The nuttiest of the HALLOWEEN sequels, a Michael Myers-less something-or-other involving computers, Stonehenge, androids and deadly masks.
This bizarre film came about due to the efforts of its producer John Carpenter, who hated HALLOWEEN II and insisted on taking the material in an entirely new direction. His plan was to put out a new HALLOWEEN movie each year with a different Halloween set premise, but that idea was nixed after the present film underperformed at the box office.
The great Nigel Kneale (1922-2006), of the QUARTERMASS films, THE STONE TAPE and many other classics, was hired to write the screenplay but had his name removed after his script was altered. First-time director Tommy Lee Wallace, a longtime John Carpenter cohort (Wallace edited HALLOWEEN and THE FOG) ended up with sole writing credit.
In short, for those wondering where HALLOWEEN III: SEASON OF THE WITCH fits in with the other HALLOWEEN films, the answer is: it doesn’t!
Dr. Dan has problems: in the days leading up to Halloween his kids are obsessed with an upcoming TV broadcast by an outfit called Silver Shamrock, and Dan’s latest patient, a nut who claims “they’re going to kill us all!,” has his eyes gouged out by a suit-wearing man who promptly immolates himself.
Dan gets in touch with the murdered man’s attractive daughter Ellie. She reveals that her father was a mask maker, and persuades Dan to accompany her on a visit to the corporate headquarters of Silver Shamrock, who put her father out of business and may be responsible for his death.
Their destination is a rural town called Santa Mira, lorded over by Silver Shamrock’s CEO Conal Cochran. The latter institutes a strict 6 PM curfew each night, and has surveillance cameras set up to enforce it. Cochran also has a strict no-dissention policy, as one unfortunate local learns after dissing Cochran to Dan–and having his head literally twisted off his shoulders for doing so!
Dan meets Cochran the following day. The latter turns out to be a kindly old man who gives Dan, Ellie and some other out-of-towners a tour of his mask-making factory. Nothing seems amiss, but that night Ellie is grabbed by suit-wearing assholes and hauled away. Dan witnesses the kidnapping and goes poking around the town. In doing so he happens upon another of those suited men; a fight ensues, during which Dan rips out the man’s guts, revealing the “man” as an android.
At this point Cochran shows back up and takes Dan on a second, more inclusive tour of his factory. He shows Dan into a laboratory where lackeys are inserting bits of Stonehenge into masks. To demonstrate the purpose of the masks, Cochran shows Dan video footage of a kid wearing one of his masks while watching what will be broadcast on Halloween: a flashing pumpkin that causes the kid to die and lots of cockroaches and snakes to crawl out of his head (??). In this way Cochran is looking to appease the ancient gods who decreed that humans be sacrificed on Halloween (or something).
Dan escapes, rescues Ellie and destroys Cochran’s operation. But will he be able to prevent the coming kid-pocalypse, especially after he learns that Ellie is actually one of Cochran’s androids programmed to take him out?
The direction by Tommy Lee Wallace is passable, with lots of wide shots and lengthy steadicam visuals. Wallace over-relies on the minimalist score by John Carpenter and Allen Howarth to move things along, but at least there’s a reasonably strong lead performance by onetime Carpenter regular Tom Atkins, and a passable one by Dan O’Herlihy, who gets points for keeping a straight face throughout his screen time as the heavy.
Yet ultimately it’s the nutzoid narrative that makes the greatest impression. Nigel Kneale buffs will notice a number of his trademarked preoccupations scattered throughout, including the quasi-science fictionish community where much of the film takes place and the theme of mass seduction of children (a la the Kneale scripted QUARTERMASS CONCLUSION). Whose nutty idea it was to center the film on pieces of Stonehenge injected into Halloween masks to kill kids I’m not sure, but the concept doesn’t work. What precisely is the reasoning behind such an act? Aren’t the mask makers aware that selling killer masks would doubtless lead to mass lawsuits? And why reveal all this to the protagonist and then let him escape the bad guys’ clutches?
Is this the dumbest HALLOWEEN movie ever? Probably not, but it’s definitely a strong contender, and most interesting as a curiosity.
Dino De Laurentiis Company/Universal Pictures
Director: Tommy Lee Wallace
Producers: John Carpenter, Debra Hill
Screenplay: Tommy Lee Wallace (and Nigel Kneale)
Cinematography: Dean Cundy
Editing: Millie Moore
Cast: Tom Atkins, Stacey Nelkin, Dan O’Herlihy, Michael Currie, Ralph Strait, Jadeen Barbor, Brad Schacter, Garn Stephens, Nancy Kyes, Jonathan Terry, Al Berry, Wendy Wessberg, Essex Smith, Maidie Norman