by Austin Vashaw

Two Cents is an original column akin to a book club for films. The Cinapse team will program films and contribute our best, most insightful, or most creative thoughts on each film using a maximum of 200 words each. Guest writers and fan comments are encouraged, as are suggestions for future entries to the column. Join us as we share our two cents on films we love, films we are curious about, and films we believe merit some discussion.

The Pick

$14 Million.

That’s how much Halloween III made at the domestic box office. While it wasn’t technically a flop (it made made back its tiny budget several times over), it was a huge disappointment compared to the record-setting take of the original ($70M) and the modest success of its sequel ($24M), especially factoring in the largely negative response from baffled viewers who wanted Michael Myers. It seemed to be a dire case of diminishing returns for the young Halloween franchise.

John Carpenter and his team had always envisioned the series as a sort of anthology, returning each year with a new Halloween-themed tale, but by creating a direct sequel to the original with Halloween II, the producers shot their own idea in the foot. In that moment, Halloween became Michael Myers franchise, for better or worse. When JC and friends tried to continue their original plan with the Myers-less, completely original and high-concept Halloween III directed by Tommy Lee Wallace, it was too late. The film met a cold response from critics and audiences alike. The producers relented, and when Halloween 4 arrived, the subtitle was anything but subtle: The Return of Michael Myers.

In recent years though, the reputation of Halloween III has made a near-total about-face, with many fans embracing the film’s unique charms: genre stalwart badass Tom Atkins in the lead; a paranoia-infused plot that invokes Invasion Of The Body Snatchers; an increasingly crazy story that involves Stonehenge, witchcraft, and faces exploding with lasers, bugs, and snakes; and of course that maddeningly memorable jingle.

What do YOU say? Was Halloween III a gigantic misstep that should never have removed the series’ star bogeyman? Or is it perhaps the Halloween II that should have been?

Did you get a chance to watch along with us this week? Want to recommend a great (or not so great) film for the whole gang to cover? Comment below or post on our Facebook or hit us up on Twitter!

Next Week’s Pick:

Trick Or Treat continues!

It’s our tradition with the series to try to squeeze in at least one more classy or prestigious title among all the spookablast fun. This year, we’re checking out esteemed director Werner Herzog’s 1979 arthouse reimagining of Nosferatu, the original of which was itself a reimagining of Stoker’s Dracula. Herzog’s oft-collaborator and notable weirdo Klaus Kinski takes on the role of the Count.

There are actually two versions of the film: the original German Nosferatu: Phantom der Nacht, and an English-language version known as Nosferatu The Vampyre. Either version is fine for participation in Two Cents! Available streaming in English on Amazon, Shudder, and Fandor, the last of which has the German version as well.

Would you like to be a guest in next week’s Two Cents column? Simply watch and send your under-200-word review to twocents(at)!

Our Guests

Trey Lawson: “Halloween…The night HE came home.” Wait. Sorry. Scratch that — wrong Halloween. Season of the Witch infamously abandons the premise of the first two Halloween films, replacing the established formula of The Shape (aka Michael Myers) hunting Laurie Strode and Dr. Loomis with a whole new set of characters and a very different approach to horror. The film is far less straightforward, with a more mysterious, investigative bent as the protagonists try to unravel a conspiracy involving Halloween masks. Tom Atkins and his glorious mustache deliver a fine performance as a doctor swept into the mystery by a pair of suspicious deaths at his hospital. Stacey Nelkin as the daughter of one of the dead men is less memorable, but her performance is better than similar roles I’ve seen in other horror/thriller films. Notably, the mask factory owner is Dan O’Herlihy (The Old Man in Robocop), who has no problem chewing the scenery with gusto. In addition the synth score by John Carpenter and Alan Howarth is very effective, and it holds up as one of Carpenter’s best.

While the tone and style of Halloween III differs significantly from the tense suburban horror of Halloween or even the gorier early 80s slasher style of Halloween II, Season of the Witch features some impressively creepy visuals and a few surprisingly brutal death scenes. But in addition, the film has a vibe that’s as much sci-fi thriller as horror. In plot and tone it has more in common with movies like Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Futureworld or even The Quatermass Xperiment than it does with the Michael Myers entries of the franchise. To that end Halloween III: Season of the Witch may not make everyone’s list for annual Halloween season viewing, but it’s an entertaining, creepy change of pace from the usual suspects of supernatural monsters and masked killers.

