Halloween III: Season of the Witch (1982)

If you create a user account, you can add your own review of this DVD

Released 16-Feb-2001

Cover Art

This review is sponsored by
BUY IT

Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Horror Main Menu Audio & Animation
Theatrical Trailer
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1982
Running Time 92:10 (Case: 96)
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By Tommy Lee Wallace
Studio
Distributor

Beyond Home Entertainment
Starring Tom Atkins
Dan O'Herlihy
Stacy Nelkin
Ralph Strait
Case C-Button-Version 2
RPI $32.95 Music John Carpenter
Alan Howarth


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.40:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

Halloween III: Season Of The Witch. In short: previous movies be damned, we're going to make a sequel that has no connection whatsoever with the previous two films.

The film begins with an elderly gentleman by the name of Harry Gumbridge (Al Berry) fleeing through Northern California from some rather nasty men in suits. He is brought to a hospital where Doctor Daniel Challis (Tom Atkins) works, clutching a Halloween mask for dear life and babbling incoherently about how "they're going to kill us all".

Although the hospital in Halloween III is more densely populated than the one shown in Halloween II, it isn't quite enough to stop one of the men in the business suits from getting into the hospital and killing Harry. As Daniel pursues this suited man, said assassin gets into his car, pours petrol upon himself, and lights a blaze that causes the car to explode. As the authorities try to piece together who the nameless man in the suit was and why he'd go to so much trouble to kill some anonymous elderly gentleman, Harry's daughter arrives to identify the body.

Ellie Gumbridge (Stacy Nelkin) later finds Daniel and informs him that her father was in the business of selling Halloween masks and other such children's novelties. At that time, the world's largest manufacturer of Halloween masks and novelties happens to be a Santa Mira-based company called Silver Shamrock, which is headed by an ageing Irishman by the name of Conal Cochran (played with aplomb by the ever-charming Dan O'Herlihy).

Ellie wants some answers as to why Silver Shamrock would want a sweet old man like her father dead, and Daniel wants Ellie, so they head off to Santa Mira together and book into a motel where they pose as a married couple. While we are in Santa Mira, we see a town that looks almost like the village of the damned, right down to the robotic workers at the Silver Shamrock factory, and the surveillance cameras that remind us of the fact that our heroes (along with everyone else in the town) are being watched.

Among the things that detract from this film are a Silver Shamrock mock-commercial that features one of the most annoying themes ever written by human hands (which is repeated, oh, I don't know, like about twenty-three billion times), and acting from everyone bar the three leads that you could put your drink on top of.

It has been said that if you forget about Michael Myers' non-appearance in this film (which is hard, given the design of the menus on this DVD) and try to make allowances for what was trying to be done with this film, it works much better. This is partly true, as watching the film without expecting any continuity from the previous two films does make it much easier to tolerate the bad points. When this allowance is made, we are left with an average B-grade horror film that could have been made in the 1950s for television audiences, laced with a touch of 1980s cynicism and production values. Still, I would strongly encourage renting the disc, or otherwise getting to see the film for rental prices before buying, just to make certain that the absence of Myers doesn't bother you as much as it has some of the 1132 IMDB users that have given the film a 3.4 out of ten. I thought they were being a little harsh, but I've watched this film a number of times in the past nine years and gotten used to it, so I might be being too generous.

By the way, keep your ears open for Cochran's explanation of Halloween at 71:20, which could only have been written by a Catholic school student who has never set foot in Ireland or any of the Celtic lands. It would be another fifteen years before such a fearmongering load of drivel would be spewed by anyone in Hollywood, and the place they chose to do it was a little comedy called The Craft.

Don't wish to see plot synopses in the future? Change your configuration.

Transfer Quality

Video

The video transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1, and it is 16x9 Enhanced. There is, however, a slight problem with this: both the Internet Movie Database and the generally authoritative Widescreen Review state the proper aspect ratio of this film to be 2.40:1, and it appears that the source material was vertically elongated in order to achieve this. You could theoretically achieve the proper ratio on a 4:3 television with a manual 16:9 mode by setting the DVD player to output a 4:3 picture, then engaging the 16:9 mode, but the question is "Why should we have to?"

The transfer is very sharp throughout the film, as much as one can really ask for from a film of this age. The shadow detail is still quite ordinary, although this is not as much of an issue as was the case in the previous two Halloween films. Once again, this is more an issue with the film stocks that were used during principal photography than any specific stage of the transfer process. There is no low-level noise to spoil the dark parts of the transfer.

The colours are still rather muted, but this is as much an artistic choice as it is an issue with the age of the film. It is interesting to note the appearance of mock commercials on television screens, which figure prominently in this film. These commercials look so faded and washed out that it wouldn't surprise me to learn they were originally filmed using a home camcorder and then projected onto the screens with a modified VCR, a common technique in Hollywood films at the time, before being filmed. Aside from this one complaint, however, the colour saturation really cannot be faulted.

