Impressions: Halloween III: Season of the Witch

Arguably the most controversial entry in the Halloween franchise, which is saying something. A franchise was multiple different canons that took wildly different directions, and fans devoted to what they believe is the best canon in stark contrast to those that preferred others. Halloween went from meaning to be a stand-alone movie, to part of a canon following Michael’s sister, a canon following Michael’s niece, a canon undoing the familial relation but becoming a bit too much for some people, and a remake canon that has people super divided. It is not hard to see why people would have a lot of opinions on Halloween and why those opinions are so varied.

And yet… Halloween III and the opinion of it still manages to take the cake basically every time. I have seen it twice and have tried earnestly to give the movie a fair shake. And I, like every other horror fan, have come away with my own opinion. But before we get to that, here is a little backstory.

The controversy of Halloween III, if you aren’t aware, basically stems from John Carpenter and Debra Hill’s different desires regarding what “Halloween” was meant to be. In their minds, Halloween would be an anthology series, each entirely stand-alone, with the only key thread being that they took place on Halloween night, or at least the climax be on Halloween. The problem with this is that the first two entries in the “anthology” were about Michael Myers, so the expectation with fans is that the rest of the franchise would also be.

– The word is that John Carpenter really did not want to do Halloween II, but he was strong-armed into it. Logically speaking, after doing Halloween and Halloween II as a direct sequel, departing from that really stood no chance. Halloween III would have had to be the second entry in the anthology for the anthology idea to ever work, at least in my humble opinion –

Halloween follows the story of Dr. Daniel Challis after he is put in charge of the case of a man, Harry, who collapses and is taken to the hospital. Only for Harry to be murdered while in the hospital. Daniel meets Harry’s daughter, Ellie, who believes there are suspicious circumstances around her father’s death. Fueled by curiosity, guilt, and a little horniness, Daniel agrees to go with her to investigate. They go to a strange town where Halloween masks are produced, one of which Harry had on him when he was taken to the hospital.

The town is strange, with a curfew, and everybody seeming a bit odd and cagey when they find out that Daniel and Ellie are there to investigate things. A person staying in the same hotel as them dies, and they hear some disturbing things. As they continue to investigate, Ellie is kidnapped, and Daniel ends up in the factory, where the great mystery is revealed.

If you haven’t seen the movie, I want to stop here, because the mystery, while not delivered perfectly, is the most compelling part of this movie. And yes, it is related to the masks. The movie also has a super fantastic ending, close to the original Halloween, where you think the hero has solved things, but then maybe not; only it goes further than Halloween did… You are left to question, and I have to say, when well done, which it is in this case, I love these types of endings.

Halloween III was poorly received. As I said, though, the movie wasn’t given a fair shake. With Halloween II being a direct sequel to Halloween, there were expectations, specifically Michael. Especially because other slasher franchises were starting to build at this time, taking their inspiration from Halloween and Halloween II.

There are those who argue that because the deck was stacked against Halloween III, that is the only reason it did poorly and is still not well-received by fans of the franchise. There are those, however, that argue that even with giving it a fair shot and looking at it separately from the franchise and as its own movie that it’s still not great.

I am… sort of in the middle? There is no denying that this movie wasn’t given a fair chance, and frankly, I don’t think it’s that bad. Heck, it’s not even the worst in the franchise, in my opinion. I just think some of the attempts to reclaim it read as a bit disingenuous. “No, no, this movie that was hated is actually really amazing.” Or, at the very least, a little overdone.

As I said, the mystery of what is happening and how the mask company is involved is pretty compelling and the backbone of the movie. The problem is the pacing and execution leave a lot to be desired on that front. There is a lot of very little happening, only for details to be revealed solely through exposition rather than being shown to the audience. In fact, it’s hardly a mystery at all in how it unfolds.

Daniel and Ellie do a little digging, but mostly they just see some weird stuff, are caught, then the whole thing is explained to them. We aren’t actually uncovering things or learning much. Daniel’s character is also a little bit of an enigma. His drinking negatively impacting his relationship with his ex, which in turn impacts his relationship with his kids is a compelling idea. It is largely forgotten, though, as he runs off to join this woman he hardly knows on a quest that simply doesn’t involve him? It is brought up a few times, but it is pretty much in the background, which is odd for such an important plot point.

The movie also suffers a bit from age, and I think some of it must have even come across as cheesy for the time. 80s movies are pretty special, they often are a bit odd, and you can pick them out as being 80s in both good and bad ways. Halloween III is no exception. Some of the scariest moments don’t land exactly as they should because of the effects used. However, I will say that I will take cheesy 80s effects over, overdone gore, and CGI of some modern horror, so take that complaint for what you will.

The movie has moments, but as I said, it kind of fails in pacing and can be a bit clunky. There are parts of the movie that are just a bit dull, and not in a “this is meant to be a slow burn” type of way, but rather in “this wasn’t executed right.”

But again, for all my issues, I would still rather watch this movie than several others in the franchise, from the Rob Zombie remakes (sorry, I am just not a fan) to the Jamie (character) sequels. Those movies, especially the Jamie sequels, also felt a bit dull and clunky at times but without nearly as compelling of a mystery behind them, even if I didn’t love the way this one played out.

So bottom line? The movie is in the middle of the franchise for me. It should have been given more of a chance than it was, but even with trying to be fair to it, it’s simply outdone by better entries. It does disappoint me, though, that we never got to see a real Halloween anthology. Taking how different this movie was from Halloween, there could have been some really cool ideas if “Halloween” ever got to be an anthology franchise. I would say give this movie a watch if you haven’t because others have warned you off, or give it another shot if you maybe didn’t like it the first time. However, I would also say that saying it’s either the worst or the best will probably ring untrue for most people.

That damn commercial song, though… I hate it…

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