Verdict: Treat (@T_Lawson)

Brett Gallman: I’ve never had much of a problem with the Shape-sized hole in Halloween III. Sure, it was a bit bewildering the first time I eagerly plucked it from a video store shelf and noticed Michael Myers was nowhere to be found, but there’s no sense on dwelling upon what’s not in Season of the Witch when it offers so much otherwise. Chief among its virtues is an insane plot that escalates from Tom Atkins wooing Stacey Nelkin with a six-pack of Miller to this odd couple battling a megalomaniacal toymaker hell-bent on killing the world’s children. Somehow, lasers and Stonehenge are involved, but neither of these facts is quite as terrific as the climax going full Bond movie, complete with a ridiculous display of mask-tossing, an escape-via-air-vent, and one of the most chilling, villainous speeches ever delivered.

Even if all of this weren’t directed under the watchful eye of Tommy Lee Wallace’s damn fine Carpenter impersonation, Halloween III would obviously be entertaining as hell. However, the director’s straight-faced commitment to this material makes it the real deal: while no one could blame the powers-that-be for retreating to Myers after this film’s dismal box office outing, Season of the Witch offers proof that Carpenter’s original anthology idea certainly had some creative juice behind it.

Verdict: Treat (@BrettGallman)

Jaime Burchardt: For as long as I can remember while growing up, people had unkind words for Halloween III: Season of the Witch. They all combined to shout out one true meaning: Bastard child. While it’s definitely unkind, it does stem from the fact that this particular sequel in the Shatner-faced franchise is unlike any of the others (No Myers!). But, times change. Every so often we can look at a movie for what it really is after years, sometimes decades: a true gem of its genre. Season of the Witch is the debut of Tommy Lee Wallace (It, Fright Night 2), and he chose a path for a horror franchise sequel that at the time was going to feature a new story every film. The plan was obviously abandoned, but in going back to Myers, it just makes this one stand out. And that’s not the only reason it’s special. It’s got an amazing Tom Atkins performance, an ending that’ll raise your pulse regardless of your current living status, and that damn Silver Shamrock song. Playing it announces October, and any potential doom to come. What’s not to love? It’s a certifiable horror treasure.

Verdict: Treat (@jaimeburchardt)

Jesse Crump: There are some movies that I revisit every October because of how well they capture the Halloween season. Halloween III: Season of the Witch has been one of those movies for at least the past ten years. It manages to capture both the horror that comes with Halloween as well as the spirit of the day itself.

For the longest time, I had known of the third movie in the franchise solely for the bad reputation it had gained. People didn’t like Season of the Witch because it didn’t have Michael Myers. It was a disowned entry in the franchise for most of the fans, which I had put off based on reputation.

When I saw it, I fell in love instantly. The franchise was meant to branch out in anthology form. This installment was the perfect encapsulation of that direction. It told a solid, scary story about a mystery surrounding Halloween masks. This was a great contrast to the two movies before, showing how different the anthological stories could be.

What made the movie standout and truly helped me fall in love was how weird it was. It was a takedown of Halloween commercialism, first and foremost, but also involved robots and Stonehenge. It was off the walls fun with a catchy jingle to boot.

On a side note, I wrote a fan fiction remake treatment for Halloween III: Season of the Witch when I was in high school. It was badass. I wish I still had that treatment.

Verdict: Treat (@JurassicGriffin)

Brendan Agnew: Can I be brutally honest for a second? I love John Carpenter’s Halloween, but… it probably would have been best for everybody if Michael Myers had never come back.

Because I would love nothing more than a reality where Halloween III was the start of a new direction for the series.

That Halloween III: Season of the Witch is at all controversial is a little astounding to me. The film is absolutely a crackerjack spook yarn, trading the singular iconography of Carpenter’s “The Shape” of the original classic to a more ethereal foreboding that permeates the entire holiday and all its accoutrements. In the effort to create more of a loosely-connected “feature anthology” series around the titular Holiday, Carpenter and director Tommy Lee Wallace craft what I can only describe as an 80’s horror take on the paranoid conspiracy thriller, and damn but if they don’t deliver.

Season of the Witch isn’t the perfect example of genre filmmaking that Halloween is, but it’s a bold step in a fresh direction that still feels of a piece with the eerily familiar but very overstated reality of that film. Tom Atkins finds a balance between gruff confidence and abject horror that will feel welcome to fans of The Fog or Night of the Creeps, and the ticking clock of the film’s title cards are a great way of keeping the tension going until literally the final moment of the film.

Don’t let the bum rap keep you away from this one, especially if you’re a fan of newer cult holiday hits like Trick ‘R Treat and Cabin in the Woods. Season of the Witch deserves your attention.

