Halloween II: The Film That’s Held Michael Myers Back for Decades
Michael Myers is coming back… again. Again.
John Carpenter, the director of the original Halloween, announced earlier today on Stereogum that the next Halloween film – an upcoming reboot produced by Blumhouse – is now going to take place in “almost an alternative reality. It picks up after the first one and it pretends that none of the other [sequels] were made.”
It’s a decision that’s bound to be controversial, but one with a serious precedent within the Halloween series. In 1998, Halloween H20 celebrated the 20th anniversary of the series by pretending that only first two Halloween movies existed, abandoning a bizarre ongoing storyline about supernatural cults and psychic cousins. Halloween H20 featured the return of Jamie Lee Curtis as original series protagonist Laurie Strode, and also featured a seemingly final, knockdown battle between Laurie and her mass murdering brother, Michael Myers. (Final, that is, until the ill-fated online reality television installment, Halloween: Resurrection.)
It seemed to many fans that Halloween H20 had returned the series to its roots, but of course that wasn’t truly the case. Halloween H20 didn’t ignore all the sequels, it only ignored most of them, keeping Halloween II in the series’ continuity and legitimizing that first sequel’s revelation that Laurie Strode and Michael Myers were siblings all along.
But although the connection between Strode and Myers has been an official element of the series for nearly 30 years now – and even found its way into Rob Zombie’s remakes – it was never a part of the original Halloween’s appeal. And it’s a plot point that has been holding the series back ever since it was introduced, even – arguably – sullying the original film that changed the horror landscape in the first place.
The original Halloween, for those who don’t remember, wasn’t about a serial killer returning home to murder his sister. It was about a serial killer with no soul, and no motive whatsoever. Dr. Sam Loomis, played by Donald Pleasance, spent the whole film trying to convince the world that Michael Myers was beyond everything we understood about human psychology.
Psychology was experiencing a surge in respectability in the late 1970s, and undermining the practice was a frightening prospect. Much like The Exorcist forced audiences to wonder what would happen if secular science failed, and only religion could solve our problems, Halloween argued that evil might exist outside the human capacity to understand its motives. Michael Myers was human, but he was also the boogeyman, incapable of reason and figuratively unstoppable. Maybe – just maybe – even literally.
Despite an ending where Michael Myers’ seemingly dead body disappears, John Carpenter has admitted time and again that the finale of Halloween wasn’t supposed to make room for a sequel. It was simply supposed to be ambiguous, and unsettling. Still, Halloween became one of the most profitable movies ever made and a sequel was eventually produced three years later, picking up just minutes after the first film and following Michael Myers as he stalks Laurie Strode back to a mostly empty hospital.
Why was he stalking Laurie Strode? Because she was Michael Myers’ sister, you see, and his motivation was to kill her all along. And although this idea makes a certain amount of sense – mirroring Myers’ first murder in the original Halloween, that of his older sister – the simple fact that it made sense at all undermined the entire concept of Halloween. Michael Myers wasn’t a soulless killing machine after all. He was never the boogeyman. He was just another serial killer, with just another formulaic serial killer obsession.
This obsession carried over to all the subsequent Halloween movies – except for the non-canonical Halloween III: Season of the Witch, which had a completely different storyline – and made the series less scary with every subsequent installment. Simply put, Michael Myers was supposed to be scary because he could visit anybody, at any time, for any reason. After Halloween II, unless you’re a member of his family, or unless you happen to be hanging out with them on Halloween night, you know you’ll always be safe.
And let’s be clear about one thing. Safety. Isn’t. Scary. (Except maybe in the Todd Haynes movie Safe, but I digress.)
The urge to make Michael Myers make sense has been the bane of the Halloween series ever since Halloween II. The fourth, fifth and sixth installments – even though some of them are entertaining – form a trilogy in which Michael Myers is revealed to be a pawn of the Cult of Thorn, a doomsday cult that needs Michael Myers to kill every member of his family to finish a ritual. And that of course just makes the whole series more absurd, less relatable, and less scary than ever.
Rob Zombie’s Halloween movies also suffered from an urge to explain how Michael Myers became a monster. Zombie clearly had an atypical amount sympathy for Myers, depicting his childhood abuse and his tender dreams of a loving mother, and exploring in more psychological detail the connection between Myers and his little sister. Some like Zombie’s Halloween movies, some hate them, but it’s hard to deny that his approach once again abandoned the enigmatic evil that made Michael Myers the boogeyman in the first place. He made Myers more relatable than ever.
It’s hard to know for certain what will happen in the next Halloween reboot (unless you’re working for Blumhouse, I guess), and it’s possible that John Carpenter may have overstated the extent of this particular retcon. But if David Gordon Green and Danny McBride really are deleting all but the original movie from the official Halloween continuity, they could very well be freeing Michael Myers from the shackles of contrivance, from the safety of continuity, and into the ominous wilds of the unknown.
What form could this take? The possibilities are limitless because the inexplicable is limitless. (As opposed to storylines about serial killers obsessed with their sister, which the series has already proved are very limited.) David Gordon Green could be making a film in which Michael Myers is still around after all these years, without any explanation whatsoever. Rumors could swirl about whether he’s the original killer, a copycat, or some kind of ethereal phenomenon. Or maybe they have something up their sleeve that nobody can predict.
And yes, maybe it will eventually suck, like so many Halloween movies before it. But even if it does stink up the joint, it seems at least possible that it will fail for more interesting reasons than the Michael Myers formula. An interesting failure is, by definition, more interesting than a formulaic failure. Which is what we’ve been stuck with ever since Halloween II.
And yes, John Carpenter co-wrote and co-produced Halloween II. But the argument isn’t that John Carpenter is perfect. It’s that mistakes were made in the Halloween series, regardless of who made them, and that now – finally, after all these years – someone might actually be able to correct them.
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Top Photos: Universal Pictures
William Bibbiani (everyone calls him ‘Bibbs’) is Crave’s film content editor and critic. You can hear him every week on Canceled Too Soon and watch him on the weekly YouTube series What the Flick. Follow his rantings on Twitter at @WilliamBibbiani.