This article is about the third film. For other meanings, see Halloween III.
|Halloween III: Season of the Witch|
|Directed by||Tommy Lee Wallace|
Tommy Lee Wallace
|Editing by||Millie Moore|
|Distributed by||Universal Pictures|
|Release||October 22, 1982|
|Running time||99 minutes|
|Gross revenue||$14.44 million|
|Preceded by||Halloween II (1981)|
|Followed by||Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers (1988)|
- "You don't really know much about Halloween. You thought no further than the strange custom of having your children wear masks and go out begging for candy."
- ―Conal Cochran
Halloween III: Season of the Witch is a 1982 American horror film and the third installment in the Halloween series. Directed by Tommy Lee Wallace and starring Tom Atkins, Stacey Nelkin, and Dan O'Herlihy, the film is based on an original screenplay by Nigel Kneale and focuses on an evil scheme by the owner of a mask company to kill the children of America on Halloween night through a series of popular Halloween masks: a witch, a jack-o'-lantern, and a skull.
Season of the Witch does not feature Michael Myers, and is unrelated to the other films in the franchise. It was originally intended to begin Halloween as an anthology series, releasing a new Halloween storyline every year. The only connection this movie has with the others in the series is a scene where the trailer for John Carpenter's original 1978 Halloween is airing on a TV. Besides wholly abandoning the Michael Myers plotline, Halloween III departs from the slasher film genre which the original Halloween spawned. The focus on a psychopathic killer is replaced by a "mad scientist and witchcraft" theme.
Produced on a budget of $2.5 million, Halloween III grossed $14.4 million at the box office in the United States. In addition to relatively weak box office returns, most critics gave the film negative reviews. Where Halloween had broken new ground and was imitated by many genre films following in its wake, this third installment seemed hackneyed to many. One critic twenty years later suggests that if Halloween III was not part of the Halloween series, then it would simply be "a fairly nondescript eighties horror flick, no worse and no better than many others."
On Saturday, October the 23rd, about one week before Halloween. At nighttime, a novelty shop owner, later identified as middle-aged toy salesman Harry Grimbridge, ran on foot from a pursuing car's headlights into a deserted car parts and wrecking lot, where he was pinned on the ground by a mysterious man wearing a gray business suit and shiny black shoes (later identified as a Silver Shamrock android henchman). Grimbridge released a parked car that rolled toward them, crushing the man between two cars (# 1 death, android).
One hour later, during a fierce thunderstorm, the scene shifted to a gas station, where the attendant Walter Jones was watching TV. A British commentator reported on a previous theft, nine months earlier, of the 5-ton Bluestone from Stonehenge - "believed to represent the 19-year cycle of the moon." An advertisement also played for Silver Shamrock Novelties -- (to the tune of "London Bridge is Falling Down"): "Eight more days to Halloween/ Halloween/ Halloween/ Eight more days to Halloween/ Silver Shamrock. (repeated)" The announcer added: "Yes, kids, you, too can own one of the big Halloween three. That's right, three horrific masks to chose from. They're fun, they're frightening, and they glow in the dark." Harry Grimbridge stumbled into the station, clutching an orange jack-o-lantern Silver Shamrock mask, and fell to the floor, warning: "They're coming." Jones drove Grimbridge to the hospital in a tow truck.
At almost 8 pm in another part of town, alcoholic father of two Dr. Daniel Challis arrived home late to his ex-wife Linda Challis, with presents of plain Halloween masks for his two children. They were disappointed and told him how their mother had already bought them scarier latex Silver Shamrock masks - the skeletal skull and the green-faced witch varieties. He was immediately summoned back to the hospital, where he treated Grimbridge, who was cryptically ranting on a stretcher: "They're going to kill us. All of us." The crazed patient was treated with a dosage of Thorazine, and placed in hospital room 13. Soon after, another business-suited man with black gloves gouged out his eyes with two fingers and gruesomely pulled his skull apart. The henchman methodically wiped the blood off on a curtain and returned to his vehicle outside the hospital. There, he strangely committed suicide by dousing himself with gasoline and setting himself on fire, causing his car to explode.
