Retrospective: 40 Years Since ‘Halloween III: Season of the Witch’ By Jesse Striewski

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).

A display of the fictional town portrayed in the film, Santa Mira, from Fantasm Orlando on 10/3/21 (photo by Brooke Striewski).

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.

Actor Tom Atkins with (from left to right) Rewind It’s Jacob, Jesse, and Brooke Striewski at Fantasm Orlando on 10/3/21.

Retrospective: 35 Years Since we had a ‘Night of the Creeps’ By Jesse Striewski

Long before mixing horror/Sci Fi with comedy became a trend, we had films like The Return of the Living Dead, House, Killer Klowns From Outer Space, and, one the earliest examples of its kind, Night of the Creeps. All of these films were inventive in their own unique ways, and are worth not only remembering, but a fair bit of analyzing as well.

Originally released on August 22, 1986, and directed by Fred Dekker (who also co-wrote the previously mentioned House, and would go on to direct The Monster Squad a year later), Night of the Creeps paired a stellar cast that included newcomers Jason Lively (National Lampoon’s European Vacation) and Jill Whitlow (Weird Science) with veterans like Tom Atkins (Halloween III: Season of the Witch). And to add an extra homage of nostalgia to the proceedings, most of the characters were each given surnames of other classic horror movie staples. For example; there’s a Romero, a Cronenberg, a Carpenter, etc…

The plot is really nothing revolutionary; alien slugs from another planet inhibit the bodies of people and turn them into zombies. Our heroes of course have to fight off these monsters in a college campus setting, navigating everything from sorority parties, to killer poodles. It never takes itself too seriously, yet maintains an unmistakable level of artistic creativity throughout the whole time. And while it failed to find an audience at the box office, it has since become a cult classic (rightfully so).

I first came across the film late one sleepless night in either middle or high school, and instantly loved it. Although it’s been sometime now since I last viewed the film, I still love its campy, midnight movie appeal. And it was all the more thrilling to actually meet Detective Ray Cameron himself, actor Tom Atkins, earlier this month at Fantasm Orlando, who is just as amazing as one would think (see photo below).

There’s many reasons why the films of yesteryear are remembered with such fondness; not only was the quality of the work itself better overall, flimmakers at the time were not hell-bent on getting across some biased agendas/opinions of theirs in the material (kind of like that garbage remake of Candyman). As with Night of the Creeps, what you saw is simply what you got….just a good old-fashioned, fun gorefest. There was nothing wrong with it then, and there’s still nothing wrong with it now in my book.

Rewind It Magazine’s (left to right) Jacob, Jesse, and Brooke Striewski with actor Tom Atkins – who played Detective Ray Cameron in the film – at Fantasm Orlando on 10/3/21.