Halloween III: Season of the Witch is a 1982 American science fiction horror film. The film is the third installment in the Halloween franchise and notable for being the only entry in the series that does not feature the fictional character Michael Myers, nor does it include story elements from either Halloween (1978) or Halloween II (1981). It is the first film to be written and directed by Tommy Lee Wallace. John Carpenter and Debra Hill, the creators of Halloween, returned as producers. The film stars Tom Atkins as Dr. Dan Challis, Stacey Nelkin as Ellie Grimbridge, and Dan O'Herlihy as Conal Cochran. The story focuses on an investigation by Challis and Grimbridge into the activities of Cochran, the mysterious owner of the Silver Shamrock Novelties company, in the week approaching Halloween night.
Halloween III departs from the slasher genre which the first two installments were part of, instead featuring a "witchcraft" theme with science fiction aspects and parallels to old Celtic fairy tales. Carpenter and Hill believed that the Halloween series had the potential to branch into an anthology series of horror movies that take place around Halloween with each film containing its own characters, setting, and storyline. The director of Halloween III, Tommy Lee Wallace, stated there were many ideas for Halloween-themed horror films as part of a long anthology series, starting with Season of the Witch. However, after Halloween III's disappointing critical reception and box-office gross, Michael Myers was brought back six years later in Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers (1988).
The frequency of graphic violence and gore is less than that of Halloween II, but the film's death scenes remain intense. As with other films in the series, suspense and dramatic tension is a key theme. The dramatic element of violence against young children, something often taboo even for horror films, is explored.
Produced on a budget of $2.5 million, Halloween III grossed $14.4 million at the box office in the United States, making it the poorest performing film in the Halloween series at the time. In addition to weak box office returns, most critics gave the film negative reviews. One critic suggests that if Halloween III was not part of the Halloween series, then it would simply be "a fairly nondescript eighties horror flick, no worse and no better than many others." Some cultural and film historians have read significance into the film's plot, linking it to criticism of large corporations and American consumerism.
Despite an initially negative reception for the film, largely due to fan disappointment over the absence of Michael Myers, re-evaluation over the past three decades has given Halloween III new legions of fans and established its reputation as a standalone cult film.