An anomaly in the ‘Halloween’ franchise (in the sense that mute murder-machine Mike Myers is nowhere to be found), Tommy Lee Wallace‘s ‘Halloween III: Season of the Witch’ (1982) is a curious and grim little piece of cinema that attempts to do a whole lot in a short space of time and, as a consequence, only accomplishes some of what it seeks to do.
It all begins with small town shop-owner Harry Grimbridge (Al Berry), a raving lunatic brought to the local hospital while clutching a Silver Shamrock Novelties Halloween mask and screaming about “them” wanting to “kill us all.” His words turn out to be semi-prophetic when, soon after, a man in a suit arrives at the hospital and tears Grimbridges head apart and then goes out into his car and douse himself in gasoline before setting himself aflame.
Dr. Dan Challis (Tom Atkins), curious and evidently having never seen a horror film before, decides to set out and investigate Grimbridges’ insane claims -- aided by the dead man’s daughter, Ellie (Stacey Nelkin) -- and soon after uncovers a strange and unfathomably insane conspiracy that he might be unable to stop before it is too late.
Composed and assembled out of elements of horror, science-fiction, and pure schlock, Wallace’s ‘Season of the Witch’ is an oddly constructed film that wavers somewhere between “god awful” and “deliciously insane”. Though the film’s plot starts out simple and promising enough, Wallace begins to hurl in so many different and varying elements into the ‘plotline pot’ that the stew he ultimately creates is nothing more than a chaotic mess involving witchcraft, androids, and nightmare-fueled insanity.
It’s a film that wants to be “supernatural” and “scientific” at the same, and fails miserably at it. ‘Cursed shards of Stonehenge capable of transforming humans into death machines’ sharing the same film as ‘human-like androids that commit murder to cover up their insane creators plot’? It’s as if two different horror movies were filmed and then later sewn together into one abomination of a film wherein no laws of science/magic are obeyed, and anything is possible if the plot calls for it.
Another noticeable flaw with Wallace’s film is the total lack of (or at other times, “inconsistent”) character development. Although Atkins does an admirable enough job as the film’s protagonist, we get very little insight into the character he plays, and Challis’ motivation for pursuing the truth behind Grimbridge’s murder is tentative at best. The only truly developed character in the whole film is Conal Cochran – played by Dan O’Herlihy – who is quite easily one of the most insane and ridiculous villains ever to be portrayed on screen.
However, this is not to say that Wallace’s film is a complete disaster. Indeed, while the plot/character development aspects of ‘Season of the Witch’ might be utterly lacking or unimpressive, Wallace does succeed at other aspects in the film (particularly those that matter in the “horror” genre). The film’s soundtrack (provided by none other than John Carpenter), is sparse, simple, and used rather effectively to generate a creepy and bizarre atmosphere that lingers gently but noticeably throughout the course of the film, gnawing at the audiences’ nerves enough to leave them believing that something genuinely frightening is going to happen which, surprisingly, does happen more often than one would’ve guessed based on the aforesaid plot.
Ultimately, Wallace’s ‘Halloween III: Season of the Witch’ is a gruesome, ill-plotted but strangely frightful movie that is too good to be bad but too bad to be good. While Wallace certainly gets a few brownie points for trying something different, ultimately his weird experiment fails, and what we’re left with is an ill-defined horrorscape wherein the mere “suspension of belief” is not enough to make any of its multifaceted elements believable enough to be enjoyed.
Still, while the film not never reach the top of any Best Horror Movies list, ‘Season of the Witch’ is still better than some of the other schlock that has glutted the market as of late, and many a Halloween season would feel empty without its presence. Enjoy it or don’t, ‘Seasons of the Witch’ is a weird little tale that’ll help to put you in the mood this Halloween season.
Find the nearest Blockbuster (assuming they still exist) near your home so you can rent this film almost immediately. Or, if you prefer that movies came to you instead, set up a Netflix account and start your ordering as soon as possible.