Halloween III: Season of the Witch (1983)
What’s It About: The film opens with an elderly man fleeing for his life. It takes a while to figure out who or what is pursuing him but he eventually is attacked by white, middle-aged men in gray business suits. Republicans? Perhaps but he outsmarts one who is (slowly) choking him by putting a car into neutral and crushing him against another car. He seeks refuge at a gas station and telling the unlucky attendant that “They’re coming!” while holding a rubber jack-o-lantern Halloween mask. WHERE IS MICHAEL MYERS?!
He is then sent to the hospital where we meet Dr. Challis (Tom Atkins) who is then told by the guy that “They’re going to kill us. All of us.” They dismiss his warning as ramblings and sedate him for the night. Later on, another man in a business suit enters the old man’s room and kills him by sticking his fingers in his eyes. Wouldn’t a knife or gun be easier? Especially when the same assassin casually walks back to his sedan and pours gasoline all over his face and body and BOOM! The assassin even wipes the blood off his gloves right after the kill so what gives? Was it because the nurse saw him? WHERE IS MICHAEL MYERS?!
Dr. Challis, baffled and disturbed by seeing this pointless suicide, finds that the mask the elderly man was holding when he was brought in was made by Silver Shamrock, the world famous novelty and toy company. This company is also famous for its famous Halloween mask commercials and jingle which once you hear it will never leave your skull. You’ll never hear “London Bridge is Falling Down” the same way again.
This jingle and commercial is playing about 125 times during the 98 minute running time and by the 3rd time you want to rip your ears off your head. The commercial tells kids when Halloween is, counting down the days, every friggin’ day. Can you imagine if Coca Cola had a song this annoying and homicide-inducing counting down the days til Christmas? There would seriously be deaths….many many sad and pointless deaths. The commercials also tell the kids about a big Halloween giveaway that they all need to watch the TV for.
Challis smells something fishy about the old man’s death and the suicide of the of the assassin. He joins forces with the daughter of the old man, Ellie Grimbridge, to solve the mystery of her old man’s demise, the mask and it all leads them to a small Irish-dominated California town of Santa Mira where the Silver Shamrock Novelties warehouse is. Meanwhile, Challis has a coroner’s assistant to figure out who the assassin is/was. He should also ask the coroner where Michael Myers is.
While in Santa Mira, Challis and Ellie pose as a married couple and rent a room at one of the motels. Here we also meet two other toy dealers in town to do business with the head of Silver Shamrock, Conal Cochran (not a sex toy name—I think). While at the hotel, Ellie and Challis get romantically involved. Why? Why not? More importantly, WHERE THE HELL IS MICHAEL MYERS? DR. LOOMIS?
While trying to get his drink on, Challis bumps into a hobo on the streets who tells him that he’s heard rumors about the factory and Cochran (Dan O’Herlihy) but doesn’t divulge any details. He also tells Challis about the surveillance cameras. This town also has a six O’clock curfew. An Irish town with a 6 O’clock curfew, where do they drink? Moments after Challis and the hobo have their conversation, the bum is attacked by more business men assassins who rip his head clean off his shoulders!! These are not republicans.
That night one of the buyers staying at the motel discovers some sort of microchip on the label/tag on the Silver Shamrock mask. While probing it with a bobby pin she is electrocuted in the mouth frying her lips and jaw. While lying there dying insects crawl out of her mouth. When Silver Shamrock come to clean up the body, Challis and Ellie overhear one of the suits tell Cochran that she was a “misfire.” Challis hears from his coroner friend the next day and she tells him that no bone or teeth fragments have been found in the car explosion. No evidence of a body whatsoever. Especially a Michael Myers body. I’m beginning to think Myers ain’t showing up.
Challis and Ellie pose as buyers themselves and take a tour of the factory with Cochran as guide and with the best Silver Shamrock salesman, Buddy Kupfer and his wife and son. Its at this point we notice that Silver Shamrock, the best company for Halloween masks only makes three masks. A Jack-O-Lantern, a witch and a skull mask. Great options for all those trick-or-treaters. During the tour, Challis notices that there’s a bunch of guards all wearing gray business suits like the assassin for Ellie’s dad. Ellie then notices her dad’s car and tries to go to it but is blocked by the suit minions.
Later on, Challis tries to call someone for help but cannot make a connection out of Santa Mira. When he returns to the motel room, he finds Ellie missing and more suit wearing goons coming for him. He flees the motel and sneaks into the factory. He attempts to question an old lady who is knitting where Ellie is but she turns out to be a robot! Just then, Challis is attacked by another minion who is also a robotic creation of Cochran’s. Challis is then apprehended by more goons.
Cochran shows Challis his underground lair where there is one whole Stonehenge pillar. How a whole 50-ton stone was whisked away successfully from England to California is mind-boggling. Even Cochran says “You wouldn’t believe how we did it.” Oh you sneaky, shrewd devil you. So Cochran and his androids are chipping away at the ancient ritual stone to put the shards in the Halloween masks. He then shows Challis a quick demonstration of his plan with the masks. While watching the monitors of the Kupfers in a “test room” the young son sits watching the TV when the commercial comes on instructing him to put on the mask while the hypnotic jingle plays. The effect of the mask’s stone and the trigger of the commercial basically melts the kid’s head and somehow turns his flesh into various insects and snakes, which attack and kill his mom and dad.
