Thrift Store Finds Hallo-Weekends – Halloween III: The Season of the Witch movie novelization
This week, we return to my old beloved stomping grounds, the movie novelization. We’ll be looking at Halloween III: The Season of the Witch, written by Jack Martin, the pen name of horror writer/editor Dennis Etchison.
The book is based on a screenplay by Tommy Lee Wallace and was published by Jove Publications in 1982. Cover price was $2.95, I paid fifty cents.
I’ve written about a bunch of these film tie-in books in the past. I’ve even written about the Halloween franchise novelized before!
As a pre-teen, I was an avid reader of novelizations as a way to carry my love of a movie out of the theater and into my everyday life. I had few friends who would buy the novelization to read about a movie their parents were never going to let them see (usually R-rated action and horror flicks). It was sort of a literary methadone to the pure heroin of cinema.
I picked up this novelization of Halloween III at the thrift store because I’m a HUGE fan of the first Halloween movie. I’ve seen it dozens of times and it remains a masterful work. A quick glance at Wikipedia tells me I’ve also seen most of the other Michael Myers Halloween flicks (including Halloween H20 but excluding the Rob Zombie remakes) so I’m fairly up to speed with the series. I’ve seen them all… but I’ve never seen Halloween III.
If you’re at all a fan of the horror genre, you probably know why this is. Halloween III: Season of the Witch was something of a noble experiment. John Carpenter and the various producers decided to turn the franchise from a series focused on Michael Myers into a yearly Halloween-themed anthology. This third entry in the series told an entirely new story with no ties to the characters and situations that had made the previous two films such a success. Halloween III ended up being something of a disaster and the anthology idea was chucked out the window in favor of bringing Michael Myers back for another go-around not too soon after.
Halloween III has gained some cult traction in horror circles of late but like I said… it’s the one movie in the franchise I skipped. I decided to do an experiment of my own this Halloween season: I would read the novelization… then I would watch the movie for the first time. I wanted to see how my enjoyment of the movie would be either increased or tempered based on having read the tie-in book first.
First things first. How is the book? Click through to find out what I thought.
The plot of Halloween III, for those of you who don’t already know, is ludicrous bullshit. The story centers around an evil costume and mask factory with plans to kill children on Halloween night via a remote controlled microchip implanted in every mask they’ve sold. The microchip is somehow powered by/imbued with magic from a shard of Stonehenge, which is somehow activated by an incredibly annoying commercial.
The mask factory is run by crazy Irish people who want to bring the real meaning of Halloween back to the masses who have commercialized the holiday. This insane plots spins out of control around the protagonist of Halloween III, Dan Challis. He’s a doctor characterized mostly by his failed marriage and budding drinking problem.
The very best horror movies find ways to be scary while offering commentary on the world at large. Contextualizing horror films can sometimes be a fool’s errand, but the best of ’em do have something to say beyond all the slash and gore. The main problem of Halloween III is the awfulness of the story… but it’s awful in a way where it’s clear that the writer was trying to say something meaningful. I would imagine the nature of the goings-on at the Silver Shamrock mask factory are meant to offer a pointed criticism of American consumerism. If that was the message, it gets completely lost in how silly the evil machinations of the company are. It’s commentary, but so blunt it’s almost unnoticeable amongst all this flowery prose.
Take, for instance, this scene where Dr. Challis is drinking in a bar on Saturday morning, where he offers this treatise on cartoons.
You know what I always thought the first Halloween movie was missing? A five page diatribe against Saturday morning cartoons. Man, that was the only thing keeping Halloween from being a perfect horror film. Glad someone went back and corrected that egregious error!
I guess… I guess I get why Challis is saying what he’s saying. I suppose I can also defend it as example of indirect characterization of Challis; he’s portrayed being at loose ends at this point in the novelization. It’s just… what’s the point? Challis has like two or three of these ill-defined “problems” with society, from his hatred of Saturday morning cartoons to the endless problems the book documents between he and his ex-wife Linda. Challis is alternately crazed and mournful over his failed marriage. In the handful of scenes she’s given, Linda’s portrayed as a one-dimension ball-busting jerk and Challis’ kids are just mindless grubbers. Again, a connection COULD be made between Linda and the kids’ money-grubbing ways and the overall theme of consumerism presumably in the screenplay, but the book certainly doesn’t go to great lengths to tie those two plot threads together. I have to wonder if the movie does a better job.
The specter of the original Halloween hangs over this novelization, from the movie’s tagline (The Night No One Comes Home) to the title of the first section (The Night He Came Home Again, referencing Challis’ return to his former home with Linda). There are occasional references to a “boogeyman” reminisent of Michael Myers
to a full-blown recreation of the original scenes from the first Halloween.
I’m interested to see how much of these “O.G. Halloween” Easter eggs made it into the final film. I know novelizations sometimes have the habit of including little “in jokes” for engaged readers.
Other things: Every line of dialogue from Irish community members of Santa Mira is written in corny “Faith and Begorrah” dialect. This might be passable on the screen, but reading it on the page is torture.
I could go on, but I’m going to stop there. Sometime next week, come back for my review/comparison of Halloween III: Season of the Witch the novelization to Halloween III: Season of the Witch, the movie.