MPEG artefacts were not a problem for this transfer, with the bitrate being surprisingly high and the source material being surprisingly clean. Film-to-video artefacts consisted of some minor telecine wobble early in the film that was only mildly noticeable, and the usual amount of aliasing. Standout examples of aliasing occurred at 19:21, 24:40,27:22, 43:55, and 70:37. The problem wasn't with the severity of the aliasing, which was never too bad, but with its frequency, which was enough to make me dread camera pans during daytime sequences. Film artefacts consisted of some mild black and white marks on the picture that were never too intrusive.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

Much like the audio transfer for Halloween II, the audio transfer that has been afforded to Halloween III can be described as a modest improvement upon the film's original optical mono soundtrack.

There is only one soundtrack in this audio transfer: the original English dialogue, remixed into a surround-encoded Dolby Digital 2.0 format with a bitrate of 224 kilobits per second. The dialogue is mostly clear and easy to understand, but there are moments when it does get a little muffled. There is a low hiss throughout the soundtrack that intrudes a little on dialogue intelligibility during the quieter moments of the film, and a pop reminiscent of those frequently heard with vinyl platters was present at 00:14. To add to the fun, distortion can be heard at several points in the soundtrack, usually when a musical cue is present. At 52:36, a musical cue can be heard that features tinny and distorted sounding keyboards which are less pleasant to listen to than radio noise (okay, almost), and it doesn't let up until 55:01. I'd be willing to guess that the distortion was simply caused by the limitations of the original recording techniques. There are no problems with audio sync.

The score music is credited to John Carpenter and Alan Howarth, but the former's involvement is limited to a singular use of the original Halloween theme late in the film. The rest of the score music is shrill, focused upon the higher octaves (which accounts for a lot of the distortion present), and rather annoying. Adding to the fun is the theme from the Silver Shamrock mock-commercial, which is about as pleasant to listen to as a cat vomiting. On the bright side is the fact that the score music is not present in this film as much as was the case in the previous two films.

The surround channels are used infrequently to support the music and some sound effects, such as those heard during the drive to Santa Mira. In comparison to the surround channel usage on Halloween, this might as well be a mono soundtrack with the occasional stereo element, which is forgivable since most of the film is dialogue-based. The subwoofer was occasionally used to support the music and some explosive effects, and it did so without calling any special attention to itself. In my view, a Dolby Digital 1.0 or 2.0 stereo mix could have done the job just as well.

The subwoofer was not discretely encoded, and no low-frequency content in this soundtrack required my receiver to engage it for support. This poor speaker was left in the corner to do nothing.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

Menu

The menu is heavily animated with Dolby Digital 2.0 surround-encoded audio, and it is not 16x9 Enhanced. It is extremely misleading with the presence of the trademark modified William Shatner mask, since Michael Myers makes no appearance in this film at all.

Theatrical Trailer

The theatrical trailer is presented Full Frame with Dolby Digital 2.0 surround-encoded audio, and it is not 16x9 Enhanced. In its favour is the fact that it looks much cleaner and more well-preserved than the theatrical trailer included with Halloween II.

Censorship

    There is censorship information available for this title. Click here to read it (a new window will open). WARNING: Often these entries contain MAJOR plot spoilers.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    The Region 4 version of this disc misses out on;

The Region 1 version of this disc misses out on;

According to Widescreen Review, the Region 1 video transfer exhibits "mediocre quality with a dated appearance", is "somewhat sharp, but fine detail and definition are wanting, for a picture that is quite plugged-up". Adding to Region 1's problems are "aliasing problems, artefacts and minor pixelization", leaving them with a picture that is "at best, mediocre throughout". While it is quite unfortunate that we miss out on the proper aspect ratio, the clean and mostly good-looking picture we do have would probably be preferable to what is described as an awful-looking NTSC picture.

    Unfortunately, the R4 version is missing about ninety seconds of footage (with the PAL speedup taken into account), mostly involving the scenes in which persons are killed. The cuts are very precise and hard to detect when one hasn't seen the film in a long time, but the end result is that with the quality issues regarding the R1 version(s) and the misframing of the local disc, this censorship issue tips the scales towards buying neither version.

Summary

Halloween III: Season Of The Witch was a bold effort to steer the franchise in a new direction that is bogged down by a lack of suspense, excitement, decent score music, or good acting.

Time has been kinder to the video quality of this film than that of Halloween II, although it is a real pity that we miss out on the proper aspect ratio.

The audio quality, however, is dated at the best of times and downright annoying at the worst. If ever a film cried out for a new mix from the original elements, this is the one.

The extras consist of a singular theatrical trailer.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Dean McIntosh (Don't talk about my bio. We don't wanna know.)
Thursday, February 01, 2001
Review Equipment
DVDToshiba SD-2109, using S-Video output
DisplaySamsung CS-823AMF (80cm). Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 576i (PAL).
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationSony STR DE-835
SpeakersYamaha NS-45 Front Speakers, Yamaha NS-90 Rear Speakers, Yamaha NSC-120 Centre Speaker, JBL Digital 10 Active Subwoofer

Other Reviews
DVD Net - Paul D (read my bio here or check out my music at MP3.com.)
The DVD Bits - David E
DVD Plaza - Anthony C (read my bio)

Comments (Add)
Extremely censored - CannibalFerox
re: Extremely censored - Mickey Juice
re: censorship - chaossphere