Halloween III, the renegade horror sequel that has since become a cult classic, hit theaters on this day in 1982. Dividing fans and maligned by critics at the time, the film and its famous witch, pumpkin, and skull masks are now spooky season royalty.
The controversy surrounding the film is mostly due to filmmakers John Carpenter and Debra Hill daring to blaze a new path with the iconic franchise. While the seminal 1978 original and its 1981 sequel both featured slasher Michael Myers, he was benched for Halloween III: Season of the Witch. Rather than rely on the silent serial killer, the film revolves around a sinister scheme concocted by a toy company to sacrifice children on Halloween night. The bonkers story, involving robots and witchcraft, shares little with its two predecessors.
After Halloween II’s release, Carpenter and co-writer/producer Debra Hill were approached to create a third film. They wasted no time, starting the project just days after the slasher sequel premiered on October 30, 1981, despite Carpenter’s disappointment with it.
‘Halloween III’ Was Intended to Take the Franchise in a New Direction
However, it took some convincing to bring Carpenter back into the fold. Carpenter insisted the storyline needed to change direction, and both Michael Myers and he himself would not be involved. While Carpenter agreed to continue as a producer, he chose not to write and direct the film. This decision allowed him to focus on The Thing, which was still in principal photography when Halloween II was released in Fall 1981.
“I let my producer’s side come out when they offered me the sequels to Halloween, Carpenter said in a 1984 interview. “They offered a nice sum of money. I also had a lot of hope for giving new directors a chance to make films as I had been given a chance with low-budget films,” he explained.
Enter Tommy Lee Wallace, who took over directing duties for Halloween III. Wallace worked with Carpenter on other projects, including as an editor and production designer for 1981’s The Fog.
The plan was to make the Halloween franchise an anthology series going forward. However, most horror anthology films such as Creepshow feature multiple segments. Carpenter and Wallace planned to focus on a single new story for each Halloween film. “We thought we’d come up with a new story every year,” Carpenter told The Hollywood Reporter in 2017. “We could call it Halloween, but it didn’t have to do anything with Michael Myers.”
‘Halloween III’s Legacy Grows Stronger Each Spooky Season
After the new direction was so poorly received by fans, the franchise went back to the well. Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers dropped in 1988. It’s essentially a retread of the original 1978 film, bringing back Myers and Donald Pleasance as Dr. Loomis. They’ve never deviated from the Myers formula since, churning out a total of 12 films featuring the unstoppable slasher.
Still, the iconic Silver Shamrock masks from Halloween III have grown in popularity over the years. Designed by Don Post Jr., there were three masks. A lime-green witch with a hood, an eerie skull emitting an ethereal glow, and a vibrant orange pumpkin head. Only the pumpkin mask was made especially for the film, while the other two were based on previous designs.
The masks have spawned countless collectibles, including Halloween decor and action figures. Mask maker Trick or Treat Studios also offers exact replicas of the trio of masks. The masks even popped up in the recent Halloween films directed by David Gordon Green.
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