Obviously, John Carpenter’s plan for making the Halloween franchise an anthology didn’t pay off. Halloween III: Season of the Witch absolutely tanked in theaters, and Carpenter sold his interest in the franchise shortly thereafter. Since then, seven more Halloween films have been made, and they’re all remakes of the first film really. (As much as I despise Rob Zombie for his 2007 “re-imagining” of the first film, the truth is that John Carpenter’s Halloween has been remade eight times – and that’s not counting all the other clones and rip-offs that have been riding its coattails since Friday the 13th hit the market in 1980.)
Why did this happen? Why is it that the creative choice (i.e., introducing new Halloween-themed stories) was less successful than the purely commercial one (i.e., telling the exact same story over and over again)? Well the answer is really all about marketing. While John Carpenter was very clear about what he intended for the series, his intentions were only reported to the general public by such limited media outlets as Fangoria magazine. Considering that Fangoria didn’t have half the fanbase in 1982 that it has now, this meant that Carpenter’s creative intentions went unnoticed by most audiences. And then there’s the fact that Universal Studios – which found the notion of a Myers-less Halloween unsettling – did everything it could to hide the fact that Halloween III would be different. So when Universal put together its trailers and TV commercials for the film, they mentioned nothing about the new plot or the new artistic direction. This means that most people only knew that a new Halloween movie was coming out; as far as the other important details were concerned, they were going into theaters blind.
Halloween III makes a cameo appearance in Woody Allen’s Broadway Danny Rose (1982).
Now when you add a Roman numeral to the title of a film, audiences will generally assume that it’s a sequel to some older film with the same title. And generally, people will only go to see what they think is a sequel if they enjoyed its cinematic predecessor. Therefore, the people who went to see Halloween III in theaters were mostly fans of the first two Halloween movies. Combine this with the fact that most of these people didn’t realize they were about to see a movie that belonged to a completely different subgenre, and you’ll see what went wrong. In my experience, people who prefer slasher movies usually don’t “get” other kinds of horror, and folks who prefer other kinds of horror usually don’t “get” slasher films. So what happened here is that all the world’s slasher fans went in to Halloween III expecting a slasher movie, and they became extremely pissed off when they weren’t given one. On the other hand, those who actually would have appreciated the film avoided it because they assumed it was a slasher.
It was probably a mistake to name the film Halloween III; if it had been given its own title (e.g., just Season of the Witch), it probably would have found its audience. However, I’m still convinced that things might have gone differently if Universal had just grown a pair of balls and explained the anthology idea in its advertising. Sure, a lot of people would still have been pissed off and not gone to see it; but a lot of other folks would have gone to the theater knowing exactly what they were in for (and being much more pleased with the result).
“Twenty-seven more days ‘till Halloween,
Twenty-seven more days ‘till Halloween,