Even as early as 1982, it was recognized that any horror franchise worth its salt had to have at least five sequels. John Carpenter thought "Halloween II" was stretching it and couldn't see extending the Myers storyline further. As far as his creator was concerned, the Shape was dead. Carpenter had the novel idea of turning "Halloween" into a yearly anthology series, each new installment telling a different story, the only connecting fiber being the Halloween season. The American republic rejected this and demanded more Michael Myers. Carpenter was right about continuing that story being nothing but crass and absurd. Whether "Season of the Witch" stands on its own merit remains a topic of debate.
Maybe the viewership would have been more accommodating if a less wacky premise had been chosen. Divorced surgeon Dan Challis becomes involved in a mystery when a man is murdered in his hospital, only for the murderer to immolate himself outside. The presence of a Halloween mask leads Challis on an investigation. He meets up with the dead man's daughter and tracks the mask back to its factory. He uncovers a malicious plot to murder thousands of children. How? Through a combination of Halloween masks, television, microchips, robots, and Celtic magic.
My biggest issue with "Season of the Witch" involves that villainous scheme. The bad guy takes a lot of factors for granted. Yes, the Silver Shamrock masks are popular but surely lots of children will be wearing other costumes. Sure, plenty of kids will be in front of the TV at the time of the commercial. But it's likely many will still be trick r' treating. And how many will have the TV on and also wear their mask? How many children must die for Cochran's plan to be successful? What exactly is his motivation? He wants to reclaim Halloween as a pagan festival. How will murdering thousands of children do that? Why would a corporate head rail against the commercialization of his holiday? What does his robot army have to do with anything? The 'whys' remains elusive.
The film features many absurd elements, to the point that Vincent Canby thought it was a parody. How does the combination of masks and commercials kill the kids? By filling their heads with bugs and snakes. How that works boils down to "magic." The transformation is powered by a tag on the mask. In the most absurd moment, a woman has her face blown off by a laser beam shot from one of those tags. The magic ritual is powered by a chunk of Stone Henge, which I imagine was difficult to transport. The robot drones are something we have to take at face value, as little explanation is provided. The villain pulls a Dr. No by explaining his plot to the hero before leaving him in an easily escaped trap. The ending is overheated and melodramatic, with Tom Atkins screaming into a telephone before a sharp cut to black.
The innately likable Atkins is well-cast as his protagonist is definitely an anti-hero. His ex-wife is cartoonish, unwilling to forgive him for working a lot and trying to save the world. The kids are non-entities, glimpsed once and never developed. Atkins seems more concerned with his new girlfriend. Stacey Nelkin plays that new girlfriend, the murdered man's daughter. After knowing each other less then twenty-four hours, the two fall into bed. The romantic subplot is contrived, not making much sense for a woman still grieving for her father and a guy still grieving for his marriage. All of the supporting cast is broad. The mask seller and his family are terrible people, the wife and son especially, while the woman who gets her face melted is vulgar and unlikable. The cast does fine, with Dan O'Herlihy's leathery-voiced take on Conal Cochran being the most memorable, but the characters are all seriously underwritten.
If "Season of the Witch" was reaching for scares or gross-outs, it failed. The numerous jump scares are protracted and broad casted. Though Michael Myers is a no-show, part 3 continues the second film's tendency to pad out the body count with random people. Was it necessary to introduce a town drunk? Did he have to die? The gore is decent, with an early face-crunching being satisfying. However, the android soldiers bleeding banana pudding is odd. The digital effects are cheesy and the villain's demise is lazy. John Carpenter and Alan Howarth's score is a major step down. The electronic droning of the main title is directionless and non-melodic. Much of the score is like that. They probably should have kept the classic theme. That jingle was designed to be as annoying as possible and, boy-howdy, did it ever succeeded. You will get tired of listening to that thing.
What do I like about the film? Tommy Lee Wallace's direction has a few nice moments, like a frantic tracking shot through a hospital hallway. If you overlook the absurdity, the climatic robot attack generates some tension. Atkins taking out leagues of people at the end is out-of-place but satisfying in its own way. Wallace manages to make Santa Mira, the same town from "Invasion of the Body Snatchers," an eerie place. The constant surveillance and grinning town folks are correctly unnerving. The film's vehemently anti-child tone is doubtlessly mean-spirited but it definitely makes the film unique.
Rejected upon release and widely reviled for many years, "Halloween III: Season of the Witch" has, over time, developed its own following. Fans like to point out the anti-corporate themes or the main character's symbolic alcoholism as defining points. Sure. But is it scary? Nope. Does it have that autumn atmosphere? Not really. Is its plot goofy? I certainly think so. I'm sorry, "Season of the Witch," I want to like you.
Review by Bonehead-XL from the Internet Movie Database.