It seems incredible now to believe that there was ever a movie franchise that did something as brave and foolish as Halloween III, and its failure is possibly an explanation for that.
The early 1980s were clearly a more innocent and adventurous time in Hollywood, a time when John Carpenter and the rest of the team behind Halloween decided that, after two Michael Myers films, they wanted to do something different with the third film.
Completely ditching the formula, right down to the music and the stars (although you can still hear that theme tune and see Jamie Lee Curtis when the first Halloween film is shown on TV in a few scenes – and Curtis also has a phone operator voice cameo) and even the genre.
For while Season Of The Witch is a horror film, it’s not even remotely a slasher film. Right from the off, when an unidentified man is running in terror from a very normal looking guy in a suit, you know that things are going to be different.
The plot surrounds a mysterious toy company and its line of masks that are set to cause murder and slaughter on Halloween night (right after Michael Myers has disappeared from the front lawn, in fact) thanks to a jaunty TV advery for them. They’re made with the dust of a stone from Stonehenge you see.
Erm, yeah. The concept is very much like something you’d expect in The Twilight Zone or The Outer Limits or even Hammer House Of Horror at a pinch, and there’s potential in there. Unfortunately, the execution is clumsy at times and disastrously 80s at others.
In many ways Halloween III can be summed up by the opening credits, replacing the iconic theme and pumpkin with a ‘digital’ (for the 80s) pumpkin and a theme that is vaguely similar but also horrible, and there’s lots of similarly botched ideas.
The explanation for the film’s hero doctor investigating the toy company is sketchy enough to be taken from a Murder She Wrote episode, while his relationship with the daughter of the dead guy from the start is just wrong and jarring.
And then there’s the androids. The big shock at the end comes from the heroine having been turned into one of them (basically Invasion Of The Body Snatchers) and attacking the hero. Which should be thrilling and horrifying, but turns into bad comedy with bits of her continuing to attack him for what feels like 15 minutes.
All of which is even more frustrating when the film eventually lurches back towards solid ground with an open ending that suggests that everything was in vain and the bad guys won (again, Invasion Of The Body Snatchers – 1978 vintage at least).
The idea was that Halloween IV would take a different aspect of horror again, with the series becoming an anthology, much in the same way that American Horror Story has managed on TV all these years later. And that would have been interesting.
But Halloween III did so poorly with critics and fans that Michael Myers came back for IV, so the final nail in the coffin of franchise creativity was hammered in, leaving us in 2013 and a world of sequels, remakes, prequels and sequels and prequels to remakes (I’m looking at you, Texas Chainsaw Massacre franchise). So you could say the bad guys won.