Sunday the 24th, Ellie Grimbridge identified her father's body in his hospital room, and was told the case was under investigation. Wednesday, the 27th, Teddy, a friend of Dr. Challis' in the Coroner's Office, told him that the well-dressed businessman had super arm strength to have been able to pull apart Grimbridge's skull. Friday, the 29th, Dr. Challis was at a bar, where a TV broadcast was advertising the airing of the "immortal classic" Halloween (1978) on Halloween night, followed by a "big giveaway" at 9:00 pm, sponsored by Silver Shamrock Novelties (the jingle played again, now "Two more days to Halloween..."). Ellie Grimbridge located Dr. Challis there, and they decided to work together to discover why her father had died. They visited his closed-down toy store in Sierra Madre that had been struggling financially against a new mall. Ellie had researched her father's appointment book, and surmised that he had run into trouble after October 20, when he was to pick up more Halloween masks in the small town of Santa Mira, California, the location of a large Irish community, and the Silver Shamrock Novelties factory. After WWII, in the rural town of Santa Mira, wealthy Irishman Conal Cochran had invigorated the town by establishing the toy factory - the largest manufacturer and purveyor of Halloween masks in the world. They were watched suspiciously by various bystanders and shop owners (and a TV surveillance camera) as they drove into the community - Dr. Challis commented: "Company town."
They decided their plan would be to pretend to be husband/wife mask-buyers, and they would share a room in the town's Rose of Shannon Motel as they went about their investigation. At Rafferty's Gas station next to the motel, managed by Rafferty, they rented a room. Challis saw the guest entry register book at the front desk, showing that Ellie's father had checked into the same hotel on October 20. As Conal Cochran slowly drove by in a chauffeured vehicle, Mr. Rafferty called him a "true genius." As they checked in, other guests of the motel arrived in a Winnebago - the Kupfer family from San Diego: husband Buddy Kupfer, wife Betty Kupfer, and red-haired rambunctious son "Little" Buddy Kupfer Jr.. At the same time, a disgruntled toy shop owner (on Union Square in San Francisco) named Marge Guttman also drove in, unhappy about having to stay overnight due to "screwed up" toy orders from the "damn factory" that she was forced to handle personally.
That evening, a loudspeaker system in the town announced a 6 p.m. curfew, and all Santa Mira residents were instructed to clear the streets and remain indoors. As Challis returned to his motel room, he was confronted by a drunken, disgruntled homeless towns person named Starker, who warned him about Cochran's spying and rumors swirling about the factory and bad-mouthed the factory owner. He divulged how he was planning to use Molotov cocktails to burn the factory down: "Be the last Halloween for them." Later in his shack, two android business-suited men ripped his head off his neck. Teddy reported by phone to Dr. Challis that they had accidentally been looking at "plastic and metal shavings" (part of the car), rather than the correct body parts, because of mixed-up envelopes. (The next day, she also reported to Dr. Challis that she believed someone had tampered with the evidence, since there were no bone fragments or teeth: "I've got nothing here to indicate there was ever a body at all. Just ashes and car parts.")
While Dr. Challis and Ellie were making love in their room, Marge Guttman was taking a closer look at one of the poorly-made mask pieces - a trademarked Silver Shamrock button with an embedded computer chip that had fallen off one of the masks. As she poked at the back of it with a bobby-pin, it emitted a lethal laser beam that blasted her in the face, leaving her disfigured and dead as a Jerusalem cricket emerged from her mouth. In the middle of the night, a white van (and other white vehicles) with white-garbed attendants removed Marge's body from her motel room. Mr. Conal Cochran's chauffeured vehicle drove up and he assured everyone of Marge's "small accident" and promised the "very best possible treatment" at the "marvelous" emergency facilities at the factory. However, he was whispered the word "Misfire" as he departed.
