Every long-running movie franchise or television series has one. It’s that sequel or season that disappointed its fanbase. Buffy the Vampire Slayer fans hated on the fourth season. When Friday the 13th tried to move on without Jason Voorhees, Paramount immediately course-corrected with their next sequel. After two successful Halloween movies, John Carpenter decided it was time to move the franchise in a new direction. A new direction meant Halloween III: Season of the Witch, a Michael Myers-less sequel. But poor box office results and less-than-glowing reviews prompted the return of Michael Myers in the next sequel. While audiences and critics initially dismissed it, the sequel has slowly amassed its own following. Has the ‘Black Sheep’ of the Halloween franchise earned critical redemption? Or is it just a bad sequel?
Halloween III Season of the Witch A Suitably Creepy New Direction
On the one hand, you can understand the reluctance of Halloween fans to move on without ‘The Shape’. After all, Michael Myers is one of horror’s defining monsters. Still, Halloween II’s ending felt pretty definitive. There’s a reason the 2018 sequel ignored all of the franchise’s sequels. Today, horror series like American Horror Story and Slasher have thrived by mixing it up with an anthology format. But in 1982, horror fans weren’t ready yet for a world without Michael Myers. That’s too bad since Season of the Witch took the franchise in an interesting direction. Writer and director Tommy Lee Wallace certainly had more on his mind than just a mindless slasher sequel.
But in 1982, horror fans weren’t ready yet for a world without Michael Myers.
In fact, much of Halloween III Season of the Witch works better today. There’s interesting anti-consumerism and anti-corporation themes embedded into the movie. True, Wallace needlessly bogs things down with some silly mysticism and the inclusion of Stonehenge. Creepy ‘crawlies’ squirming out of ‘Killer Halloween’ masks was also probably unnecessary; technologically-wired masks would have sufficed. Nonetheless, Season of the Witch peers ahead into our future where corporatizaton of cities and academic institutions is an all too real problem. Silver Shamrock and its control of Santa Mira raises the present-day spectre of corporate giants like Wal-Mart, Amazon, and Google, and the impact they have on cities and smaller communities. Though the surveillance depicted in the movie is crude and simple, it similarly anticipates how extensively corporations follow and collect information from us.
Sequel Disturbs Despite Ditching the Slasher Formula
One of the most notable differences between Halloween and its first sequel was the overt violence. While John Carpenter relied more on suggestion than overt violence, Rick Rosenthal’s sequel significantly increased the gore quotient. Comparatively, Halloween III: Season of the Witch doesn’t have quite as much violence as the series’ first sequel. But Season of the Witch may be the more disturbing of the sequels by virtue of its subject matter. Quite frankly, not many horror movies have gone much further than just placing children in danger. Season of the Witch doesn’t shy away from the taboo, with its ‘mask test’ scene illustrating that sequel intended to follow through on its premise. It’s this particular scene that makes the movie’s nihilistic finale all the more disturbing. Honestly, Season of the Witch boasts one of the better horror movies endings.
As the sequel’s villain, Dan O’Herlihy (RoboCop) had the unenviable task of filling in for Michael Myers.
If Halloween III occasionally veers off into the ridiculous, veteran John Carpenter-alum Tom Atkins anchors the proceedings. Unfortunately, Atkins’ performance is less Night of the Creeps and more The Fog or Prince of Darkness. This isn’t to say there’s anything wrong with his role – Season of the Witch just requires Atkins to play it a little more straight. Regardless, Atkins is always a fun and reliable actor who excels with whatever the movie necessitates. As the sequel’s villain, Dan O’Herlihy (RoboCop) had the unenviable task of filling in for Michael Myers. It’s an unfair comparison for the actor who stands out as a chilling villain. Playing the benevolent face of a novelty company, O’Herlihy’s ability to switch from warm benefactor to callous monster is unnerving in its own right. No, he’s no Michael Myers. But for a horror movie by any other name, O’Herlihy made for a good villain.
Season of the Witch Stands On Its Own Merits
Despite its flaws and some dated effects, Halloween III: Season of the Witch has aged quite well. It’s probably fair to say that much of the movie’s negative reputation stemmed from fan expectations. Take out ‘Halloween III’ out the title and, without the anticipation of more Michael Myers, would the movie have been so harshly reviewed? Without the burden of being a Halloween sequel, Season of the Witch is a creepy, occasionally scary, movie. And after nearly 40 years, its central premise has only become more relevant.