Halloween III: Season of the Witch was the night HE (didn’t) come home…

“Happy Happy Halloween! Halloween! Halloween! SILVER SHAMROCK!”

If when reading the above you heard the accompanying music in your head, my apologizes. Planting that particular “earworm” was a test, to identify fellow travelers. Yes, if you heard John Carpenter and Alan Howarth’s annoying advertising jingle in your head you are someone who has seen Halloween II: Season of the Witch.

You know, the one that wasn’t really a Halloween movie at all.

Yes, I know, it is “officially” in the Halloween series, but it has none of the elements of the previous (and other) films, besides the fact it was set during All Hallow’s Eve. No Jamie Lee Curtis, no Donald Pleasance as Dr. Loomis, no Halloween theme, no knives… and above all, no Michael Myers. And when it was released thirty years ago this week, most moviegoers entering theaters didn’t know that.

And when they found out, they were pissed.

The idea that producers John Carpenter and Debra Hill had was simple. To them, Michael Myers was dead, killed at the end of Halloween II, and instead of trying to resurrect the character they would make new horror movies under the “Halloween” title. Different, self-contained horror stories that had nothing to do with the killer who wore a William Shatner mask.

A great, original idea… but the audience had other ideas. They wanted Michael Myers. They wanted to be scared by The Shape again. And so they never gave Halloween III a chance.

Those who did… like me… well, they discovered a movie that was absolutely deranged. You’ve got robots, evil druids, an unsubtle homage to Invasion of the Body Snatchers, a an alcoholic womanizing doctor as your “hero”… and a melange of odd set pieces that don’t… quite… work.

Halloween III is not a bad movie, and in many respects it’s better than Halloween II. It’s just not a great movie. There’s still things to recommend, primarily the performances of Tom Atkins and Dan O’Herlihy. Atkins plays the aforementioned alcoholic doctor who investigates the strange murder of one of his patients and O’Herlihy plays the owner of Silver Shamrock Masks company, who plans to make this particular Sanheim one for the ages. The music is vintage Carpenter, and the movie briskly moves from one scene to another… a little TOO briskly, in that the relationship of Atkin’s character and the daughter of the murdered man goes from friendly to extremely intimate almost instantly.

In the three decades since its release and failure at the box office, it has been constantly rerun (because it was a flop it was cheap to buy for broadcast) and gained a cult following.

Like I said it’s not a great film, but there are worse ways – and worse films – to watch, and the genuinely creepy moments (like when we see what happens to anyone wearing a Silver Shamrock mask on Halloween night) definitely live up to the Halloween tradition.