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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
The red-headed stepchild of the Halloween franchise, Halloween III came about when producer John Carpenter, feeling that Michael Myers had died for good at the end of Halloween II, decided to instead try to transform the series into a yearly Anthology of films centered around various aspects of Halloween. Halloween III was an attempt to do just that, but led to a massive backlash from a fanbase hungry for more of Michael.
In a nutshell, Halloween III details the travails of Dr. Dan Challis (Tom Atkins) who, a week before Halloween, is called in to treat Harry Grimbridge, a horribly beaten toy salesman who's clutching a Halloween mask and mumbling ominous warnings. It gets stranger from there -- one of the salesman's mysterious assailants breaks in, murders him, and then sets himself on fire. Challis subsequently teams up with the man's daughter, Ellie (Stacy Nelkin), to unravel the mystery. The trail leads them to Santa Mira, home of the Silver Shamrock Novelty Company, which her father had been visiting to pick up a shipment of their phenomenally popular Halloween masks -- masks like the one Harry was holding the night he died. While investigating the town, Dan and Ellie discover that Silver Shamrock is up to no good -- and that Harry's death won't be the last this Halloween season.
Halloween III gives us:
- Air Vent Passageway
- All Hallow's Eve
- Alliterative Name: Conal Cochran.
- And Then John Was a Zombie Dan rescues Ellie, only to find out in the end that she's actually a cyborg.
- Apocalypse How: One of the more horrifying examples: it's one specifically directed at children.
- 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 basically became the Michael Myers series, and...
- Body Horror: When one of Cochran's little pranks misfires in Marge's face, it's partially peeled away. What's left stays alive a while longer -- unfortunately.
- Book Ends: Film opens ends the same way, man with a warning arriving at a gas station (the same gas station, as matter of fact).
- Brown Note: The last commercial.
- Celtic Mythology: Conal Cochran really doesn't hate children, but the planets are aligned, and it's time for another mass sacrifice of the innocent on Samhain.
- 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.
- 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. Never mind what happens to Marge when one of Cochran's magic mask seals misfires in her face. The ultimate has to be Buddy and his family, though, when a test mask executes its program and slowly destroys his kid before his eyes.
- Deceptively-Human Robots: Possibly even Ridiculously-Human Robots, in the case of Ellie.
- Downer Ending/Diabolus Ex Machina/Cruel Twist Ending: Challis succeeds in getting the commercial pulled from two channels, but it plays on a third, thus allowing Cochran's plan to succeed, resulting in the probable deaths of millions of people. Worse, he was in the Pacific Time Zone (see Fridge Logic) so the commercial likely already had played in three other time zones while he was still battling Cochran in his factory.
- Faux Affably Evil: Conal Cochran.
- For the Evulz: "Mr. Kupfer was right, you know. I do love a good joke, and this is the best ever, a joke on the children."
- Go Out with a Smile: Cochran.
- Graceful Loser: Conal -- he appears genuinely impressed with Challis' panache at trashing the place, giving him a little golf clap. Of course, that could be because he still has one more ace....
- Helping Hands: After Challis destroys one of Cochran's automatons, its severed arm attacks him.
- Hoist by His Own Petard: Cochran.
- Horror Doesn't Settle for Simple Tuesday
- Human Sacrifice: Make that sacrifices.
- Infant Immortality: This film subverts it, averts it, rips it up, throws the pieces on the ground, and stomps on them.
- In Name Only
- Ironic Nursery Tune: The Silver Shamrock Jingle is based on London Bridge.
- Karma Houdini: Conal Cochran. Challis triggers the block of Stonehenge; Cochran is caught in the middle of the detonation and disappears; the factory burns down around him. His ultimate fate is uncertain, but even if the Stonehenge blast vaporizes him, his plan still goes off and his fate was far kinder then those of his victims.
- 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.
- Load-Bearing Boss
- Magitek: Cochran puts tiny pieces of Stonehenge into corporate seals in his masks. When triggered by a flashing picture, they execute an extremely destructive spell, fatally decaying the head in the mask and releasing deadly serpents to cause collateral damage.
- 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.
- Noodle Incident: How the bad guys got the piece of Stone Henge.
Conal Cochran: "Ha ha! We had a time getting it here. You wouldn't believe how we did it!"
- Oddball in the Series: There is a reason why this movie has its own page.
- 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.
- Public Domain Artifact: Conal's Unobtanium comes from chips of Stonehenge.
- Pursued Protagonist
- Robotic Reveal
- Theme Music Abandonment: The classic theme is not heard, because this was an attempt to take the series in a different direction
- 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 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?
- When the Planets Align