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Film / Halloween III: Season of the Witch

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"It's almost time, kids. The clock is ticking. Be in front of your TV sets for the Horror-Thon...and do remember the big giveaway at 9. Don't miss it, and don't forget to wear your masks. The clock is ticking. It's almost time..."

"You don't really know much about Halloween. You thought no further than the strange custom of having your children wear masks and go out begging for candy."
Conal Cochran

Halloween III: Season of the Witch is a 1982 Sci-Fi Horror film and the third installment in the Halloween franchise, written and directed by Tommy Lee Wallace with franchise co-creators John Carpenter and Debra Hill returning as producers. It is notable among the franchise's entries for not featuring central antagonist Michael Myers in the film, and is still the only Halloween installment to do so.

This premise came about when Carpenter, director of the original 1978 film, decided to make a film in line with his original vision for the series — a yearly anthology of unrelated films centered around various aspects of Halloween. Halloween III attempted to accomplish the task, but ended up meeting with a massive backlash from both critics and a fanbase hungry for more Michael following the success of Halloween II.

The film starts a week before Halloween, when Dr. Dan Challis (Tom Atkins) gets called in to treat Harry Grimbridge, a horribly beaten toy salesman with a Halloween mask in a death grip who mumbles ominous warnings in Challis's presence. It gets stranger from there — one of the salesman's assailants breaks in, murders Harry, then burns himself alive. Challis teams up with the man's daughter, Ellie (Stacey Nelkin), to unravel the mystery, and the trail leads them to the town of Santa Mira, which serves as the home of the Silver Shamrock Novelty Company. Ellie's father had recently visited the company to pick up a shipment of their popular Halloween masks — masks like the one Harry had in his hands the night he died. While investigating the town, Dan and Ellie discover that Silver Shamrock's CEO, Conal Cochran (Dan O'Herlihy), has nefarious plans in the works...and that Harry's death served as a warning of things to come this Halloween season.

Halloween III grossed a little over half of what Halloween II did in the U.S., making it the worst-performing installment yet (although it did make a profit). After the film's release, Carpenter walked away from the franchise, which would be given a reboot with Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers continuing the story from the original two films, essentially meaning that the idea of Halloween being a Villain-Based Franchise prevailed. However, Halloween III has become a Cult Classic in the years since its release.

Not to be confused with Season of the Witch.

"Halloween III: Tropes of the Witch":