Verdict: Treat (@BLCAgnew)

Matt Miller: We all know the story of Season of the Witch. It was hated upon release due to its lack of everyone’s favorite ghostly stalker of lonely suburban streets and under-lit hospital hallways. However, Halloween III represents the seed of a horror anthology by John Carpenter and Debra Hill that, if allowed a little water and sunlight, would’ve represented some unique 80s horror storytelling. Let’s face it, Season of the Witch isn’t the best-written, acted, or shot film — and don’t get me started about what a terrible father Tom Atkins plays — but the unnerving story Tommy Lee Wallace slowly carves away is bar none one of the best treats (ha!) the series has to offer. From the pixelated jack-o-lantern opening to the final screams echoing into the night, the gut-wrenching reveal never fails to swarm my senses with dread. Below the placid surface of cheesy acting, abhorrent dialogue and uninspired characters lies society’s rotting corpse whose smell slowly but surely invades the audience’s nostrils. The screens we willingly and eagerly let into our lives — those damning, mind-controlling, Capitalist-God-machines will be our end. Don’t sit too close to your sets, kids. It’s almost time.

Verdict: Treat (@mmscripts)

The Team

Justin: There are some legitimately unnerving scenes and many interesting ideas, but I just don’t care enough. I want to… I really do… but… well…

I really had been looking forward to finally seeing this, but I wasn’t impressed. Despite bits and pieces that I admired, I can do without seeing Halloween III ever again. It feels uneven; or, perhaps, it’s better describing as having significant pacing issues. I don’t know if the film ever knew exactly what it wanted to be.

This all said, I get why many others revere the film. It’s different. It stands out in a series that doesn’t veer much from its formula otherwise. And, as someone who doesn’t care much for the series and believes the original is not remotely near Carpenter’s top work, I am happy to see a movie that is decidedly unique.

Maybe I will watch it again in a few years and see if I “get” it more then, but for now… meh.

Verdict: Trick (@thepaintedman)

Liam: It is difficult for me to be diplomatic about Halloween III. It is a film that I have been converted on. When I was a child I missed the sanity, the certainty, the predictability of Michael Myers. I longed for the order, even in terror, that “The Shape” provided. However, when I became a man, I put away childish things, and saw this film for what it truly is. We all know this is what Carpenter intended, a series of films titled Halloween which shared name and fear alone, and none of the plot and back story that were later injected to explain the unexplainable. This authorial intent alone does not convince me though, but rather the magic/sci-fi infused unease of this film. The Atkins sexuality and intensity bursting from the screen. The strange, autumnal terror of this film, a film which somehow becomes everything I love to feel conflicted over during this season. The performances are not subtle, but I love that. Neither are the effects of the masks, as they ooze and creep and lurk. Crawling and slimy things erupting from plastic, devouring in some sense the young we offer up to this insane holiday, this night where anything goes.

Verdict: Treat (@liamrulz)

Brendan: Halloween III has plenty of faults (most especially a deadly middle section where very little happens) but for the most part it is a delightfully nuts little horror story that should by rights have portended an ongoing anthology series. It didn’t, the producers brought back Michael Myers and ground him into dust and then snorted the dust and then drove, dust-fueled, 500 MPH into a telephone pole dressed like Rob Zombie, and we are all the poorer for it.

What makes Halloween III so fun is the way that the silly seasonal spookfest is interwoven with Carpenter’s favorite themes of paranoia and dehumanization. Sure, Tommy Lee Wallace is the writer-director here, but the notion of a TV commercial that syncs up with culturally-ubiquitous plastic product to melt the skull out of anyone using it is pure Carpenter, and we would see him revisit these themes again and again, refining his approach until he nailed it with the still-resonant They Live.

Halloween III unfortunately exists as an also-ran to both Carpenter’s career and the Halloween franchise. It’s too bad, because there’s pure mad genius on sporadic display here, and it would’ve been a helluva thing to see what other ghastly tales they might have had up their sleeves.

Verdict: Treat (@TheTrueBrendanF)

Austin: It’s such as shame that Halloween III was ever a black sheep of the family, because I think this direction for the franchise would’ve been incredible. The Myers story is great, but is pretty straightforward as a self-contained bogeyman/home invasion type of thing. Halloween III, on the other hand, goes all in on a high concept idea that ties in closer to the idea of the holiday itself and posits apocalyptic consequences.

On this rewatch I was a bit more aware of some major plot holes (like why on earth shopkeepers are trying to pick up mask orders for their stores on the day before Halloween), but they don’t detract much from the enjoyment of a fun an inventive Halloween story with one of the all-time greatest kill sequences, mixing technology and the supernatural in a novel way.

Ultimately, Halloween III is proof positive that the original idea of an annual “anthology” franchise could really have been something special.

Verdict: Treat (@VforVashaw)

The Verdict

Trick: 1 (ugh, Justin) | Treat: 9
 Verdict: Treat

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