Friday Night At The Home Drive-In: Halloween III: Season of the Witch (1982)

I rented Halloween III: Season of the Witch (1982) on Beta when it was a brand new release. I had been wanting to see it when it was playing in the theatres, but alas I could not convince my Dad to take me. Perhaps he was still angry about having been convinced to take me to Friday the 13th Part III (1982), I’m not sure. In any case, I did not get to see it on the big screen. But I did my best to make up for it during those 24 hours or so that I had the Beta tape in my possession. I watched the movie three times before having to return it to Video Zone before 6:00 PM the next day. 

I suppose it goes without saying that I really liked the movie. A lot.

In the coming months I would rent it again with friends, having insisted that they NEEDED to see this movie. I think for the most part they were less impressed than I was.

“Where’s Michael Myers?” they would say.

“He died in part two,” I would say. “This is a whole new story about Halloween…”

And as the movie unfolded in front of us, and my friends started to look more confused, I would do my best to explain things to them…  but they basically thought I was crazy.

I also remember trying to convince my Dad that Halloween III was a brilliant piece of filmmaking. He listened to me as I described the plot in painstaking detail. He never once said that anything didn’t make sense, or try to offer any criticisms of what I was saying, but I got the impression that he didn’t quite believe me. He certainly never did watch the movie, as far as I know.

So, it seemed like I was basically alone in my appreciation of this movie, and I guess I kind of accepted that.  I would still tell people, who hadn’t see it, that Halloween III was a smart and clever movie – but I stopped trying to show it to them. I guess I didn’t want to be disappointed if they didn’t agree with me. And maybe I figured it was better to let them imagine that it was a good movie (whatever that might mean to them), than to make them watch it and look at me strangely (as most people tended to do).

In those days, I couldn’t really buy movies. They were available to rent, of course, but none of the stores were selling movies at that point. Well, one of my neighbourhood stores, which also sold VCRs and other equipment, did have a small display of videotapes for sale. But the price stickers said $79.99 or $99.99 or maybe $54.49 – if it was a bargain.

I think my allowance in those days was somewhere between 50 cents and $2.00, so the idea of spending $50 – $100 on ANYTHING was beyond my comprehension.

Incidentally, that video store – which I think had a name like Video Concepts, or maybe Video Connection – didn’t last very long. It was very close to my house; less than a five minute walk. And it was about three doors down from Video Zone, one of our favourite stores. Video Concepts was a much bigger store, and I liked it. But apparently it was repeatedly burglarized late at night. Thieves would pull up in a van, remove the entire front door of the store (so much for locks), and then load out all of the expensive equipment. Nothing that Video Concepts did, in terms of adding security, prevented those crooks from getting in. After about three or four of these incidents the store had to fold.

I remember that place having the only copies of The Concrete Jungle (1982) and Cannibal Girls (1973) that I had ever seen at the point. It was a sad day when it closed. 

Since nobody was selling movies, or only selling them for a ludicrously high price, I couldn’t buy the movies I loved and watch them over and over again. I had to rent them every time (which added up), or wait for them to come on TV (which wasn’t that often). The only other thing I could do was buy the movie tie-in paperback books and read them. Halloween III is one of the ones I bought and read. And I enjoyed it, too.

I watched Halloween III as many times as I could back in the 1980s, but eventually my pace slowed down and I don’t think I watched it at all during the ’90s, or the early 2000s. I’m not sure why, exactly. It wasn’t a decision. I guess I just got busy with other things, and other movies. And Halloween III became a fond memory of my childhood and teenage years.

At some point I bought a DVD copy of Halloween III and, after what must have been a fifteen or twenty year layoff, I finally watched it again. It was every bit as enjoyable as it had been all those years ago. But I was also experiencing it on a completely different level. There was the nostalgia factor, of course. But I think my jaded adult eyes were able to see the tongue in cheek aspects, the satire, the homage, the relationship that Halloween III had to movies like Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956). The strong, charismatic villainous character of Conal Cochran, played brilliantly by Dan O’Herlihy, now reminded me of the great horror characters of the  past, played by actors like Vincent Price or Boris Karloff. Conal Cochran was his own unique character, of course, but he (and his complex evil plan) seemed to have more in common with classic horror villains like Dr Phibes or Edward Lionheart than Michael Myers and Jason Voorheyes (who were the more typical horror villains of the ’80s). Maybe that’s why I had liked Halloween III so much: it was new, but it already felt like a classic. 

My DVD has now been replaced by the Collector’s Edition Blu-ray, which I have already watched twice. And I can say with confidence that Halloween III: Season of the Witch (1982) is a #NotQuiteClassicCinema favourite of mine. It has been rediscovered and re-evaluated in recent years, and nowadays many people seem to like it, and respect it, as much as I do. Some of those hardcore fans might wonder why I call it Not Quite Classic, when I clearly love it and also use the word “classic” to describe it. I would urge them to click on the hashtag and take a look at my explanation of the term. But I would also say this: for years the movie got little to no respect at all. It was about as far from being a “classic” as any film could be (in the minds of those who just didn’t get it). Now it’s finally gaining ground, but it’s still not quite as revered and/or appreciated as many other “classic” horror films. Maybe one day it will be. Maybe not. But it is, in my opinion, a perfect example of the kind of #NotQuiteClassicCinema that I love, and it will be, for me, a welcome addition to any future #FridayNightAtTheHomeDriveIn – particularly on, or around, Halloween.