Wednesday, June 3, 2020


“Halloween III: Season of the Witch” has been around long enough to be reappraised as an enjoyable cult horror film, successfully separated from the eternally rebooted Michael Myers roadshow - indeed, the first “Halloween” film is treated as a fictional work, with a trailer appearing on TV before one of the incessant Silver Shamrock ads. 

However, because people were apparently expecting to see The Shape again, it was the least successful “Halloween” film at the time, dooming the idea of an anthology series – it may have been released in the US in time for Halloween 1982, but when it ran out of steam, it took until 9th June 1983 for it to reach UK cinemas. “Halloween III” remains my favourite film in the series, only because it is the one I actually wanted to watch.

The plot is essentially an anti-consumerist retelling of “Invasion of the Body Snatchers,” even based in a carefully controlled named Santa Mira, this time overrun by the Silver Shamrock Novelties mask factory, instead of alien plant spores. A man, later established as a toy shop owner, is admitted to hospital, saying “they’ll kill us all” – when he is himself killed, his doctor, and the patient’s daughter, travel to Santa Mira. What unfurls is a tale of watching men in suits, androids, microchips that activate swarms of insects, witchcraft and Stonehenge, all brought together to wipe out large numbers of people, upon activation of a signal embedded in that bloody advertising jingle – corniness is both catchy and deadly.

“Halloween III” has the feel of an episode of “The Twilight Zone” or “The Outer Limits,” the latter especially evoked by the TV interference and lines creating a pumpkin in the opening credits. Producers John Carpenter and Debra Hill would only make a third “Halloween” film if they could tell a different story, and future films in the intended anthology would evoke the same mood. The music, with an electronic score by John Carpenter and Alan Howarth that sounds as if they had a chat with both Philip Glass and Brian Eno first.

The connection with the older TV series is reinforced by the script having been written by one of John Carpenter’s heroes, Nigel Kneale, best known for creating the 1954 live BBC adaptation of “Nineteen Eighty-Four,” starring Vincent Price and Donald Pleasence, and the “Quatermass” series, last seen in 1979 and starring John Mills. “Halloween III” is not horror for horror’s sake, and is reminiscent of the tone and feel found in Kneale’s other work, especially the “Quatermass” series and “The Stone Tape,” which is more along the lines of psychological horror.  

Kneale had his name removed from the credits when some gore and nudity was added to the script by the director, Tommy Lee Wallace, at the behest of a producer, ending Kneale’s only time working in Hollywood. When the producers wanted to change direction back to Michael Myers, John Carpenter and Debra Hill sold their rights to the “Halloween” films to them. Meanwhile Wallace, also heard in “Halloween II” as the cheesy voiceover for the Silver Shamrock mask ads, would next direct episodes of the “Twilight Zone” TV revival series, and write “Big Trouble in Little China” for Carpenter. None of them had anything to do with “Halloween” again until Carpenter co-wrote the music for the 2018 “Halloween” revival, of a revival, of a sequel.

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