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  • Air-Vent Passageway: How Challis manages to escape his confinement.
  • The Alcoholic: Dr. Challis. Although his drinking never seems to get in the way or slow him down during the movie. More than anything else, it's implied to be a reason his marriage is failing.
  • Alliterative Name: Conal Cochran.
  • Ambiguous Ending: It's unknown if Dr. Challis succeeds in persuading the TV stations to cease broadcasting Cochran's mask-activating transmission although the desperation in Challis's voice suggests that things have taken a turn for the worse. On a more optimistic note, the masks may have lost all their power anyway since Cochrane is dead and his factory is destroyed.
  • And Then John Was a Zombie: Dan rescues Ellie, only to find out in the end that she's a robot.
  • Apocalypse How: One of the more horrifying examples: it's one specifically directed at children with adults simply as colateral.
  • Artifact Title: From the beginning, Carpenter had planned for all of the Halloween movies to be stand-alone stories taking place on Halloween. With that in mind, the title isn't really so baffling. Then Michael Myers wound up becoming so popular that the Halloween series became the Michael Myers series, and...
  • Awful Wedded Life: The Challises are not a happily married couple.
  • Bait-and-Switch: The opening begins with Harry Grimbridge running from someone. If one hasn't seen the trailers, they may be fooled into believing that Harry is fleeing from Michael Myers, at least before the Silver Shamrock car emerges from the shadows.
  • Big Brother Is Watching: Cochran has taken over the small town of Santa Mira and installed cameras and mics everywhere, just in case someone gets any funny ideas.
  • Body Horror: When one of Cochran's little pranks misfires in Marge's face, it's partially peeled away, and bugs start coming out of her mouth. What's left stays alive a while longer – unfortunately. Doubles as a sick Chekhov's Gun to what happens when the mask works as intended...
  • Bond Villain Stupidity: When Dan gets caught in the factory, Conal lets him live long enough to explain his evil plot and then places Dan in a Death Trap. This makes no sense since Dan is of no importance and serves no purpose to Conal. Logically, he should have been killed instantly like every other victim in the movie.
  • Book Ends: Film opens and ends the same way, with a Harbinger of Impending Doom arriving at a gas station (the same gas station, as matter of fact).
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: The last shot of the film is of Dan screaming "STOP IT!" while looking directly at the camera.
  • Brown Note: The last commercial.
  • Call-Back: A commercial for a TV airing of the original Halloween can be seen on a TV set, and the airing itself can be seen on another TV later.
  • Corporate Conspiracy: Conal Cochran, who runs the Silver Shamrock Novelties company, plans to send out a signal on Halloween night via television that will kill every child wearing a Silver Shamrock mask as a Human Sacrifice for the Celtic Gods. And he succeeds.
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: Conal Cochran. The man runs Santa Mira like a police state, invites his top salesman and his family to Santa Mira to kill them, and, oh yes, and his business is a front for murdering America's children.
  • Creator Cameo: Writer/director Tommy Lee Wallace is the voice of the announcer in the Silver Shamrock commercials.
  • Cruel and Unusual Death: Several. Cochran's robots have several very nasty and creative ways of killing their targets, including power drills, crushing their nasal passages to suffocate, and simply ripping people's heads off. Plus what happens to Marge when one of Cochran's mask medallions misfires in her face. The ultimate has to be Buddy and his family, though, when a test mask executes its Magitek spell and slowly destroys his kid right before his eyes...then releases venomous snakes to do the same to him and his wife.
  • Cut Phone Lines: Conal does this to long-distance service so nobody can call out of town.
  • Darker and Edgier: Until the Rob Zombie reboot of Halloween, this was the darkest and edgiest film in the Halloween series, enough to involve a plot to grotesquely murder as many of the children of the United States as possible just because the stars were in alignment, being very Bloodier and Gorier (surpassing its predecessor in violence), and all the deaths fall under a cruel and unusual level of brutality.
  • Death of a Child: Conal Cochran plans to murder millions of children on Halloween night. A kid dies onscreen when Conal activates the curse on the mask.
  • Deceptively Human Robots: Possibly even Ridiculously Human Robots, in the case of Ellie. Cochran's mooks were Magitek clockwork robots and obedient factory workers, but unlike past examples, there wasn't anything the LEAST bit funny about them - they were designed as low-tech Terminators.
  • Doppelgänger: After Dan rescues Ellie, she's revealed to be a duplicate robot.
  • Downer Ending: Challis succeeds in getting the commercial pulled from two channels, but it plays on a third. Thus, Cochran's plan ultimately succeeds, resulting in the probable deaths of millions of children.
  • Ear Worm: The Silver Shamrock song, which is just "London Bridge is Falling Down" set to different lyrics. It plays all throughout the film on television and radio, and kids sing along to it. Dr. Challis complains about it, saying, "It just won't stop," proving it's intended to be seen as this In-Universe.
  • Evil, Inc.: Silver Shamrock.
  • Face Death with Dignity: When Challis destroys the Silver Shamrock factory, Cochran simply smiles and claps before being consumed by the explosion. However, it's not certain if he's really dead given his supernatural nature.
  • Fake Shemp: Garn Stephens refused to wear the prosthetic mask during the misfire scene, so a body double was used to complete the scene.
