Unlike the majority of fans, my introduction to the Halloween franchise actually came long before I even knew the first thing about Michael Myers. I was rounding near ten years old, and my family had just finally upgraded to cable television for the first time ever when I was searching through the channels late one October evening to discover Halloween III: Season of the Witch.
It was probably playing on USA Network or one of those other channels like it at the time, and it was well into three quarters of the movie already. My very first impression of a Halloween movie actually had nothing to do with Michael Myers, but was of Tom Atkins stalking around a dark, desolate town, with a creepy synth-driven score from John Carpenter and Alan Howarth accentuating the overall eerie scene. I was hooked, and having no prior frame of reference, it did not matter to me who was or was not in the film, or the previous entries that came before it.
When Halloween III: Season of the Witch, directed by Tommy Lee Wallace, first dropped in theaters on October 22, 1982, it was meant to be the first of numerous anthology films centered around Halloween itself, rather than just a monster with a knife. But audiences were not quite prepared for such a drastic change at the time, despite the endless possibilities this concept could have brought (the film was a modest box office success, earning just over $14 million on a $2.5 million budget).
Atkins stars as Dr. Dan Challis, a middle -aged, divorced, drunken physician who gets drawn into a web of evil and destruction after a man dies on his watch at the hospital, clutching a mysterious Halloween mask manufactured by a company called Silver Shamrock. When the deceased man’s sexy young daughter (Stacey Nelkin) starts looking for answers, Challis is more than willing to assist her with the task (and then some).
The two soon uncover that Silver Shamrock is the work of Conal Cochran (Daniel O’Herlihy), a Pagan warlock hell-bent on unleashing unspeakable evil across the world via the masks on Halloween night. It quickly becomes a race against time to prevent the madman from seeing his destructive plot through and causing harm to an untold number of innocent lives.
While it’s taken some time, Halloween III: Season of the Witch has finally reached a level of cult status it rightfully deserved. Last year at the Fantasm horror convention Orlando, FL, there was not only countless amounts of merchandise from the film for the eye to see, but I was lucky enough to meet Atkins himself (see photo below).
When asked why he thought the film has seen such a resurgence in popularity in recent times, Atkins simply said; “I don’t know why people love it so much, but it just seems to be becoming more popular every year!” His reply might have been modest, but I can easily point to the number of reasons why it’s not only my favorite Halloween film, but also one of my favorite horror movies of all time. Not only does it hold a special place for me for being my introduction to the series, it beautifully emobodied everything about the creepiest day of the year on a level that very few films in the genre have managed to capture before or since.