael Myers gave the boogeyman form, Conal Cochran and Silver Shamrock represent the ghosts of our primal past come back to haunt us. In the end, weíre still just savages, only this time, the ritual will be televised.
As with any black sheep, Halloween III hasnít been treated well over the years on DVD. Both Goodtimes and Universal released it once apiece, with the latter at least having the decency to give the film an anamorphic transfer. For years, fans have clamored for a proper special edition treatment, and Shout Factory is finally delivering it via their Scream Factory label. Along with Part II, Season of the Witch is a debut title for this new label, and the release is a fine one that gathers the cast and crew to discuss the film and its legacy.
The centerpiece of the bonus material is ďStand Alone,Ē a 30 minute retrospective featuring just about any noteworthy person associated with the film, including Wallace, Tom Atkins, Stacey Nelkin, Brad Schacter (the ill-fated ďLittle BuddyĒ), Dean Cundey, Alan Howarth, Dick Warlock, and Irwin Yablans, who is again very candid about the filmís conception. You no doubt know the story by now--following Halloween II, John Carpenter and Debra Hill decided to turn the series into an anthology simply centered around the holiday in the hopes that it would turn into an annual venture. Yablans disavows any involvement with the idea since he thought it was ill-advised, so he only served as a figurehead.
Thatís sort of the through-line for the mini documentary, as the cast and crew discuss how it seemed like a great idea until it became clear that audiences expected a more traditional follow-up with Michael Myers. As such, the film of course languished as the odd one out in the series and was dismissed for several years, much to everyoneís dismay. Wallace especially seems disappointed for obvious reasons--this was his first feature film, and itís a movie he obviously believed in; while heís not even close to coming off as bitter, you can feel a sense that he knows what so many of us have known: that he made a damn good movie that got the short end of the stick due to its reputation.
As such, itís nice for him to find a bit of redemption, as the documentary eventually explores how the film has been recovered as a cult favorite. Wallace and his crew seem genuinely appreciative that fans have taken a liking to the film since its release, and itís cool to see footage of a screening from a couple of years ago where the director was in attendance to witness that appreciation firsthand. Wallace seems like a truly great guy who probably deserved better than to be stuck with bad sequels and TV work for most of his career (though IT is certainly one of the better TV horrors of all-time).
In between the discussion of the filmís conception and legacy is its development, with everyone recounting their own little anecdote relating to the production. Wallace especially delves into the pre-production stuff and reveals that his sole writing credit is a bit of a farce, while Atkins and Nelkin recall their experiences (particularly their now somewhat infamous love scene). Itís also fun to see Atkins himself kind of taking the piss out of the Dan Challis character in the same way fans have over the years, noting his womanizing prowess and his penchant for six-packs.
Despite only being 30 minutes long, this little look back is quite comprehensive and gives one the sense that there was a familial bond among the crew especially, as many of them had worked together on previous Halloween films. Itís almost impossible to think that, just 30 years ago, a major studio basically just handed off a property to a little guerilla crew and let them do what they want with it. Unfortunately, Universal eventually sold the film a little short and doomed it to its fate at the box office.
However, at least they had the good sense to finally hand it off to a company thatís done it a little justice on DVD and Blu-ray; in addition to the retrospective, both Wallace and Atkins provide feature commentaries, while the typical promo stuff also shows up (TV and radio spots, a trailer). Sean Clark provides another episode of Horrorís Hollowed Grounds and takes us through both the Southern and Northern California locales used for the shoot. While bombing around Sierra Madre, Clark once again bumps into Robert Rustler, thus confirming that this must be a recurring gag for this series, which puts me at ease because I was beginning to think Rustler was stalking Clark and his crew.
Anyway, Wallace also drops by when Clark heads up to Loleta, which served as Santa Mira in the town, and itís still the same old eerie, desolate little town it was 30 years ago. Just about all of the buildings used in the filmís have changed or are dilapidated, including the Silver Shamrock factory, but itís cool to see Wallace take a trip down memory lane.
Basically, this is the Halloween III release youíve been wanting for years, and itís even hitting Blu-ray--there are still beloved sequels from other 80s franchises that canít even claim that yet. This is a lovingly crafted release, right down to the gorgeous new artwork, which can still be flipped around to display the original poster art. That striking image was once considered a blight on video shelves, as it was the one that represented "the one without Michael Myers." Now, though, I think we're all pretty proud to display it in our own collections. Buy it! comments powered by Disqus Ratings:
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