In preparation for Halloween 2021, AT&T named Michael Myers the scariest horror movie villain of all time. While there was no clear data backing up their claims, AT&T claimed a group of participants watched 5,760 minutes of horror films and that, “based on the variance of their resting heart rate and how the rate peaked,” Myers was the scariest.
This is obviously more of a viral stunt than a scientific study, but it does confirm what just about everyone knows: Michael Myers is very scary. There’s a solid case for him being the scariest of all time, and the recent revitalization of the Halloween franchise with Jamie Lee Curtis is proof.
But here’s one movie that won’t be remade or go on any viral lists: Halloween III: The Season of the Witch. The 1982 Tommy Lee Wallace film is simply too weird for any imitators. Rejected by critics, half-heartedly accepted by the theater-going public, and later embraced as a cult classic, Halloween III is its own beast.
It’s a movie most famous for what it doesn’t include—Michael Myers, the scariest villain of all time according to the telecom industry. That was because Halloween co-creators John Carpenter and Debra Hill had decided that keeping the franchise to one character was limiting. And so, after two Michael Myers movies, the series would switch to an anthology.
That didn’t work out in the long term, but they were handing over the reins to a trusted partner. Wallace had grown up with Carpenter in Bowling Green, Ohio, and he eventually followed Carpenter to Los Angeles to study at USC Cinema. Wallace worked on Carpenter’s early movies, like Assault on Precinct 13, and Carpenter tried to get him to direct Halloween II. Wallace passed, but when given the chance to make a movie separate from the world of Michael and Laurie Strode he jumped at the chance.
Reviewing Halloween III for the New York Times in 1982, Vincent Canby managed to get off one of the best movie summaries ever written: “Halloween III manages the not easy feat of being anti-children, anti-capitalism, anti-television and anti-Irish all at the same time.” It’s true! The movie takes place in northern California and revolves around Dr. Dan Challis (Tom Atkins), a divorced dad who’s barely around to see his kids because he’s always in surgery.
Challis soon encounters a man running for his life from someone in a grey suit who seems to deflate when hit by a slow-moving car. The man is taken to the hospital, where he panics after overhearing an obnoxious commercial for Halloween masks from a company called Silver Shamrock.
Later that night, another man in a grey suit comes to the hospital to finish the job before setting himself on fire in his car. The victim’s daughter, Ellie (Stacey Nelkin), obviously thinks something is off about her father’s demise, and she recruits Dr. Challis to help figure out what. Exactly what use her father’s ER doctor will be in solving a mystery is unclear, but Challis is down bad for the considerably younger Ellie, and he quickly decides to abandon his duties as a father in favor of tracking down the murderers of this random woman’s old man.
All signs point towards Santa Mira, a small town where everyone stares and acts weird. The only major business in town is Silver Shamrock, whose ads for spooky Halloween masks have become inescapable. And the one person in town who everyone loves is Silver Shamrock founder Conal Cochran (Dan O'Herlihy, who played another ‘80s Big Bad in RoboCop).
Don and Ellie share a room and are soon sleeping together, although they’re disturbed by the sudden gruesome end of motel neighbor Marge Guttman (Garn Stephens), who perished after fiddling with the Silver Shamrock logo that dislodged from its mask. Her face is mutilated, and bugs start crawling out. It’s genuinely disturbing.
Halloween III has many terrific scenes involving a weird variety of subjects, from magical rocks from Stonehenge, to androids with foaming yellow pus, to snakes pouring out of dead children’s mouths. The film wanted to merge magical spiritualism with the technological revolution of the 1980s, an ambitious idea that sort of works.
The one thing uniting all of Halloween III is its hatred of advertising. As Wallace said in an interview with The Movie Waffler, “my mistrust of corporate America, and commercial television, and all advertising, especially TV ads, knows no bounds.” Cochran’s ultimate plot revolves around bringing back the original, pagan version of Halloween through his TV ads, which are so annoying that it makes sense in more ways than one for Challis to kick through a TV near the end.
There’s a lot to admire about Halloween III, from John Carpenter’s fantastic score to Wallace’s unbridled feelings about American capitalism. As he told The Movie Waffler, the movie “could be interpreted as an early wake-up call to alert viewers to the takeover of our democracy by the one percent.” Even if the movie feels overstuffed at times, it wants to be something not just different from Halloween, but from other horror movies in general. And that alone makes it worth watching.
Halloween III is now streaming on Amazon Prime.