40 years ago saw the release of one of the weirdest sequels of all time
Androids, Irish witches, killer masks, Stonehenge - this movie has it all.
With the release of Halloween Ends, there has been plenty of talk about the peculiarities of the Halloween franchise as a whole.
Never forget, this is a franchise that once saw its big baddie, someone often described as the living manifestation of evil, being karate kicked out a window by the rapper Busta Rhymes.
But maybe more importantly, over its 13 entries, the movie series has somehow managed to establish five different timelines of continuity, making it even more complicated to newcomers than the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
All that being said though, Halloween III: Season of the Witch remains the franchise's oddest duck 40 years after its release on 22 October 1982, not just because it has basically nothing to do with the rest of the franchise outside of its festive setting but also on account of its plot that would be incredibly bizarre even if it was a standalone film.
Clip via Shout! Factory
The only movie in the Halloween series that is not a slasher and does not feature Michael Myers, Halloween III centres around a divorced father and womaniser Dr. Dan Challis, played by '80s horror legend Tom Atkins (Night of the Creeps, The Fog). After a patient in his care dies under strange circumstances, Dan teams up with the dead man's daughter Ellie (Stacey Nelkin) to investigate.
Their findings lead them to a factory run by Silver Shamrock Novelties, a company that produces Halloween masks for kids and is run by the enigmatic Irish man Conal Cochran (played by the Wexford-born Oscar-nominee Dan O'Herlihy).
It is reported that John Carpenter, the co-writer and director of the original Halloween, had initially intended for the franchise to be an anthology, with each sequel telling a different story related to the title celebration.
However, it's been recounted that after the success of the 1978 original, Carpenter was forced by producers to continue its narrative with 1981's Halloween II and that he would only agree to be part of Halloween III if a new story could be told. As such, British sci-fi writer Nigel Kneale, best known for the Quartermass series, was recruited to write the screenplay for the third entry.
While he is reported to have originated most of the plot, Kneale eventually asked for his credit to be removed from the sequel, stating that the producers did not like his script, which he said contained "psychological shocks rather than physical ones", and ordered more violence. An uncredited Carpenter wound up doing a rewrite of Kneale's script, as did Halloween III's eventual director Tommy Lee Wallace, who worked as an editor on the original Halloween.
Perhaps, it's this complicated development process that led to the oddity that is the final project which throws a lot of disparate plot elements at the wall to see what sticks. What begins as an intriguing horror mystery mutates into a plot that borders on incoherence once Dan and Ellie reach Santa Mira, after which androids, Irish witches and a wide-reaching conspiracy involving killer masks made from pieces of Stonehenge enter the fray.
The change in direction did not go over well with critics and fans of the series, with the movie grossing significantly less than its predecessors. Some have argued that the hard pivot away from the franchise's Myers plotline, combined with its title implying it would continue the story of the previous Halloween entries, was a factor in its lackluster reception. As such, every Halloween film after it to date has included Myers.
However, as often happens with ambitious sequels that deviate too far from fan expectations - one wonders if this will eventually apply to the divisive and currently in cinemas Halloween Ends which also, to a lesser extent, side-liners Myers - Halloween III's reputation has improved in recent years, with many considering it to be among the best movies in the franchise. It's easy to see why, watching it 40 years after its release.
Clip via Movieclips
For one, Tom Atkins is hysterically funny playing the divorced Dan who embarks on this dangerous investigation into his patient's death less because he wants answers and more because he's attracted to the much younger Ellie. That said, when proceedings take a sinister turn, he manages to muster up an impressive amount of horror acting intensity, such as in the film's haunting closing moments.
On top of this, Halloween III has a great spooky aesthetic. Not only is the synthy score - co-written by Carpenter himself - incredible, but director Tommy Lee Wallace and his cinematographer Dean Cundey (who also shot Halloween and The Fog) do effectively build a sense of impending dread while staging the film's insane moments with aplomb.
In many respects, it's almost a better Halloween movie in terms of the season than the 1978 original. It's filled with more iconography associated with the celebration like masks, pumpkins and trick-or-treaters. There is also the Silver Shamrock ad jingle that runs throughout it on characters' televisions, which sounds very innocuous the first time you hear it but grows creepier as the viewer learns more about the company's ultimate plan.
If you need proof of the craft that went into Halloween III, just take a gander at its inventive opening credits sequence below which perfectly sets the tone for the proceedings to come.
Clip via MovieTitles
Also, while it's easy to pick apart its story for plot holes and jarring elements, I would argue the events of the film become so strange that they feel surrealistic. The plot does not progress in a way that makes literal sense, but more in the way dreams or nightmares do, which is perhaps something that has helped Halloween III linger in the psyche of its viewers.
While it was for many years considered a flaw of Halloween III that it did not include Michael Myers, after years of diminishing sequels featuring the character, it feels more like a blessing now. It helped the third entry stand out and be rightfully reclaimed as an entertaining and fascinating film not just in the franchise but in the horror genre itself.