In The Desert Of Seth

By G. B. Marian

The 31 Days of Halloween III – Day #7: Chariots of Pumpkins

While John Carpenter neither wrote nor directed Halloween III: Season of the Witch himself, he did co-write and perform all the music for the film. Due to his signature minimalist style (as well as the fact that he normally scores his own films), this makes the movie feel like it’s a proper Carpenter film. His partner in crime on this task was Alan Howarth, a Hollywood sound designer who co-wrote almost all of Carpenter’s movie scores throughout the entire 1980s. Other classic Carpenter/Howarth collaborations include the soundtracks for Escape From New York (1981), Halloween II (1981), Christine (1983), Big Trouble in Little China (1986), Prince of Darkness (1987), They Live (1982), and the incidental music for The Thing (1982). Howarth also scored Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers (1988), Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers (1989) and Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers (1995) by himself, building variations on many of Carpenter’s original themes in the process.

John Carpenter and Alan Howarth

Carpenter and Howarth were an excellent team, and while they’ve both produced excellent work separately, I wish they still worked together now. Honestly, it’s just as much fun listening to their film scores as it is watching the films for which they were composed. In my opinion, the soundtrack for Halloween III boasts some of their very best work. Since the entire point of this film was to break away from the formula that had been established by the first two Halloween movies, the iconic 5/4-time Halloween piano theme is nowhere to be heard here (except when Halloween III’s characters happen to catch the first Halloween on TV!). Instead, we’re given a slew of entirely original songs that are all performed on a bunch of Moog synthesizers. “Chariots of Pumpkins” – which might well be considered the main Halloween III theme – sounds like a choir of computers singing a manic and foreboding melody. It makes me think about a robotic Pied Piper seducing a parade of trick-or-treaters away from their homes beneath a burnt orange sky.

(Ready for some trivia? This track would later be recycled in the theatrical trailer for Stephen King’s 1985 horror romp, Maximum Overdrive, for reasons I can’t begin to fathom. Yes, the trailer with a wide-eyed and bearded King promising that his directorial debut would “scare the hell out of you.”)

“Drive to Santa Mira” resembles a simplified Baroque-period organ melody as translated by robot; “First Chase” could easily be used in a first-person shooter video game like Doom or Wolfenstein 3D; “Hello Grandma” and “The Rock” both sound much grander than anything you’d think two guys in a room full of synthesizers could actually pull off; and “Goodbye Ellie” makes me think of mechanical spiders and slimy things that crawl around in cornfields at night. If you happen to catch the extended version of the soundtrack, I think my favorite addition is “I Love A Good Joke”; it’s basically a robotic-sounding drone or whine (not unlike the incidental music from The Thing), but it sounds like what I’d expect to hear if I were traveling through some strange interdimensional gateway. The entire album is also littered with “stingers” (i.e., those sudden loud noises that are used in horror movies to accentuate shocking or disturbing moments), and the effect Carpenter and Howarth use for this accent is most fascinating. I don’t really know how to describe it, but it makes me think of a light bulb going out (or maybe a police officer turning off his or her siren).

Of course, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the minute-and-a-half Silver Shamrock commercial jingle (which is called “Halloween Montage” on the album tracklist). This is Carpenter and Howarth’s infamous electronic rendition of “London Bridge is Falling Down” with the following lyrics:

“Happy Happy Halloween,
Halloween, Halloween;
Happy Happy Halloween,
Silver Shamrock!”

This song gets played in the film several times, and it makes most people want to stick a Black and Decker power drill through their skulls (i.e., both the characters in the film and the viewers). It sticks out from the rest of the score like a sore thumb, but considering that it’s meant to be catchy and annoying at the same time, I think it serves its purpose quite well. (Incidentally, the German power metal band Helloween included a sample of the Silver Shamrock jingle in their song “Starlight,” which is the opening track on their 1985 eponymous EP. Many of their later albums would also include the “London Bridge Is Falling Down” theme on some kind of synthesizer, including their 1986 album Walls of Jericho and the immortal Keeper of the Seven Keys Part I from 1987. I’m willing to bet Helloween are huge fans of Halloween III.)


“Twenty-four more days ‘till Halloween,
Halloween, Halloween,
Twenty-four more days ‘till Halloween,
Silver Shamrock!”

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