Directed by Tommy Lee Wallace
Distributed by Scream Factory
Very few movies evoke the look and feel of October 31st like Halloween III. The original “trilogy” (that is to say, the three movies that Carpenter was involved in) gets a TON of mileage out of amazing music, Cundey photography and lots of terrific production design. So much so that it’s hard to believe these movies weren’t filmed in October. The level of authenticity is just amazing, all-around.
But Halloween III: Season of the Witch is a very special experience that was unjustly maligned for years because it dared to do something different with the established brand. So there’s no Haddonfield, IL this time. And who’s missing Michael Myers, exactly? Granted, I was as happy as anyone when the big guy made his comeback a few years later, but that’s not an indictment of this film. A wholly original and eerie horror story that’s as tasty as a bag of candy corns and a bottleful of pumpkin ale.
Towards the end of the film, resident villain Conal Cochran (an amazing performance by the late, great Daniel O’ Herlihy) steps outside and smells Halloween in the air. It’s a moment that any horror fan can relate to. The crisp air, ripe with sinister machinations, is an early harbinger of the October holiday – as intrinsic as jack o’ lanterns, costumes and trick or treat. The scene leaps off the screen, resonating with anyone who feels Halloween in their bones. And it’s complimented soon after by a superb example of scriptwriting and performance in which Cochran explains to our incapacitated hero (Tom Atkins) the deeper meaning of the holiday and its origins.
It’s wonderful stuff all-around. From an unraveling mystery that intrigues from the very opening shot. Something involving toy masks, killer robots and “trade secrets” gives way to something even more sinister and primitive by the end. It doesn’t entirely make sense (the ultimate fate of Stacey Nelkin’s character is a head scratcher of sorts), but something about the story’s most unlikely moments helps boost the film’s creep and fun factors. This is, after all, a movie entirely about enjoying a good trick.
Director Tommy Lee Wallace (no stranger to John Carpenter’s work) stages some really unforgettable moments here. The hotel room obliteration of Marge Guttman, for example, is about as nasty a moment as they come. And ditto the ‘sacrifice’ of the Kupfer clan. I can remember hearing kids talking about these scenes at recess when I was barely old enough to be in school: ”And then bugs come out of her exploded face!” But Wallace also understands the importance of atmosphere, and Halloween III doesn’t disappoint. One of the best moments in the entire series is the country-wide montage of kids parading around in Silver Shamrock costumes while that song plays. It doesn’t come off like a recreation of Halloween. It is Halloween, and it’s a damn impressive feat.
Hard to believe Halloween III turned thirty years old this year. But it is good to see its reputation growing with fans. Who cares if it doesn’t have Michael Myers. As Uncle Creepy said, Rob Zombies movies did have him, and look how those turned out.
And with this, my Halloween high definition collection is complete. Shout brings Season of the Witch to Blu-ray in a wonderful-looking transfer. Having seen this films countless times on every available format for the last two decades, I’m happy to report I’ve never seen Halloween III look better. The detail offered throughout the image made me feel like I was seeing this flick for the first time (no small task, believe me). Facial features are excellent, backgrounds are almost overwhelming (especially once the action shifts to Cochran’s factory) and black levels are really solid. Colors look great as Cundey’s work is represented quite nicely here. I could not have been happier with this transfer.
Sadly, this is where the specs don’t stack up with Shout’s Halloween II Blu-ray. What we get here is a DTS-HD MA 2.0 lossless track. It’s serviceable and clean, but hardly spectacular.
For the extras, there’s commentary with director Tommy Lee Wallace as moderated by Icons of Fright’s Robert Galluzzo and Horror Hound’s Sean Clark. I liked this commentary as it covers a lot (if not all) the required ground. Then there’s a commentary with actor Tom Atkins and Red Shirt Pictures’ Michael Felsher. Another good one that covers the shooting experience, and quite a bit more as Atkins reflects upon his previous works and the movie’s reception.
The half-hour documentary is quite good, too. Very informative and fun, with lots of great trivia offered. We also get a featurette on shooting locations revisited, a still gallery and TV spots. All-in-all, a delightful package for fans.
Halloween III: Season of the Witch is a cult classic that has had to fight and claw its way to a somewhat more respected spot in the genre all these years later. Shout Factory outfits its Blu-ray bow with terrific PQ, solid AQ and a fair smattering of supplemental features. For a while it seemed like this would never get the special edition it deserved, so I’m incredibly thankful to Shout for putting together this one. It’s the perfect treat for this time of the year, and this disc seriously deserves a spot in any horror collection.
4 1/2 out of 5
4 out of 5