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10.17.2017by: Eric Walkuski

Halloween III: Season of the Witch: 5 Creepiest Scenes

You know what happened. Upon its initial release in 1982, Tommy Lee Wallace's HALLOWEEN III: SEASON OF THE WITCH was met predominantly with scorn from critics and fans alike, the former finding its story - about the potential mass murder of millions of children on Halloween night - morally repugnant, while the latter couldn't understand the odd new direction the HALLOWEEN franchise had taken. But now, 30+ years later, the film is regarded as a misunderstood treat; not a masterpiece by any stretch, but a wicked, morbidly amusing staple of the Halloween season.

While the movie works in fits and starts (we can't pretend every scene is a gem), there are a handful of sequences in the film that have always stood out as exceptionally memorable. Like it or not, SEASON OF THE WITCH undoubtedly boasts a handful of startling moments that are tough to shake. I've taken it upon myself to highlight what I believe to be the five creepiest scenes in the film.

5. HEADS UP

Santa Mira, the town villainous Conal Cochran and his evil conglomerate calls home, isn't populated solely by mindless robots. There are a few interesting characters roaming the premises, folks left over from the days before Silver Shamrock came in and started running things. One such character is Starker, a bitter drunk left unemployed and homeless thanks to Shamrock's occupation. Starker tips off our lead, Dan Challis, that things aren't as rosy as Cochran would have people believe, but spouting his mouth off gets the hobo into big trouble with Cochran's henchmen. After trapping the helpless fellow, one of the suited men cooly rips Starker's head clean off with his bare hands, takes the guy all of five seconds. The sound effect of the head being pried from the body is no doubt the ickiest part.

4. HAPPY HALLOWEEN

One of the main strengths of SEASON OF THE WITCH is the casting of its two male leads. Tom Atkins is a pimp, we know this, and Dan Challis is a terrific lead because he's a flawed everyman who is forced to be a hero under very unusual circumstances. Cast opposite Atkins' blue collar protagonist is Dan O'Herlihy as sinister warlock Conal Cochran. O'Herlihy, with his distinguished demeanor and soothing baritone voice, imbues Cochran with an infectiously charming, happy-go-lucky facade that is irresistible. The veteran character actor commands every scene he's in, and that is most obvious during his creepy monologue to Dr. Challis where he exposes his hideous plot to sacrifice as many youngsters as possible on Halloween night. Usually when the villain in a movie stops to explain his plan to the hero it's an eye-rolling moment, but not here: Cochran's savage delight in revealing the "trick" he's about to play on all the children is nothing short of blood-curdling. Plus, it's capped off by perhaps the very best line-reading of "Happy Halloween" I've ever heard.

3. STOP IT!

Dan has had a hell of a night. He may have defeated Cochran and his minions, but during his frantic escape from the Silver Shamrock factory he's discovered that his new gal pal Ellie is no longer the lady he's fallen in love with. In fact, she's been replaced by one of Cochran's automatons and tries to kill him. Thwarting her, just barely, Dan is now tasked with saving the world, racing to a familiar gas station in order to call the major television stations and convince them to turn off the diabolical Silver Shamrock commercial. He succeeds in getting two of them pulled, but there's still a third, and it looks like it's there to stay. Dan pleads with the other end of the line to "Stop it!"... and we cut to black. Are the world's children (including Dan's own) being obliterated by Cochran's evil plan, or did Dan get the job done? The grim ambiguity of the conclusion has to be one reason HALLOWEEN III was not a success upon initial release - I can just imagine depressed teenagers skulking out of the theater, bummed out by a movie they thought was going to be a fun time - just as it's surely one of the reasons it currently enjoys bona fide cult classic status.

2. FAREWELL TO THE KUPFERS

Probably the most infamous sequence of the film, it shows us the true power of Conal Cochran's odious scheme, which comes at the expense of midwestern yokels The Kupfers. Though we don't get to know them well, they appear to be a likable enough group, although a tad too overly enthusiastic and naive for their own good. Surely they don't deserve their final moments: Cochran exposes Buddy Kupfer Jr. to his hypnotic commercial, which causes Little Buddy's head to melt and a swarm of insects and snakes to emerge from the mask he's wearing. Buddy Jr.'s parents can barely believe their eyes and keel over; the final image of the family laying dead in a room full of creepy-crawlies is supremely unpleasant. And the worst part is, this gruesome event is what awaits most of the world when that damned commercial finally goes live.

1. MISFIRE

If I'm not mistaken, early basic cable versions of HALLOWEEN III edited this extremely unnerving visual out, and as I got most of my horror movie fixes from basic cable at a very young age, I didn't know just how grotesque Marge Guttman's demise was. Thanks to a well-placed hairpin, Marge seals her own fate by tinkering with a Silver Shamrock button, which results in a "misfire" that blasts her mouth wide open. The resulting moments show Marge barely alive, red-eyed and gasping, experiencing utter agony, and it's truly chilling. I recall seeing this scene for the first time when I finally nabbed a VHS copy of the film, and my jaw dropped - although not quite as extremely as poor Ms. Guttman's. All these years later and she's still tough to look at.

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