*. OK, you probably know the story behind this movie. Michael Myers seemed to have died pretty conclusively at the end of Halloween II, so John Carpenter had the idea of making subsequent films as stand-alones that would present scary stories with a Halloween theme. The series would take on the character of a horror anthology, of which Season of the Witch was to be the first instalment. As things turned out it would also be the last, since audiences just wanted more Michael Myers. Even critics were mystified, and perhaps, without admitting as much, disappointed.
*. Sticking with that critical response for just a second, Roger Ebert made a howler of a mistake in his review, saying that the lab technician is sifting through the ashes of Michael Myers (incinerated at the end of the previous film) when in fact she’s going through the ashes of the robot who blows himself up after killing the toyseller. Overall, Ebert missed the boat badly here, calling it “one of those Identikit movies, assembled out of familiar parts from other, better movies.” I don’t think this is fair at all. There are certainly homages present, particularly to Invasion of the Body Snatchers, but I would rate this as about original a horror film as you could get at the time.
*. The original screenplay was written by British legend Nigel Kneale but he wanted his name taken off of it when they added a whole bunch of gore he hadn’t wanted (Kneale’s brand of horror is decidely lower key). Oddly enough, Rick Rosenthal was also upset when more gore was added to Halloween II. What did these people thinking they were getting into?
*. I actually like the gore in this movie. The kills are extreme, but they make a point about the supernatural strength of the killers by having them tear people’s heads off or crush their skulls with their bare hands. Later we will find out that they are robots. Then, the way that the heads melt down and spawn various bugs and snakes evokes the supernatural in a different way, while providing the movie (and indeed the entire Halloween series) with one of its most iconic moments.
*. I remember shaking my head when Tom Atkins chucks his mask neatly over the security camera. What are the chances he could have made such a throw? As it turns out, the chances were very poor. It took them more than 40 takes to get the shot.
*. I wonder how many real people there are living in Santa Mira. The bodyguards are all robots, as is everyone working at the factory (Conal Cochran’s imported labour force is what the town drunk complains of). I suppose the cops are too. But if everyone in the town is a robot they wouldn’t need to announce a curfew, would they? This is probably not a point worth puzzling over, but it made me curious.
*. The plot is bananas, which bothers some people. I found it . . . different, and just shrugged at its implausibility. I mean, a druid (Dan O’Herlihy) who has a town full of androids steals one of the megaliths from Stonehenge and brings it to the U.S. so that he can put pieces of it into Halloween masks? I wasn’t taking any of this mix of “advanced and antique technology” seriously. How could anyone? You just have to go along with it.
*. If you do go along with it I think it moves pretty well and provides decent entertainment. I enjoyed all the parallels to Invasion of the Body Snatchers. I thought using the captured family as test subjects was hilarious. The corporate satire worked well, reminding me of what would be done a few years later in The Stuff (1985), with the robots in gray flannel suits being an especially nice touch. I liked O’Herlihy as the villainous CEO wishing Dr. Challis a happy Halloween. And finally I loved the ending, with the way Atkins roars into the phone recalling “Look to the skies!” or “You’re next! You’re next!”
*. In brief, I can say without hesitation that I liked Season of the Witch a lot more than Halloween II, which was just a bore. In fact, I might even call this my second-favourite instalment in the Halloween franchise, rating it only below the original. But really such a ranking is meaningless since this is the one Halloween movie that isn’t like any of the others, to the point where many people don’t consider it to be a Halloween movie at all. Which is fair enough and not a judgment I’d disagree with. I’d just call it cheap and silly but still more interesting and at least as well done as most of the other generic horror crap that was being made in the ’80s. Though not a personal favourite, it is a movie that I’ve found worth watching again, which is more than I can say for most of its peers.