Cinema Sounds: Halloween III: Season of the Witch


    Note: Two of the clips embedded below feature graphic content. If you are under the age of…oh, you know the drill.

    Yes kids, you too can own one of the big Halloween three. That’s right, THREE horrific masks to chose from. They’re fun, they’re frightening, and they glow in the dark.”

    There are good movies, and there are bad movies. However, there are those movies that fall into that rare category of indeterminable. Halloween III: Season of the Witch is one such film. It’s a pretty boring film with a pretty ridiculous plot (madman plans to kill children via magic Halloween masks), and it lights a fire under Halloween fans who remain furious over it having nothing to do with Michael Myers. The movie has five things going for it, though, the first being the presence of cult icon Tom Atkins. The second is a great score by John Carpenter and Alan Howarth. Three, four, and five refer to specific scenes that stay with the viewer, no matter what they thought of the film as a whole. So that’s it; there are five things this movie has going-

    Eight more days ’til Halloween, Halloween, Halloween. Eight more days ‘til Halloween. Silver Shamrock!”

    Oh, I guess there are six things going for Halloween III. That damned Silver Shamrock song! Before we get to the running commercial in the film, we must address the Carpenter score. One of Carpenter’s calling cards is that he likes to run his opening credits over limited action. Sometimes that means a black background with a white-letter crawl. In the case of Halloween III, it’s of a television reception kicking in and out, ultimately revealing a jack-o-lantern.

    The score is closer to Halloween II than Halloween, with its reliance on synthesizers instead of piano. The atmosphere is not affected in any way. The opening scene shows us a man on the run for his life, with more memorable musical accompaniment. There is a repeated synth-line, emphasizing the position this man finds himself in. With little-to-no-dialogue, the mood is contingent on the music and the direction of Tommy Lee Wallace (Fright Night Part 2, It). It was one of the last great Carpenter scores before falling back on the dreaded guitar-based scores of They Live and Big Trouble in Little China.


    The old man on the run in the early stages of the film turns out to know something devastating about a Halloween mask manufacturer. The company is…I can’t remember-

    Six more days ‘til Halloween, Halloween, Halloween. Six more days ‘til Halloween. Silver Shamrock!”

    Right. “Silver Shamrock”. He gets killed before revealing too much of the secret, but his daughter and the doctor attending him (Mr. Atkins) are determined to find out. So they head to Silver Shamrock to get down to the bottom of it. The rest of the movie deals with their obstacles and so on. Exciting!

    However, there are those three scenes. The first deals with a woman who buys a mask for one of her kids, but it turns out to be somewhat defective. The silver tag falls of the mask, and she picks it up to investigate. She becomes curious due to the strange software that seems to be on the tag, so she starts picking at it. Keep in mind we haven’t heard a film score for a few minutes when suddenly-ZAP!

    During the reveal of the woman’s face, there is a score playing in the background. It’s very low in the mix, but it’s certainly there. The decision calls back to a time where music could be subtle and not too in-your-face, the treatment we get from many of today’s horror/thriller films. The next great scene is an example of how repetition can drive a viewer insane (in a glorious way). A family is brought into a test room at the Silver Shamrock facility. The husband and wife watch a company commercial, unaware of the horrors that lie ahead as their child puts on his Silver Shamrock pumpkin mask.


    The repeated notes of “London Bridge is Falling Down” (where the Silver Shamrock song comes from) add to a already disturbing scene. It’s not only what we the audience hears, but its what this family (and Tom Atkins) is hearing, as well.

    The same effect of repetition is used in the film’s final scene. Atkins’ character has escaped, discovering that any kids wearing a Silver Shamrock mask and watching the company’s commercial will die! Our hero Atkins has managed to stop most of the networks from airing the spot. Unfortunately, one channel has not removed the spot, and as the music blares on in the background, we are left with our own chilling conclusions.

    The Carpenter score returns as the end credits roll, and we are left with a feeling of uncertainty. “Wow. What a boring movie.” “Yeah, but those three scenes, and that song is in my head!” “Yeah, but seriously, what a boring movie.” Regardless of how you feel about Halloween III: Season of the Witch, the score is terrific, those scenes are very memorable, and, of course…



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