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By John Chard March 4, 2017
A different animal to the Halloween films that preceded and followed it, Season of the Witch is slowly but surely gaining an appreciation as a standalone horror film. Gone is Michael Myers’ indestructible killing machine, in his place is the nefarious Conal Cochran (Dan O’Herlihy), the owner of the Silver Shamrock corporation that specialises in Halloween masks. Cochran has a sinister plan this year - and it’s deadly - Dr. Daniel Challis (Tom Atkins) and Ellie Grimbridge (Stacey Nelkin) are caught in the middle of the vile plot and may just be the only salvation to Americana.
With Nigel Kneale involved in the writing process Season of the Witch is delightfully fiendish. There’s definite barbs being stung here about the commercialisation of holiday occasions, Cochran is intent on restoring Halloween to the true meaning of its origins, creating a Silver Shamrock world order in the process. Kneale would take his name off the credits when the studio tampered with his vision, a shame because his core essence remains - even if Cochran as a Warlock Wicker Man type could well have been genius.
With John Carpenter and Debrah Hill over seeing things from their production chairs, the picture had supervision of some standing. Tommy Lee Wallace maybe directing but it feels like a Carpenter movie, from Dean Cundey’s photography - Carpenter’s foreboding synth musical score – and the sharpness of the horror scenes (which are excellent), it’s not hard to see the “non Michael Myers” Halloween series that Carpenter had envisaged after part 2 had been and gone.
Boosted by an irritatingly potent advertisement jingle (a Silver Shamrock variation on London Bridge is Falling Down) that counts down the days to Halloween and the day of carnage, Season of the Witch is consistently gnawing away at the senses. Having Atkins and O’Herlihy propping up the acting helps, both are reliable performers for this material, while the race against time finale has edge of the seat credentials.
It doesn’t all work of course, there’s some drag and the narrative feels schizophrenic at times, while if it wasn’t for Cundey’s camera work then Wallace’s inept direction of scenes would be over exposed. Yet as it asks Halloween franchise fans some forgiveness for not actually being part of the franchise, it delivers a smart sci-fi horror hybrid that’s not without shock and awe. 7/10
By talisencrw March 4, 2017
I distinctly remember being in Grade 8 when the film came out, and for four major reasons: 1) The excellent TV commercial, with John Carpenter's spooky music and the spider crawling out of the mouth of the mask; 2) The decent book adaptation written for young adults, that I read at the time, and thoroughly enjoyed; 3) Karen Carpenter died of a heart attack from anorexia nervosa; and 4) Major songs on the radio around that time were 'Centerfold' by The J. Geils Band and 'Bette Davis Eyes' by Kim Carnes. Though I had not yet seen the previous two films and wasn't old enough (the R-rating, and my parents were somewhat strict about that kind of thing), I really wanted to see it, but over the years, I never really got around to it, until recently I found used the entire 'Halloween' franchise on a 10-blu ray pack, and no longer have any sort of excuse, really.
I loved Wallace's work in 'Stephen King's It' (except for the last half-hour, but that's probably the book's fault and not the director's) and I thought his 'Vampires: Los Muertos' was rather underrated, so an added attraction for me was to watch his directorial debut here. He impressed me. I enjoyed the film and all of the extras on its blu ray very much. If you like horror films at all, you should watch this.
Protagonists Tom Atkins and Stacey Nelkin are very good here, and I liked Dan O'Herlihy even better than when I had previously seen him in 'The Virgin Queen', 'Imitation of Life', 'The Cabinet of Caligari', 'Good Against Evil' and the first two 'RoboCop' films, and, as always, Dean Cundey provides excellent cinematographical work and the soundtrack by Carpenter and Alan Hogarth is dependably solid. Don't bother with the negative reviews that came out at the time the film was released: Most people were upset that the film didn't have Michael Myers in it, and didn't give it a chance. Find out for yourself--in my humble opinion, it's worth both purchasing and at least a rewatch.
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