Halloween III: Season of The Witch

John Carpenter

 
" Happy, Happy, Halloween, Halloween, Halloween. Happy, Happy, Halloween, Silver Shamrock! "

Written by Alan Rogers - Review of the limited release

After the success of the first two Halloween films the third installment of the series left behind the world of Michael Myers, Haddonfield and the “slasher” film format. Halloween III: Season of The Witch is a film of the “mad scientist” format that is centred around the suspicious goings on of the Silver Shamrock Novelties company and its mysterious owner Conal Cochran (played by Dan O'Herlihy). John Carpenter was reluctant to revisit the Halloween franchise unless the third film left behind the tried-and-tested format of the two previous films (Carpenter ended up co-producing and co-composing on the film). In hindsight this was a bad decision as Halloween III: Season of The Witch flopped upon release, ending up as the least successful of the Halloween series of films. Carpenter's need to separate this third film from what had gone before is so strong that he leaves behind his iconic Halloween theme and relies on a purely electronic score (again working in association with Alan Howarth) that emphasises electronic drones, scaled-back synth motifs and dramatic “stingers” to deliver a score that adds an uneasy feel to the film but which, when heard away from the film, is a decidedly hit-and-miss listening experience.

At the time of the film's release (1982) a 35-minute album of Carpenter and Howarth's score was made available. Featuring the main musical highlights in roughly chronological order, the “Main Title” sets the tone for the score as a whole and features a variety of electronic tones and disjointed low, heartbeat-like motifs that are interspersed by a series of electronic rhythms that are synchronised on-screen with the carving out of a Halloween mask in a computer-generated scan line pumpkin. It's quite an effective opener for the film and offers an unusual contrast to previous Halloween films: Carpenter and Howarth make it clear immediately that this is not going to be a rehash of Halloween and Halloween II. This first track segues straight into “Chariots of Pumpkins” which, together with “First Chase”, offer the highlight musical action pieces. Both rely heavily on a basic propulsive electronic beat with added electronic variations (“Chariots of Pumpkins”) and “missed-step” rhythms (“First Chase”) that do nothing specific for the on-screen action save for adding drive and a sense of uneasiness to the scenes. As with a lot of this score, the drama on-screen is supported by the use of electronic “stingers” that signal such things as the sudden appearance of a pursuing car or villain (examples of which are heard in the two chase tracks mentioned).

Most of the remaining tracks on the album are made up of suspenseful tracks that establish an overall feeling to a scene rather than following the drama on-screen. A clockwork-like motif (a subtle signal to the fate that awaits the chief protagonists?) is used in “Drive To Santa Mira” and repeating heartbeat-like electronic rhythms with electronic drone accents (“Challis Escapes”) and sustained chords (“South Corridor”) and “stingers” (“Goodbye Ellie”) all add pace, tension and dramatic hits to the score but they make for a pretty uninteresting listen and result in a lacklustre end to the original album release. However, the tension of sustained electronic tones heard in “The Rock” that builds with layered ominous, percussive chords and an organ-like accompaniment as we see revealed one of the massive stones from Stonehenge is one point in which the score's use of electronic drones actually works – but it is really too little too late.

If there is anyone still reading this review then they will be rewarded with what I consider to be the highlight of the score, “Hello Grandma”. After a sequence where our “hero” (actor Tom Atkins) sneaks around the Silver Shamrock factory (underscored with the ubiquitous electronic drones), he happens upon a back office. Carpenter's score then takes up a descending motif (reminiscent of the clockwork-like motif heard earlier in “Drive To Santa Mira”) as Atkins comes across – what turns out to be – an automaton. It's a simple motif that becomes more than just a clockwork-like musical device. With Atkins' character's capture and the apparent success of Cochran the motif takes on a sense of the inevitable passing of time and the seemingly inevitable success of Cochran's plans. It's Halloween morning and plans are moving inexorably to their conclusion.

2007 saw the release on Alan Howarth's AHI Records label of an expanded version of the Halloween III: Season of the Witch album. Reproducing the original LP/CD release, this more recent version boasts an additional 13 tracks amounting to 30 extra minutes of music that contains additional music from the film that was missing from the original release (e.g., “Hey Boom” and “I Do Love A Good Joke”) but is mostly made up of alternate versions of music heard on the original album (e.g., “Where Is She” and “It Will Be Morning Soon” offers the music heard on “Hello Grandma”). These additional tracks don't offer much more to the listening experience of the original album.

This expanded release of Halloween III: Season of The Witch is definitely not a score that will appeal to many. Haters of the film will probably hate the music, lovers of grand expansive orchestral (or even beautifully-crafted electronic) scoring will find little to like but there are a few nuggets worth hearing – who doesn't enjoy hearing the Silver Shamrock Novelties' Halloween ad jingle voiced by Tommy Lee Wallace and set to the tune of “London Bridge Is Falling Down” (“Halloween Montage”)? At the time of its original release the CD was limited to a run of 1,000 copies. This soundtrack is also now available as a digital download, so I would recommend dipping into a selection of tracks at least.

Tracklisting

1. Main Title (2.51)
2. Chariots of Pumpkins (3.25)
3. Drive To Santa Mira (2.29)
4. Starker and Marge (1.51)
5. First Chase (3.09)
6. Robots At The Factory (2.01)
7. Halloween Montage (1.35)
8. Hello Grandma (4.46)
9. The Rock (3.24)
10. Challis Escapes (3.32)
11. South Corridor (2.57)
12. Goodbye Ellie (4.14)
13. Hey Boom (3.36)
14. Mask Test Tone (1.47)
15. I Really Love This (1.29)
16. Local Boy, No Way (1.30)
17. The Factory (0.46)
18. I Think It's Time (1.44)
19. The Man Who Killed (2.02)
20. A Pleasure Doing Business (3.38)
21. Halloween III Close/Open (2.42)
22. Where Is She (2.44)
23. It Will Be Morning Soon (2.44)
24. Stonehenge (3.29)
25. I Do Love A Good Joke (3.20)

Total Length: 67.58
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(total of 6 votes - average 4.42/5)

Released by

AHI Records AHICD 001 (limited release 2007)

Music composed and performed by

John Carpenter in association with Alan Howarth