Halloween III: Season of the Witch is a–well, it’s kind of a remake of Invasion of the Body Snatchers and not discrete about it at all. The setting has changed and the details, but the movie’s obviously going for the same feel. Occasionally, it even pulls something off. Tommy Lee Wallace is only an adequate director–and one who apparently doesn’t shoot enough coverage–but it’s Dean Cundey shooting Panavision. Dean Cundey shooting Panavision is never going to be a worthless experience.
Witch has one of the meanest spirited–maybe the meanest spirited–plots I’ve ever seen. A nasty Irishman is going to kill every kid on Halloween. Presumably, only in the continental United States and maybe Canada, but still. The movie even has a scene with a kid dying as part of the evil plot, something I really wasn’t expecting to see in a major studio release.
But all that mean spiritedness is revealed at the end and there’s about an hour to get through before then. The hour’s got some okay stuff and some bad stuff–Wallace’s dialogue is awful a lot of the time, so bad even Tom Atkins can’t get it out. Leading lady Stacey Nelkin is bad. Dan O’Herlihy has a great time as the mad Irishman, though. The rest of the supporting cast is immaterial.
What’s strange about the movie is it ought to be better. Producers Debra Hill and John Carpenter seem to have been the laziest producers ever, not giving the script an obviously needed polish. Carpenter did contribute the score, which is occasionally effective but the occasional references to his original Halloween score just show his mediocre effort on this one.
Wallace’s direction is strangely inept. He frequently shoots through a wall (imagine a room with four walls, the camera–in order not to make the scene look wrong–should appear to be shooting from inside those walls; Wallace often shoots through the walls), but then manages to create a fantastic tone in his exterior shots. The little town–and big reference to Body Snatchers–comes alive during Atkins’s arrival (and Witch‘s potential booms).
The film’s gotten a lot of more recent notice for its commentary about capitalism and consumerism (and, definitely vertical integration). These elements are rather clear and obviously presented in the movie–and the New York Times review at the time mentioned them–so I’m not sure why they’re a surprise. The commentary is much quieter than Carpenter had in some of his 1980s pictures; I’m not sure why this one stands out.
It’s definitely watchable for the Cundey photography and so on. Actually, it’s only really boring during the mediocre first act. As Wallace’s dialogue gets more and more absurd, the movie’s more compelling.
Written and directed by Tommy Lee Wallace; director of photography, Dean Cundey; edited by Millie Moore; music by John Carpenter and Alan Howarth; production designer, Peter Jamison; produced by Carpenter and Debra Hill; released by Universal Pictures.
Starring Tom Atkins (Dr. Dan Challis), Stacey Nelkin (Ellie Grimbridge), Dan O’Herlihy (Conal Cochran), Michael Currie (Rafferty), Ralph Strait (Buddy Kupfer), Jadeen Barbor (Betty Kupfer), Brad Schacter (‘Little’ Buddy Kupfer), Garn Stephens (Marge Guttman), Nancy Kyes (Linda Challis), Jonathan Terry (Starker), Al Berry (Harry Grimbridge), Wendy Wessberg (Teddy) and Essex Smith (Walter Jones).