One more day till Halloween
Saturday, the 30th. At the Silver Shamrock factory office, Ellie and Dr. Challis were told that Mr. Grimbridge picked up and signed for his order on the 21st, and then drove away in his green station wagon. As they were about to leave, the Kupfer family arrived and Buddy Kupfer was personally greeted by Mr. Cochran as the salesman who had sold more Shamrock masks than anyone else in the country. Ellie and Dr. Challis were assured that Mrs. Guttman had been flown for treatment to San Francisco, and that Ellie's replacement order would be at no charge. The two groups were given a factory tour, and shown how latex was heated and poured into the mask molds, then trimmed, painted, and packaged for shipment. They also were led into a museum of Cochran's other toys - Kupfer called Cochran "the all-time genius of the practical joke. He invented sticky toilet paper...the dead dwarf gag, the soft chain saw." Cochran bragged about his final inspection of quality (involving 'very dangerous" volatile chemicals), his seal of approval, and his trade secrets. Dr. Challis was suspicious of business-suited guards standing around the facility: "They look an awful lot like the man who killed your father." Inside an open garage on the grounds, Ellie spotted her father's car, but was prevented by guards from getting any closer.
Back at the motel that evening with only one more day to Halloween, as Ellie and Dr. Challis prepared to leave, he couldn't reach anyone by phone outside of the town. When he returned to their room, he found that she was missing - kidnapped by business-suited men in a white Silver Shamrock vehicle. Five android business-men stood outside his door, forcing him to flee through the bathroom window and break into the nearby factory to locate her. To his surprise, he decapitated a knitting grandmother robot - later identified by Cochran as a "rare piece. German. Made in Munich, 1785." In the shipping room, he fought hand-to-hand against another business-suited android - when he punched at the man's mid-section, his hand entered the android's gooey wired innards, and the robotic assassin spewed yellowish blood from his mouth as he was 'deactivated.' Dr. Challis was then captured by other androids - all created by the crazed Cochran, who was using the company as a front for his evil cult. He was looking forward to the next day, Halloween, calling it a "very busy day."
Sunday, the 31st - Halloween. Cochran led Dr.Challis to the final processing area, as he described how he had made the androids - "simple to produce," "another form of mask-making," and "loyal and obedient unlike most human beings." He described his factory as combining "advanced and ancient technology." In a large room where a circle of computers and white-coated technicians sat, a large fragment of the 5-ton Bluestone stolen from Stonehenge was being chipped and hammered away: "From an ancient, sacrificial circle. Stonehenge. (chuckling) We had a time getting it here. You wouldn't believe how we did it. (laughs) It has a power in it. A force."
Dr. Challis was compelled to watch a video demonstration of Cochran's sinister plan for Halloween night involving the Kupfer family in a simulated living room. After they were seated in the windowless, locked metal room, they viewed the Silver Shamrock television commercial that was to air that night throughout the country: (Announcer) "It's time. It's time. Time for the big giveaway. Halloween has come. All you lucky kids with Silver Shamrock masks, gather 'round your TV set. Put on your masks and watch. All witches, all skeletons, all Jack-O-Lanterns. Gather 'round and watch. Watch the magic pumpkin. Watch..." As both the pumpkin head on TV and the trademark button on "Little" Buddy's jack-o-lantern mask blinked on and off, the young boy suddenly clutched his head. When the trademark chip activated (constructed with a piece of the ancient Stonehenge monolith), it activated a lethal laser beam, caused severe brain and head damage to "Little" Buddy, and transformed his head into crawling insects and swarming snakes under the mask as he died. Both Buddy's mother and father were the next to die, attacked and swarmed by venomous snakes.
