Horror fans are noth­ing if not opti­mists when it comes to spe­cial edi­tions.  Whenever a home video label asks them for requests, they’ll imme­di­ate­ly bypass obvi­ous hit-movie picks and go right to their per­son­al lists of under­ground cult favorites.

That said, they have a good rea­son to be so opti­mistic: out of all cult-movie gen­res, hor­ror has an unusu­al­ly strong his­to­ry of get­ting spe­cial edi­tion DVD’s and blu-rays for titles that the gen­er­al audi­ence for­got decades ago (often because the peo­ple mak­ing those deci­sions are fans like them).  The faith­ful know if they are patient enough, vir­tu­al­ly any for­got­ten gem has a chance at get­ting a spe­cial edi­tion with all the bells and whistles.

And that brings us to Scream Factory’s new spe­cial edi­tion blu-ray of Halloween III: Season Of The Witch.  Wrongly vil­i­fied by crit­ics and many hor­ror fans dur­ing its orig­i­nal release because it was con­nect­ed to a pop­u­lar exist­ing series, this eccen­tric but high­ly reward­ing out­ing has slow­ly built a strong cult since then.  This new spe­cial edi­tion does a great job on two fronts: it gives fans a daz­zling-look­ing new trans­fer and it also delves into the fas­ci­nat­ing sto­ry behind this odd­i­ty.

The fun starts with an excel­lent new high-def­i­n­i­tion trans­fer.  The results do well by cin­e­matog­ra­pher Dean Cundey’s effec­tive use of shad­ows, deliv­er­ing the shad­owy night sce­nes and inte­ri­ors with the same rich col­or and detail lev­els that it applies to the brighter sce­nes.  In terms of audio, there is a Dolby Stereo 2.0 mix is given a loss­less “True HD” pre­sen­ta­tion.  The mix works well and makes an excel­lent use of the shiv­ery syn­th score by John Carpenter and Alan Howarth.  Some fans might be dis­ap­point­ed by the lack of a 5.1 remix but the 2.0 mix is pret­ty strong on its own terms.

There’s also a jum­bo-size set of extras for Halloween III fanat­ics to dig into.  The sto­ries begin with a pair of com­men­tary tracks.  The first fea­tures writer/director Tommy Lee Wallace, who is aid­ed by Robert V. Galluzzo and Sean Clark of Horror’s Hallowed Grounds fame.  The tone is laid back, with Galluzzo and Clark prim­ing Wallace with ques­tions as he lays out his mem­o­ries of the shoot in a self-dep­re­cat­ing style.  He’s quick to give oth­ers cred­it for their ideas and also crit­i­cizes his own work but he responds nice­ly to the fan­nish enthu­si­asm of the mod­er­a­tors.  He also talks a lot about his work­ing rela­tion­ship with John Carpenter.  Clark’s pres­ence sparks a lot of talk about loca­tions and his hero wor­ship of Tom Atkins will make any Halloween III fan smile.

The oth­er com­men­tary pairs star Tom Atkins with mod­er­a­tor Michael Felsher, who also pro­duced the mak­ing-of fea­turet­te for this edi­tion.  Atkins is a genial type and that qual­i­ty shi­nes through on this track while Felsher makes an excel­lent foil, sup­ply­ing his own gre­gar­i­ous film-geek style that mix­es well with Atkin’s unpre­ten­tious approach. Better yet, their chat ensures that there is min­i­mal over­lap by devot­ing the lat­ter two-thirds of the track to a casu­al overview of Atkins’ career, includ­ing lots of inter­est­ing mate­ri­al on the likes of Harry O, The Ninth Configuration and My Bloody Valentine 3D. If you’re a fan of Atkins — and you prob­a­bly are if you’ll buy a blu-ray of Halloween III — you’ll love every moment of this track.

The main bonus fea­tures area pro­vides a wealth of addi­tion­al mate­ri­al.  Fans will be amused by a the­atri­cal trail­er and some t.v. spots, all of which prove that Universal had no idea how to sell this odd duck of the hor­ror gen­re.  There’s also an ani­mat­ed image gallery that offers a vari­ety of col­or and black-and-white stills, includ­ing a cou­ple of eye-catch­ing cheese­cake shots of Stacey Nelkin.

That said, the big draws beyond the com­men­taries are a pair of swell fea­turettes.  The first is an install­ment of Horror’s Hallowed Grounds that focus­es on Halloween III, cap­tur­ing vir­tu­al­ly all the film’s major loca­tions.  As usu­al, Sean Clark makes an affa­ble host, even when deal­ing with a heck­ler in one mem­o­rable bit, and Tommy Lee Wallace also joins in the fun.

The other fea­turet­te is a mak­ing of piece enti­tled “Stand Alone” — and it’s a moth­er­lode of triv­ia and his­tor­i­cal info for Halloween III fans.  Wallace and Atkins anchor the piece and there is also com­men­tary from Stacey Nelkin, com­poser Alan Howarth, pro­duc­er Irwin Yablans, cin­e­matog­ra­pher Dean Cundey and more.  It cov­ers a lot of mate­ri­al fans have want­ed to know for years, includ­ing why the film’s unique plot was shoe­horned into a Halloween sequel slot, Nigel Kneale’s role in the film’s con­cep­tion and, of course, how the film’s mad­den­ing­ly infec­tious “Silver Shamrock” jin­gle came to be.  The sto­ries fly fast and furi­ous, the per­son­al­i­ties are all engag­ing and Andrew Kasch’s edit­ing clev­er­ly deploys clips from the film to provide a wit­ty coun­ter­point to the tales being told.

In short, this is the disc that Halloween III fans have been pray­ing for since dig­i­tal home video for­mats came into being.  Scream Factory has pro­duced anoth­er win­ner that can sit proud­ly next to its Halloween II spe­cial edi­tion — and its qual­i­ty shows that hor­ror fans have a new and very resource­ful friend who can make their cult movie spe­cial edi­tion dreams come true.