  • Fanservice: After Challis and Ellie begin a relationship upon arriving at Santa Mira, Ellie at one point dons a short and seductive black nightie. Challis and Ellie also have a brief sex scene in which he pulls her nightie down, although nothing explicit is shown.
  • Faux Affably Evil: Conal Cochran's kind nature sours once Dan finds out what's really going on in the factory.
  • Fiery Cover-Up: Cochran's agent, an android, kills Harry Grimbridge and then strolls into the parking lot, douses himself in gasoline in his car, and explodes. That brings a lot of police attention beyond the single murder and sets Harry's daughter Ellie and Dr. Challis on the case to follow up on the Silver Shamrock mask Harry was clutching when he came into the hospital.
  • Foreshadowing: The movie hints at the true nature of Cochran's henchmen before The Reveal.
    • Teddy complains that the autopsy team must have mixed up the car parts with the body.
    • When the protagonists and Buddy Kupfer's family take a tour of the Silver Shamrock factory, they enter one room full of Cochran's toys, more specifically toys built out of machinery.
    • There is also Five-Second Foreshadowing in case the audience hasn't figured it out. After Dr. Challis enters the factory to find Ellie, he encounters an old woman knitting a scarf. After shaking her, he immediately discovers that she is actually an automaton. In the next sequence, Challis gets in a fight with one henchman and accidentally punches a hole through the henchman's body before realizing said henchman was a robot.
  • For the Evulz: Actually averted by Cochran. He has a very specific reason for his mass human sacrifice.
    Challis: Why, Cochran...? Why?
    Cochran: Mr. Kupfer was right, you know. I do love a good joke, and this is the best ever, a joke on the children. But there's a better reason! It was the start of the year in our old Celtic lands, and we'd be waiting...the barriers would be down, you see, between the real and the unreal. And the dead might be looking in, to sit by our fires of turf. Halloween - the festival of Samhain. The last great one was three thousand years ago and the hills ran red with the blood of animals and children.
    • On the other hand, his robots seem to revel in it. Bum on the street talks about burning down the factory in a drunken stupor? The Mecha-Mooks surround him, force him to his knees, and messily rip his head off. Medical examiner - far too late to stop Cochran's plan - discovers that the hospital murderer is a robot? They come and core out her brain with a drill.
  • Graceful Loser: Conal — he appears genuinely impressed with Challis' panache at trashing the place, giving him a little golf clap. That could be because he still has one more ace up his sleeve...
  • Helping Hands: After Challis destroys one of Cochran's automatons, its severed arm attacks him.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: Cochran gets foiled by his own commercial and Silver Shamrock chips.
  • Horror Doesn't Settle for Simple Tuesday: Horror actually starts before Halloween.
  • Human Sacrifice: Make that sacrifices. Millions of them...almost all children.
  • Indecisive Parody: Mostly serious horror film with occasional moments of silliness.
  • In Name Only: Due to Michael Myers ending up in every movie except this one. Ironically, this movie probably has more to do with the actual holiday of Halloween than the rest.
  • Ironic Nursery Tune: The Silver Shamrock jingle is based on London Bridge.
  • It Wasn't Easy: Cochrane's only explanation of how he got a piece of Stonehenge into his laboratory is "We had a time getting it here. You wouldn't believe how we did it."
  • Jingle: "_ more days to Halloween!" / "Happy happy Halloween! Silver Shamrock!"
  • Lampshade Hanging: Conal tells Challis that they had a devil of a time getting the Stonehenge monolith to California — which fails to explain how (though a magician never reveals his secrets, he points out). Also anticipated by the news broadcast about the theft of the monolith.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: Starker, the town drunk, gets murdered by Cochran's goons after ranting that he's going to burn the factory down. Later on, Challis destroys the henchmen with their laser chips, before the piece of Stonehenge that Cochran pilfered roars to life and obliterates him. And then the factory burns down. Seems Starker got his own "good joke."
  • Load-Bearing Boss: When Cochran disappears, the Stonehenge piece magically shorts out, starting a massive fire that burns down the factory.
  • Magitek: Cochran puts tiny pieces of Stonehenge into corporate medallion seals on his masks. When triggered by a specific flashing picture, they execute an extremely destructive spell, messily decaying the head in the mask and releasing deadly insects and serpents to cause collateral damage. The robots are also a likely example of it.
  • May Contain Evil: The true purpose of the Silver Shamrock masks is to melt their wearers' heads and release creatures (some which are venomous) to kill everyone in the vicinity as a human sacrifice.
  • May–December Romance: Challis is well into his forties, and Ellie is in her early twenties (although she claims to be older than she looks). To be fair, the romance really just happened spontaneously. Challis initially is reluctant to pursue her given the situation, her loss, and the fact he's still technically married (albeit separated).
  • Mecha-Mooks: Cochran's henchmen are all eventually revealed to be robots.
  • Mr. Smith: Alias of Ben and Ellie when they arrive to Santa Mira.
  • Mr. Vice Guy: Challis — he's a womanizer and an alcoholic, but he's far from being a bad person and does everything he can to stop the Silver Shamrock plot.
  • Murderous Mask: The lethal masks that Cochran plans to use to murder millions of children.
  • Murder-Suicide: Harry's assassin blows himself up in the parking lot after the kill. He's a Silver Shamrock android.
  • Mythology Gag: A commercial for Halloween (1978) plays on the TV in the bar, and a portion of the film is shown during the Horror-thon (an odd choice considering Conal's target audience). It's announced dramatically in the commercial as "the immortal classic!"