So now its October 31st and we see a quick montage of kids trick or treating all over the country. The coroner, by this time, has somehow come up with the crazy notion that a robot was the assassin. Well, when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth, right? Before she can alert anyone, another suit-wearing goon dispatches her with a power drill. Again, a knife or a gun would’ve done the trick faster and less messy. They remember to bring gloves (even though they are androids and have no finger-prints) so why can’t they bring firearms or even a nice wire to garrote a victim? Worst android-suit-wearing-automaton-killers ever. Michael Myers, WHERE ARE YOU?!
At this point, Challis is tied up like a typical hero who is merely kept alive to hear the diabolical scheme from the evil villain. The scheme isn’t much. Cochran is a huge Samhain fan and is disappointed the old Celtic custom of human sacrifices went out the window since Christianity and common decency came along. Cochran wants the kids to be his sacrifices. Like I said a very weak plan. He puts a skull mask on Challis’ head and leaves him in the room alone, assuming he will die like the rest of the kids and not break loose and escape.
So now Challis is trying to get to the lair undetected to thwart Cochran’s terrible plan. (both terribly executed and planned as well as terrible meaning evil) First he calls his ex-wife to make sure his own kids do not wear the Silver Shamrock masks for their own safety. His ex-wife doesn’t think highly of Challis since he promised to take the kids trick-or-treating, so she hangs up on him. He then finds and frees Ellie and both of them successfully sneak into the lair’s nerve-center and just before the 9:00 giveaway Challis throws a whole box of Silver Shamrock microchip tags onto the computers and androids which cause some Stonehenge magick to destroy the computers and Cochran’s robots. While the computers and Stonehenge glow a bright blue a beam of light strikes Cochran and they all explode.
Challis and Ellie high-tail it out of Santa Mira, presumably to get more help or warn others about the dreaded commercial. Ellie then attacks Challis and they crash the car. Turns out Cochran made an Ellie android and Challis wastes no time beating it to a pulp with a tire-iron.
Challis then races like hell to the nearest place for help, which happens to be the same gas station Ellie’s dad went for help earlier in the film. Despite his best efforts to get the local stations to stop airing the Silver Shamrock commercials, he gets some stations to pull it but he isn’t believable enough for all the stations and his warnings fall on deaf ears.
Is It Actually Scary: Even growing up I avoided this Michael Myers-less sequel like the plague. Why bother I always said. Well, I was only partially right. I’m willing to bet most people, even ardent horror/slasher fans skipped this Halloween sequel. Carpenter was still involved as well as previous Halloween producer Debra Hill. When approached to do another Halloween film Carpenter agreed but only if it had nothing to do with Myers. They had the idea that they could essentially do a lot of Halloween holiday-themed movies every so often. Kind of like an anthology or series. Well this one flopped, critically and commercially and they went and brought back Myers for the third sequel some years later. I actually like this film in that it has everything to do with the actual holiday, centering it around the old Celtic/pagan customs and why that makes it scary and supernatural. It also involves the modern-day custom of kids dressing up and going around trick or treating. The Michael Myers films are set on or around Halloween day but the whole plot basically is about an emotionless serial killer targeting a small number of teens. Season of the Witch targets most the country’s children making it even more menacing and terrifying. While the android assassins and minions diminish this fright and the kills are very weak and uncreative or even chilling, the film’s basic premise is somewhat as great as the first two Halloween films. In some small way, I prefer watching this sequel on Halloween than anything with Michael Myers.
How Much Gore: Not too shabby in the blood and guts department. The lady with her mouth ripped open was graphic, as was the bum getting his head torn off his torso. All the other kills were android kills and they bleed a bright orange colored substance. Looks like Orange Julius.
Dumb Moments: While the theme of Samhain and Cochran’s old-world view and horror of Halloween could be chilling, his plan is absolutely asinine. Excluding the whole stealing of a Stonehenge rock as being ridiculous and how a toy company has the time and resources to make dozens of androids, the whole killing the kids plan is dumb. Its impossible for every kid to own or wear a Silver Shamrock mask on Halloween. So not every kid will be killed right? So there will be survivors who in turn will quickly piece together that it was the masks, coupled with the TV commercial that killed these kids and their families. So it wouldn’t be long before Cochran is hunted down and arrested. Was mass murder/sacrifice his main and only goal? Was an old Celtic deity going to rule supreme because of these sacrifices and ultimately protect Cochran from retribution? What was he going to do the next day exactly? I don’t think he even knew. I think a better and more practical idea would have the Stonehenge chips make the wearer of the masks mindless servants controlled by Cochran to do his bidding, including killing or whatever. It would also be a better way to have the minions do whatever Cochran wants, instead of the android robot crap.
Any Nudity: We come very close to seeing Ellie’s nipple but Tom Atkins head gets in the way. Other than that no way Jose.
Overall: I saw this for the first time a few years back and this was my second viewing. I do like it, I’m not going to lie. I’ll even go so far as say it’s worth watching on All Hallow’s Eve as much as the classic first Halloween, especially since the actual holiday is the killer (more or less) this time around. It does have a ham-fisted attempt to get an anti-capitalism and anti-television theme included in the film but I’ll forgive it for that. The score is great, since its still a Carpenter and Alan Howarth score. The commercial jingle is like nails on a chalkboard but if you end up liking the film it becomes like an inside joke for the very few Halloween III fans out there. I think it could be better remade today, not so much for the effects (because this film didn’t have much effects) but more-so to update the story and make it more practical like I said with mind-control magick instead of face melting with bugs and snakes. I would only recommend this film to fans of all things horror and classic early 80s Carpenter especially. If you’re looking for a silent but deadly serial killer stalking babysitters, then this ain’t your bag.
Score: 6 suit-wearing androids (out of 10)