By Charlie Brigden
It’s pretty funny that the second best Halloween movie (after the first, obviously) only features Michael Myers for a split second. But no, Halloween III: Season of the Witch is a standalone feature with its own contained story. Maligned on release, it’s been re-evaluated since as a much better flick than originally thought, with some even going so far as to say it’s the best one next to the original. Wait, that was me a second ago.
Whilst again not returning in the director’s chair (that honour went to Tommy Lee Wallace), John Carpenter still stuck around to compose the music – in association with Alan Howarth – as in II. Their music didn’t look to reference anything from the franchise as it stood, which is all the more better as it allowed them the freedom to kick ass in a different direction. Not content with attaining greatness once, Death Waltz are now going for perfection by reissuing the score on wax, now with bonus tracks and remastered from the original analogue tapes. Set synthesisers to funk!
Given that the whole film revolves around the attempt to take over the world through the television (not the only time Carpenter would take on such a subject), the electronic approach is highly appropriate. Indeed the main title mimicks a TV signal, using foreboding and dissonant tones that build to create an image on a monitor of the symbol of halloween as a holiday: the pumpkin (and also a neat reference to the opening credits of the first and second movie).
And that symbol in-universe is also the symbol of the Silver Shamrock corporation, a seemingly-innocent mask manufacturer who use halloween masks with microchips to get through to all the children of America. Their ubitiquous television commercial uses ‘London Bridge Is Falling Down’ as a jingle to remind kids that halloween is on its way – “Eight more days to Halloween, Halloween, Halloween” – played by Carpenter and Howarth in a creepily catchy way and all over the film, and several times on the soundtrack as well.
What impresses me is something Carpenter and Howarth can create in their sleep: atmosphere. H3 contains a palpable sense of foreboding and dread, with the pair using electronic pulsing and repetitive phrases, like the four-note motif in ‘Chariots of Pumpkins’ or the keyboard riff in ‘First Chase’. Carpenter and Howarth use real theatricality at times, and it feels like a Hammer homage. A doom-laden masterpiece of fear and tension. ‘Drive To Santa Mira’ features an amazing eerie melody that sounds like it’s mimicking a church organ, slightly off-kilter and telling you something isn’t quite right, which is almost always the case in a Carpenter movie. No happy ending here, folks.
While the original album program was previously issued by Death Waltz in 2012, as mentioned earlier this record has been mastered from the score’s original master tapes, and it sounds unbelieveable. People have complained that DW have done it again but it’s a no-brainer: if you love this score, you need this record. You can always sell the old copy. The album retains the brilliant sleeve artwork by Jay Shaw, with great liner notes from Shaw, director Wallace, critic Kim Newman, and also an interview with John Carpenter himself.
Halloween III is a great score and an amazing LP. It looks the business, sounds amazing, and is creepy as hell. My only complaint is that it doesn’t come with a pair of Beats by Cochran headphones. Maybe in the future…
Halloween III: Season of the Witch is out now on vinyl from Death Waltz Recording Co.