When is a sequel not really a sequel? Tommy Lee Wallace’s Halloween III: Season of the Witch had the unfortunate luck of being called a sequel to Halloween II, even though it has absolutely nothing to do with Michael Meyers, Laurie Strode, or Dr. Loomis. Finally arriving on Blu-ray thanks to Shout! Factory’s licensing deal with Universal Pictures (under the Scream! Factory brand), the disc boasts an excellent HD transfer of the film as well as an excellent making-of documentary.
Studio: Scream! Factory (via Shout! Factory, under license from Universal)
US BD Release Date: September 18, 2012
Original Release Year: 1982
Running Time: 98 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
Audio: English (DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Mono)
Movie: 3.5 out of 5
Long considered the bastard or adopted child of the franchise, Halloween III: Season of the Witch is a film that has been gaining respect and a fan base over the years. Originally rejected by audiences and critics alike who were expecting a continuation of the Michael Myers saga, the film is a much different type of horror film, taking inspiration from Invasion of the Body Snatchers and other B-movies from the 1950s.
Halloween is coming, but there’s something sinister and creepy about a set of three masks from Silver Shamrock, their ads flooding the airwaves inviting kids to tune in for the big giveaway at 9pm. A Toy Store owner comes into the local hospital, clutching a Jack O’Lantern Silver Shamrock mask, claiming “They’re going to kill us!” When he is murdered by a tall, silent, grey-suited man, who then kills himself, Dr. Daniel Challis (genre favorite Tom Atkins) begins to investigate with the help of the Toy Store owner’s daughter, Ellie (Stacey Nelkin). The investigation leads them to the Silver shamrock factory, run by a mad Toy Maker, Conal Cochran (Dan O’Herlihy), who is hatching an evil plot to have the masks activate by their sponsored Halloween TV special, killing the children and their families through a witchcraft spell embedded in the microchip made from pieces of a stolen section of Stonehenge.
The plot is just goofy enough to work as a fun little thriller, thanks in part to Tom Atkins’ character being a studly, chauvinistic doctor with a drinking problem (and he pulls it off in spades), Stacey Nelkin adding some sex appeal, Dan O’Herlihy quite literally chewing the scenery as the film’s villain when he finally shows up halfway through, the pulsating electronic score by John Carpenter and Alan Howarth, and, of course, the often over-the-top (for its time) make-up effects by Tom Burman.
Wanting to “go in another direction”, John Carpenter and Debra Hill decided to leave Michael Meyers behind after Halloween II, and with assistance from an uncredited Nigel Kneale (creator of the Quatermass series) and Tommy Lee Wallace, conceived this original story that the producers and studio executives hoped would be the first of an annual anthology series of movies centered around the Halloween holiday. If they had had the foresight to not try to include the film as part of the Halloween franchise, Halloween III: Season of the Witch may have had a better chance at the box office.
Video: 4 out of 5
Shout! Factory’s 1080p transfer, using the AVC codec, approximates the film’s intended theatrical aspect ratio of 2.35:1, replicating how Dean Cundey’s cinematography would look in a properly tuned theatre. Blacks are nice and deep, shadows are well-detailed, and colors are consistent.
Audio: 3.5 out of 5
The DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mono soundtrack, while definitely not reference material, adds much needed fidelity and dynamic range to a 30-year old mono mix. Bass response, particularly in the music score, is excellent, and dialogue is clear and understandable. This is perhaps the best this film has ever sounded.
Special Features: 4 out of 5
Audio Commentary With Director Tommy Lee Wallace: Wallace is joined by Horror’s Hallowed Grounds host Sean Clark and Icons of Fright’s Rob G is what can best be summarized as a fan’s dream come true. The three discuss the development, production, various locations where the film was shot, how the Silver Shamrock jingle came to be, and initial reaction to the film.
Audio Commentary With Actor Tom Atkins: Joining Tom Atkins is DVD producer Michael Felsher, and the two discuss making the film, but quite a bit of time is spent by Atkins discussing his career, including working on The Rockford Files.
Stand Alone: The Making of Halloween III: Season of the Witch (HD; 33:09): Director Tommy Lee Wallace, DP Dean Cundey, composer Alan Howarth, Tom Atkins, Stacey Nelkin, and producer Irwin Yablans discuss making a non-sequel, the problems they encountered, and the reaction to the film. This is a fun, interesting, and entertaining documentary.
Horror’s Hallowed Grounds: Revisiting the Locations of Halloween III (HD; 19:44): Sean Clark hosts this look at how many of the locations used in Halloween III exist today.
Still Gallery (HD; 3:27): Stills from the film’s press kit are presented here for about 5 seconds each, and you can use the chapter skip button to page through them faster if you’d like.
TV Spots (SD; 1:35): Two TV trailers and a network promo are included, obviously taken from an old VHS tape.
Theatrical Trailers (HD; 2:44): The film’s original teaser and theatrical trailers are presented in washed-out and cropped 16:9 full screen.
Overall: 4 out of 5
Fans of the film will be more than pleased (and pleasantly surprised) by the love and care that went into this special edition. The presentation is very good, and the documentary and commentary tracks are a real treat.