Cochran's plan was to air his commercial, advertised as the "big giveaway," at 9:00 pm Halloween night throughout the country, during a "Horror-a-thon" showing. "Lucky kids" throughout the country were purchasing Silver Shamrock masks (with the embedded computer chip) and wearing them for trick-or-treating, before returning home to watch the TV spot. In the coroner's office at the morgue, after discovering something other than a car part in the charred remains of the automobile, Teddy was phoning the sheriff when she was murdered by one of the black-gloved Silver Shamrock androids - she was stabbed in the head (through her ear) with a power drill.
7:30 pm. Back at the Silver Shamrock factory, Dr. Challis was bound in a cell with a television, and forced to watch the Horror-a-thon. The demented practical joker Cochran further explained how his plan was to brutally sacrifice children to the pagan gods: "I do love a good joke. And this is the best ever. A joke on the children...It was the start of the year in our old Celtic lands and we'd be waiting in our houses of wattles and clay. The barriers would be down, you see, between the real and the unreal. And the dead might be looking in to sit by our fires of turf. Halloween. The festival of Samhain. The last great one took place 3,000 years ago, when the hills ran red with the blood of animals and children...It was part of our world, our craft." He then described his macabre practice of sacrificial witchcraft: "To us, it was a way of controlling our environment. It's not so different now. It's time again. In the end, we don't decide these things, you know. The planets do. They're in alignment, and it's time again. The world's going to change tonight, Doctor. I'm glad you'll be able to watch it. And... happy Halloween." Cochran left the room, after placing a skeletal latex mask on Dr. Challis' head.
Dr. Challis kicked his feet through the television set, escaped from his straps, and found a way out of the cell through a small vented passageway, at about 8:11 pm. He emerged on the roof, phoned ex-wife Linda to warn her to get rid of the masks (although she dismissed his pleas as drunken nonsense), and located Ellie in another cell. Together, they returned to the factory's main computer control room containing the Stonehenge rock. Punching buttons on the control panel, he prematurely played the 9 pm commercial - and destroyed nine of Cochran's androids (in a shower of falling and activated, exploding computer chips that he dumped on the technicians). Cochran politely applauded Dr. Challis as he watched the Stonehenge monolith glow and the circle of computers magically discharge bluish-white light energy. Cochran's body was disintegrated and vaporized by the discharged laser beam. In a chain reaction, the rock exploded, the chips in the packing boxes detonated, and the masks caught fire. After they fled from the burning factory and drove away at 8:48 pm, Dr. Challis was attacked by cloned android "Ellie" and caused their car to run off the road. He killed her by separating her head from her body with a tire iron grabbed from his trunk. Although beheaded, her amputated arm still kept trying to strangle him.
Dr. Challis makes it to the filling station. Dr. Challis attempts to contact TV stations to remove the commercial at the "magic hour." He is able to persuade all but a third channel from airing it - as he screams: "Please stop it. Stop it now. Turn it off! Stop it! Stop it!" The film then ends without revealing whether the commercial is ultimately stopped, although it is most likely not. That being the case, it is not known whether any of the kids who watch the giveaway survive, also leaving the fate of Challis unknown.
- Tom Atkins as Dr. Daniel 'Dan' Challis
- Stacey Nelkin as Ellie Grimbridge
- Dan O'Herlihy as Conal Cochran
- Michael Currie as Rafferty
- Ralph Strait as Buddy Kupfer
- Jadeen Barbor as Betty Kupfer
- Brad Schacter as Buddy Kupfer Jr.
