Halloween III: Season of the Witch is a special film, one whose history is well-told (Carpenter wanted the series to continue as an annual All Hallows anthology, rather than an ongoing chronicle of the nights HE came home) and, in recent years, defense well-mounted. That’s in no small part to the connectivity of movie sites and message boards. We’re 20 years into film fans nonsensically arguing and theorizing about movies online, sure, but also finding likeminded doofuses when the physical world wouldn’t suffice.
A thanks, this is.
This is a quick tale that takes place just before the widespread popularity of online geek destinations and, oddly enough, on Christmas…when I discovered Halloween.
Like all rad motherfuckers, I started watching horror movies alone in my room when I was way too young. My first memories of questionable content were Stuart Gordon’s vastly underappreciated Castle Freak and Wes Craven’s Wes Craven’s New Nightmare (starring Wes Craven, RIP you beautiful man). Cross-referencing release dates with a hazy memory tells me I was just about 8 or 9 years-old, and - like all prepubescent goons - not as slick as I thought I was.
This is to say that Mom totally knew what I was up to and into. My family took notice of budding interests - movies at large and horror in focus - and that extends to the least likely member: an aunt from a side of the family I didn’t particularly like, who’s notorious for her shitty gifts (as a child, she gave me a soap-on-a-rope for some indiscernible reason). It was strange, then, one Christmas, when I opened a VHS three-pack of the first three Halloween movies. It was a pivotal gift from the most unexpected of places.
I hadn’t seen any Halloween films at this point, and the Yuletide marathon of I-III proved significant. Halloween was a stone-cold classic that taught me of atmosphere and suspense; that introduced me to a physical bogeyman. Halloween II traumatized me with its hot-tub murder, a nasty hybrid of burning and drowning that made for the ghastliest thing I’d ever seen (and yet, I had already witnessed Giorgio bite a boob in Castle Freak).
And then, there was Halloween III: Season of the Witch, which became the most important of the three. It was a movie for which I had no context or understanding, a movie I had to make sense of on my own. It, in turn, may have been the first film to give me complete confidence in my taste.
I don’t come from a family of horror fans, let alone aficionados. Try putting the question of Halloween III to someone like that. The most you’ll get is, “Michael Myers isn’t in it and it sucks.” Now, this isn’t a plight, but after years of peers (and parents) rattling the same downbeat assessment, the struggle was real.
This is what I knew: Despite a succession of negativity at an admittedly impressionable age, Halloween III spoke to me.
It would take years and multiple revisits to fully understand what I love about this distinct piece of work - its Nigel Kneale DNA; the confluence of magick and science; the theme of distracted fathers letting evil slip in; the old supernatural used to destroy what Halloween has become (the treat is the trick); its menacing, digital jack o’lantern; what’s possibly Carpenter & Howarth’s best score; old ass Conal Cochran; those fucking masks - but on a very pure level, I just knew I loved it. And I loved it in the face of everyone definitively telling me it sucked.
Our interests are easily supported and validated now. It’s beautiful. But at a very young age, surrounded by classmates and family who merely tolerated what I obsessed over, this was a major realization, one which brought assurance.
Season of the Witch gave me the confidence to own my taste, to look at anyone who wanted to explain why it sucked and tell them, “Eat shit, it’s 352 days until Halloween.”