Even if I love the original Halloween, I’ve never thought Michael Myers was a Cool Guy. The Shape? He’s pretty badass, but every sequel (outside of Halloween III: Season of the Witch, of course) just feels redundant and delivers diminishing returns. While I run the risk of outing myself as a poseur, I didn’t even see the original Halloween until high school, potentially even having watched it on October 31st. Understandably, this means that the first time I saw Halloween II, I wasn’t at all impressed, though all these years later, I’ve come around on my reluctance and have to admit I … sort of love it.
What makes my love for Halloween II so strange is that John Carpenter himself has admitted how arduous (and drunk) the process of writing it with Debra Hill was. However, it also marks the last time Carpenter or Hill were directly involved in the direction of the franchise, so there’s some of their DNA that’s still evident in the overall storyline. One of the worst things about Myers was the establishment of the familial connection that motivated his murders, which means Halloween II is to blame for the franchise’s longevity and the idea that, so long as you weren’t part of the Strode/Myers family, you were relatively safe. Its actual narrative aside, what really makes the sequel so magical is that it exists in the surreal and nightmarish state of transition from Halloween into November 1st, capturing an immensely nostalgic feeling for this Wolfman.
I’ve already chronicled what my Halloween experience was like growing up and into adulthood, in which I would often end up all alone watching specials about haunted houses or Halloween-themed sitcoms as the night crept closer to midnight. Even if my celebrations on October 31st weren’t necessarily extravagant, I spent the entire year looking forward to it. Once the clock rolled over from 11:59 p.m. into October 31st, a countdown began of how long it would be until another Halloween. With each passing hour, I experienced both excitement and sadness, all leading towards midnight. Regardless of how many Halloween-themed programs or commercials there might have been in the weeks prior, that all came to an end once it was officially November 1st. Halloween II exists in this state of flux, exploring a more subdued narrative in which Michael Myers sticks more to the shadows.
If Halloween manages to capture the excitement (and, sure, the murder) of the holiday, Halloween II embraces this bittersweet feeling. While the first film is the entire build-up to all the fun to be had celebrating the holiday, the sequel unfolds entirely after that joy hits its peak. Residents of Haddonfield are headed towards their Halloween parties in the original movie, while the sequel sees them coming down from that high of the festivities as they transition back into the normalcy of the next month. I’ve also previously detailed how the WNUF Halloween Special also manages to capture this transition with its finale, but Halloween II entirely exists in this realm.
Adding even more reasons for me to love Halloween II is the only time I witnessed it on the big screen on Sunday, October 21, 2012 at the Portage Theater in Chicago. The city itself had been hosting 24-hour horror-movie marathons on an annual basis at the Music Box Theatre, only for programming to ultimately split between two different marathons on two different weekends at two different theaters. The Portage hosted “The Massacre,” whose highlights were screenings like Return of the Living Dead, Phantasm II, and Prince of Darkness. As an adult whose child-like celebrations of Halloween were behind me, one of the few things I looked forward to every month were these marathons, which were, luckily, before October 31st and still allowed another couple of weeks of spooky shenanigans. The final film of The Massacre was Halloween II, marking the transition from the excitement I had for the 22 hours prior to the acceptance that the experience was coming to an end. In fact, for a number of years following that screening, I’ve specifically chosen to wait until 12 a.m. on Halloween night to watch Halloween II, helping ease the transition from all the excitement I’d been feeling for weeks into the boringness of November.
Much like how Halloween II was designed to be the end of Michael Myers, the entire experience also serves as a way to bring the concept of Halloween to its conclusion. I get why Carpenter and Hill hated the experience; a lot of things about the movie stink. What really resonates with me is how, after the fateful encounter Myers has with Laurie and Dr. Loomis in the finale of Halloween, the whole story unfolds in what feels like a fugue state: the police walk past partygoers on their way home, Dr. Loomis has time to go to an elementary school, and Laurie receives medical care. Much like how one of the film’s taglines was “The Nightmare Isn’t Over,” for the more casual Halloween fans (or those not searching for Michael Myers), holiday celebrations culminate once you head home from festivities, all while the rest of us hope to keep the nightmare going by staying up as late as we can no matter what the clock might say, staving off sleep and the acceptance that it will be 364 days before the next Halloween. Much like I have to eventually accept defeat and go to sleep, officially bringing October 31st to an end at some point, I have to accept that I do, in fact, love Halloween II.