- Garn Stephens as Marge Guttman
- Nancy Kyes as Linda Challis
- Jonathan Terry as Starker
- Al Berry as Harry Grimbridge
- Wendy Wessberg as Teddy
- Essex Smith as Walter Jones
- Maidie Norman as Nurse Agnes
- Loyd Catlett as Charlie
- Paddi Edwards as Silver Shamrock Secretary
- Norman Merrill as Red
- Michelle Walker as Bella Challis
- Joshua John Miller as Willie Challis
- Dick Warlock as Robot Assassin
- Martin Cassidy as Watcher Robot Assassin
- Tommy Lee Wallace as Silver Shamrock Commercial Announcer
- Bella Challis (unknown)
- Betty Kupfer (Deceased)
- Buddy Kupfer (Deceased)
- Buddy Kupfer Jr. (Deceased)
- Conal Cochran (Deceased)
- Daniel Challis
- Ellie Grimbridge (Unknown)
- Harry Grimbridge (Deceased)
- Linda Challis (Unknown)
- Marge Guttman (Deceased)
- Minnie Blankenship (mentioned)
- Nurse Agnes
- Starker (Deceased)
- Teddy (Deceased)
- Walter Jones
- Willie Challis (Unknown)
When approached about creating a third Halloween film, original Halloween writers John Carpenter and Debra Hill were reluctant to pledge commitment. According to Fangoria magazine, Carpenter and Hill agreed to participate in the new project only if it was not a direct sequel to Halloween II, which meant no Michael Myers. Irwin Yablans and Moustapha Akkad, who had produced the first two films, filmed Halloween III on a budget of $2.5 million.
Special effects artist Don Post of Post Studios designed the latex masks in the film which included a glow-in-the-dark skull, a lime-green witch and an orange Day-Glo jack-o'-lantern. Hill told Aljean Harmetz, "We didn't exactly have a whole lot of money for things like props, so we asked Post, who had provided the shape mask for the earlier 'Halloween [II]' ..., if we could work out a deal." The skull and witch masks were adaptations of standard Post Studios masks, but the jack-o'-lantern was created specifically for Halloween III.
Producers recruited Manx science fiction writer Nigel Kneale to write the original screenplay mostly because Carpenter admired his Quatermass series. Kneale said his script did not include "horror for horror's sake." He adds, "The main story had to do with deception, psychological shocks rather than physical ones." Kneale asserted that movie mogul Dino De Laurentiis, owner of the film's distribution rights, did not care for it and ordered more graphic violence and gore. While much of the plot remained the same, the alterations displeased Kneale, and he requested that his name be removed from the credits. Wallace was then assigned to revise the script.
Wallace told Fangoria that he created the title of the film as a reference to "a plot point"—the three masks featured in the film—and an attempt to connect this film with the others in the series. He explained in the interview the direction that Carpenter and Hill wanted to take the Halloween series, stating, "It is our intention to create an anthology out of the series, sort of along the lines of Night Gallery, or The Twilight Zone, only on a much larger scale, of course." Each year, a new film would be released that focused on an aspect of the Halloween season.
Hill told Fangoria that the film was supposed to be "a 'pod' movie, not a 'knife' movie." As such, Wallace drew inspiration from another pod film: Don Siegel's Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956). Santa Mira was the fictional setting of Invasion of the Body Snatchers, and the name was adopted for Halloween III as an homage to Siegel's film. Aspects of the plot proved very similar as well, such as the "snatching" bodies and replacing them with androids, and the pessimistic conclusion at the film's end. Halloween III's subtitle comes from George A. Romero's second film Season of the Witch (1973)—also known as Hungry Wives—but the plot contains no similarity to Romero's story of a housewife who becomes involved in witchcraft.
Historian Nicholas Rogers notes that Halloween III is "the only film in the [Halloween] cycle that explores the sacrificial aspects of Halloween in a sustained manner." Film critics like Jim Harper, however, called Wallace's plot "deeply flawed." Harper argues, "Any plot dependent on stealing a chunk of Stonehenge and shipping it secretly across the Atlantic is going to be shaky from the start." He noted, "there are four time zones across the United States, so the western seaboard has four hours to get the fatal curse-inducing advertisement off the air. Not a great plan." Harper was not the only critic unimpressed by the plot. Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times wrote, "What's [Cochran's] plan? Kill the kids and replace them with robots? Why?"
The cast of Halloween III: Season of the Witch consisted mostly of character actors whose previous acting credits included small roles or bit parts on various television series. The exceptions were Tom Atkins and veteran actor Dan O'Herlihy.