  • Nice Guy: The Kupfer family is pretty obnoxious, but Buddy still comes off as friendly and well-meaning. He calls Ben and Ellie his 'friends' and asks Cochran if they can join them on their own exclusive factory tour only a few minutes after meeting them.
  • Noodle Incident: How the bad guys got the piece of Stonehenge.
    Conal Cochran: Ha ha! We had a time getting it here. You wouldn't believe how we did it!
  • Novelization: The script was adapted as a paperback novelization in 1982 by horror writer Dennis Etchison writing under the pseudonym Jack Martin. The book was a best-seller and was reissued in 1984. Etchison wrote the novelization to Halloween II (1981) only a year before. Although Cochran dies in the film, the novelization implies that he may have survived, with the magic of Stonehenge transporting him to another location rather than killing him. The novel also makes it clear that Cochran's plan succeeds, while the film's ending is slightly more ambiguous, although its success is heavily implied.
  • Obliviously Evil: Conal Cochran not only doesn't regret that his plan is going to potentially kill millions of children, he considers it to be a funny joke.
  • Oddball in the Series: This is the only movie that isn't involved with Michael Myers, for the purpose of creating an anthology series. When that didn't work out, the series went back to Michael's story. However Halloween 6: The Curse of Michael Myers does create a tentative link with this film.
  • Off with His Head!: What happens to Starker and a robotic Ellie herself at the end, via tire iron.
  • Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping: Averted and inverted. Cochran - played by an Irish actor - doesn't have a strong Irish accent for most of the movie, but his pronunciation of Samhain in Irish Gaelic is exactly correct, and while explaining his evil plan his accent not only grows thicker but less refined to sound more like country folk would.
  • Public Domain Artifact: Conal's Unobtanium comes from chips of Stonehenge.
  • Pumpkin Person: One of the Silver Shamrock masks is a jack-o-lantern.
  • Pursued Protagonist: The film begins with Harry being chased by one of Cochran's minions with a mask in hand.
  • Revealing Cover-Up: Cochran sends an agent to murder the coroner's assistant who is looking into Harry's killer's by examining the killer's burnt remains.
  • Ridiculously Human Robot: Cochran's goons, apart from their emotionless attitudes, pass as normal humans relatively easily.
  • Riddle for the Ages: Is Ellie a robot all along, or does she get replaced with one later? If the latter, then what happens to the real Ellie? See What Happened to the Mouse?.
  • Robotic Reveal: When Dan punches one of Cochran's minions in the gut, he manages to pull out wires covered in some slimy substance. Ellie is revealed to be one too.
  • Shout-Out:
  • Terrifying Pet Store Rat: Except for the one rattlesnake that does in Mr. Kupfer, the creatures that emerge from Little Buddy's head consist of harmless garter snakes, blacksnakes, and normal field crickets you'd buy in a bait shop.
  • Theme Music Abandonment: The classic theme is not heard, because this was an attempt to take the series in a different direction.
    • Kind of. Bits of the original score surface when Challis is tied to the chair, and the original Halloween is playing in the background, providing creepy music for the scene.
  • This Is a Drill: Teddy is murdered by being stabbed through the ear with a power drill.
  • Time Abyss: Cochran somewhat implies his pagan religion to be this, saying that the last time a sacrifice happened due to the same planetary alignment was 3000 years ago; if that ancient event wasn't the first occurrence, that would make the rite at least 6000 years old, predating recorded history.
  • Time Bomb: Frequently reminded through the TV/radio jingle:
    Commercial jingle: x more days to Halloween!
  • Title Drop: "Yes, kids, you too can win one of the big Halloween three, that's right, three horrific masks..."
  • Titled After the Song: Subverted. The subtitle is also the name of a Donovan song, but it was actually titled after the George Romero film of the same name.
  • Unwitting Pawn: The people who sold the masks for Silver Shamrock like Ellie's dad and Buddy Kupfer had no way of knowing they were being used to set up a mass slaughter of children. Ellie's dad found out and it got him killed. Buddy probably figured it out when he saw what the mask did to his own son, but by then, he was good as dead, too.
  • We Are Experiencing Technical Difficulties: Subverted — when it happens, it's a good thing for a change. It isn't enough to stop Cochran's evil plan from going off and killing millions, unfortunately.
  • What Do You Mean, It's for Kids?: In-Universe example. Despite Cochran intending for his horror marathon to be watched by children, the original Halloween is stated to be in their lineup. Even if it is edited for television, how many parents would allow their kids to watch an R-rated movie?
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Was Ellie always a robot, or captured and replaced by one in Cochran's factory? If the latter, what happened to the real Ellie — did Cochran kill her, was she killed when the factory burned down, or did she escape? Evidence makes it seems more likely that it was the latter; the real robots weren't very talkative, but Ellie early on was quite animated and was bound to go to the factory. It's probable that Ellie was real until she saw her father's car, and was seen being forced into the factory by other robots shortly thereafter. Notice how Ellie never spoke from the moment that she was "rescued"? The ad hoc robot Ellie was Cochran's last little joke - and assurance that Challis would die no matter what happened in the factory. Ellie was most likely...disposed of.
  • When the Planets Align:
    Challis: Sacrifices...
    Cochran: A part of our world. Our craft.
    Challis: Witchcraft!
    Cochran: To us, it was a way of controlling our environment. It's not so different now! In the end, we don't decide these things, you know. The planets do. They're in alignment...and it's time again. The world's going to change tonight, Doctor. I'm glad you'll be able to watch it...
  • Would Hurt a Child: The evil plot aims to kill millions of perfectly innocent children across the United States, in as grotesque a way imaginable, using the very masks their parents have bought for them to enjoy. Talk about a lifetime of seriously messed-up, misplaced guilt and truly horrific nightmares, assuming they even survive the torrent of venomous snakes and bugs that emerge from their children's decaying heads.