Cast as alcoholic doctor Daniel "Dan" Challis, Tom Atkins had appeared in several Carpenter films prior to Halloween III. Atkins played Nick Castle in The Fog (1980) and Rehme in Escape from New York (1981). Atkins guest starred in television series such as Harry O, The Rockford Files and Lou Grant. Atkins told Fangoria that he liked being the hero. As a veteran horror actor, he added, "I wouldn't mind making a whole career out of being in just horror movies." After Halloween III, Atkins continued to play supporting roles in dozens of films and television series.
Stacey Nelkin co-starred as Ellie Grimbridge, a young woman whose father is murdered by Cochran. She landed the role after a make-up artist working on the film told her about the auditions. In an interview, Nelkin commented on her character: "Ellie was very spunky and strong-minded. Although I like to think of myself as having these traits, she was written that way in the script." Nelkin considered it an "honor" to be playing Jamie Lee Curtis's successor. According to Roger Ebert, Nelkin's performance was the "one saving grace" in the film. Ebert explained, "She has one of those rich voices that makes you wish she had more to say and in a better role... Too bad she plays her last scene without a head." Prior to her role as Grimbridge, Nelkin played only bit parts in television series like CHiPs and The Waltons. After Halloween III, Nelkin continued working as a character actress on television.
Veteran Irish actor Dan O'Herlihy was cast as Conal Cochran, the owner of Silver Shamrock and the witch from the film's title (a 3000-year-old demon in Kneale's original script). O'Herlihy had played close to 150 roles before co-starring as the Irish trickster and was nominated for an Academy Award for his performance in The Adventures of Robinson Crusoe (1954). He appeared in another twenty films and television series before his death in 2005. O'Herlihy admitted in an interview with Starlog magazine that he was not particularly impressed with the finished film. When asked what he thought of working in the horror film, O'Herlihy responded, "Whenever I use a Cork accent, I'm having a good time, and I used a Cork accent in Halloween III. I thoroughly enjoyed the role, but I didn't think it was much of a picture, no."
Two members of the supporting cast were not strangers to the Halloween series. Nancy Loomis played Challis's ex-wife Linda; she had appeared in the original Halloween as Laurie Strode's late promiscuous friend Annie Brackett. Stunt performer Dick Warlock, who earlier co-starred as Michael Myers in Halloween II, makes a cameo appearance as a similar character as the android assassin defeated by Challis. Furthermore, Jamie Lee Curtis had an uncredited role as the operator's voice that frustrates Challis' attempts to call for help from Santa Mira and the one announcing curfew in the town.
The film was the directorial debut of Wallace, although he was not a newcomer to the Halloween series. Wallace had served as art director and production designer for Carpenter's original Halloween and he had previously declined to direct Halloween II in 1981. After Halloween III, Wallace directed other horror films such as Fright Night II (1988), Vampires: Los Muertos (2002), and the miniseries It (1990), the television adaptation of the Stephen King novel.
Despite disagreements between Wallace and original script writer Nigel Kneale, the actors reported that Wallace was a congenial director to work with. Stacey Nelkin told one interviewer, "The shoot as a whole was fun, smooth and a great group of people to work with. Wallace was incredibly helpful and open to discussion on dialogue or character issues."
Although the third film departed from the plot of the first two films, Wallace attempted to connect all three films together through certain stylistic themes. The film's opening title features a digitally animated jack-o'-lantern, an obvious reference to the jack-o'-lanterns that appeared in the opening titles of Halloween and Halloween II. Wallace's jack-o'-lantern is the catalyst in the Silver Shamrock commercials that activates the masks. Another stylistic reference to the original film is found in the scene where Dr. Challis tosses a mask over a security camera, making the image on the monitor seem to be peering through the eye holes. This is a nod to the scene in which a young Michael Myers murders his sister while wearing a clown mask. Finally, the film contains a brief reference to its predecessors by including a few short scenes from Halloween in a television commercial that advertises the airing of the film for that upcoming holiday as a minor story within a story.
Wallace's use of gore served a different purpose than in Halloween II. According to Tom Atkins, "The effects in this [film] aren't bloody. They're more bizarre than gross." Special effects and makeup artist Tom Burman concurred, stating in an interview, "This movie is really not out to disgust people. It's a fun movie with a lot of thrills in it; not a lot of random gratuitous gore." Many of the special effects were meant to emphasize the theme of the practical joke that peppers the plot. New York Times film critic Vincent Canby notes, "The movie features a lot of carefully executed, comically horrible special effects ...." Canby stood as one of the few critics of the time to praise Wallace's directing: "Mr. Wallace clearly has a fondness for the clichés he is parodying and he does it with style."
Most of the filming took place on location in the small coastal town of Loleta in Humboldt County, California. Familiar Foods, a milk bottling plant in Loleta, served as the Silver Shamrock Novelties factory, but all special effects involving fire, smoke, and explosions were filmed at Post Studios.
Music remained an important element in establishing the atmosphere of Halloween III. Just as in Halloween and Halloween II, there was no symphonic score. Much of the music was composed to solicit "false startles" from the audience.
The soundtrack was composed by Carpenter and Alan Howarth, who had worked on the score for Halloween II. The score of Halloween III differed greatly from the familiar main theme of the original and sequel. Carpenter replaced the familiar piano melody with a slower, electronic theme played on a synthesizer with beeping tonalities.
One of the more memorable aspects of the film's soundtrack was the jingle from the Silver Shamrock Halloween mask commercial. Set to the tune of "London Bridge is Falling Down," the commercial in the film counts down the days until Halloween beginning with day eight followed by an announcer's voice (Wallace) encouraging children to purchase a Silver Shamrock mask to wear on Halloween night.
Halloween III opened theatrically in October 1982 on the same weekend as First Blood. Both movies were rated R and both depended on the male movie goer. In 1981, Halloween II opened up the same day as Time Bandits. While Halloween II did well against the PG fantasy, Halloween III however was no match for First Blood.
Halloween III, like its predecessor, was distributed through Universal by producer Dino De Laurentiis. It grossed a total of $14,400,000 in the United States, the worst performing Halloween film at the time. Several other horror films that premiered in 1982 performed far better, including Poltergeist ($76,606,280), Friday the 13th Part III ($34,581,519), and Creepshow ($21,028,755). Internationally, the film premiered in the United Kingdom, Norway, Spain, West Germany, Sweden, France, Canada, Australia, and Singapore. In 1983, Edd Riveria, designer of the film's theatrical poster, received a Saturn Award nomination from the Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Films, USA, for Best Poster Art, but lost to John Alvin's E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982) artwork. Riveria's poster art featured a demonic face descending on three trick-or-treaters. His artwork was later featured on the cover of Fangoria in October 1982. Oddly enough, no creature even remotely resembling the face on the theatrical poster appears in the film.
As part of a merchandising campaign, the producers requested Don Post to mass-produce the skull, witch, and jack-o'-lantern masks. Producers had given exclusive merchandising rights to Post as part of his contract for working on the film, and Post Studios had already successfully marketed tie-in masks for the classic Universal monsters, Planet of the Apes (1968), Star Wars (1977), and E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial (1981). Post used the original molds for the masks in the film to mass-produce masks for retail sale. He speculated, "Because the masks are so significant to the movie, they could become a cult item, with fans wanting to wear them when they go to see the movie." Post gave mask-making demonstrations for a Universal Studio tour in Hollywood. The masks retailed for $25 when they finally appeared in stores. Each mask also included a small metal button that contained a crystal pinned to the inside.
The script was adapted as a mass market paperback novelization in 1982 by science-fiction writer Dennis Etchison writing under the pseudonym Jack Martin. The book was a best seller and was reissued in 1984. Etchison had written the novelization to Halloween II only a year before.
The film was later released on the VHS, Betamax, LaserDisc, and RCA Selectavision Videodisc formats in 1983 by MCA/Universal Home Video. Subsequent videotape re-issues were released in 1984, 1987, and again in 1996. GoodTimes Home Video owned the rights at one point and released a VHS in 1996. DVD versions were distributed by Goodtimes in 1998 (with a reissue release in 2001) and by Universal in 2003.
Halloween III's score, composed by Carpenter and Alan Howarth, was released by MCA Records at the time of the film's debut on LP and was re-issued briefly on compact disc in 1989 by Varèse Sarabande. The original CD issue is considered a rarity and commands high collector prices. In 2007, for the film's 25th Anniversary, Alan Howarth's record label AHI, in association with buysoundtrax.com, re-issued the score again on CD with additional unreleased material.
Critical response to Halloween III: Season of the Witch was negative. New York Times reviewer Vincent Canby struggled to apply a definite label to the film's content. He remarks, "Halloween III manages the not easy feat of being anti-children, anti-capitalism, anti-television and anti-Irish all at the same time." He says that the film "is probably as good as any cheerful ghoul could ask for." Other critics were far more decisive in their assessments. Roger Ebert wrote that the film was "a low-rent thriller from the first frame. This is one of those Identikit movies, assembled out of familiar parts from other, better movies."
Tom Milne of Time Out, a British magazine, offered a more positive review, calling the title "a bit of a cheat, since the indestructible psycho of the first two films plays no part here." Unlike other critics, Milne thought the new plot was refreshing: "With the possibilities of the characters [of the previous Halloween films] well and truly exhausted, Season of the Witch turns more profitably to a marvelously ingenious Nigel Kneale tale of a toymaker and his fiendish plan to restore Halloween to its witch cult origins." Although Milne was unhappy that Kneale's original script was reduced to "a bit of a mess," he still believed the end result was "hugely enjoyable."
Halloween III has gained somewhat of a cult following among audiences. Academics find the film full of critiques of late twentieth-century American society. Historian Nicholas Rogers points to an anti-corporate message where an otherwise successful businessman turns "oddly irrational" and seeks to "promote a more robotic future for commerce and manufacture." Cochran's "astrological obsessions or psychotic hatred of children overrode his business sense." Tony Williams argues that the film's plot signified the results of the "victory of patriarchal corporate control." In a similar vein, Martin Harris writes that Halloween III contains "an ongoing, cynical commentary on American consumer culture." Upset over the commercialization of the Halloween holiday, Cochran uses "the very medium he abhors as a weapon against itself." Harris references other big business critiques in the film, including the unemployment of local workers and the declining quality of mass-produced products.
Nigel Kneale, while displeased with the finished film, said in an interview "I wrote a very good script – if I say it myself. It’s one of the best I’ve ever written."
Overall, most critics and fans disliked the film due to disappointment over the absence of Michael Myers. However, despite the reception, re-evaluation in later years has given Halloween III new legions of fans and has established its own reputation as a stand-alone cult film.
Notes and trivia
- In the bar scene, a trailer for the original Halloween is shown right before the Silver Shamrock commercial.
- As the film exists in a separate continuity from the rest of the films in the franchise, this makes it effectively the only installment outside of the original Halloween film and the 2018 sequel that is yet to be retconned out of continuity.
- Various Silver Shamrock masks are shown in the 2018 Halloween film.
- On June 25, 2021 the latest trailer for Halloween Kills also provides an easter egg to this film when the audience are shown a trio of his latest victims carefully displayed on a playground merry-go-round, each adorned with macabre masks of a skull, jack-o’-lantern and witch, which, of course, are the glow-in-the-dark guises manufactured by the sinister Silver Shamrock Novelties company in the aforementioned 1982 sequel.
- Halloween III: Season of the Witch on Wikipedia