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30 for 31: “HALLOWEEN II”

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The Season of the Witch is upon us, ye olde FANGORIA readers! To many, Halloween means candy, costumes and creepshows of all sorts. But to the staff at FANGORIA, Halloween can mean something more entirely. Therefore, we present 30 for 31, in which FANGORIA recounts the cinema that most strongly represents what Halloween means to us.

HALLOWEEN II isn’t one of the greatest horror movies ever made, but seeing it for the first time was one of the greatest horror-movie viewing experiences of my life.

I was 14 when HALLOWEEN II opened on October 30, 1981, and no one could have been more excited about it than I was. Back then, sequels weren’t as ubiquitous as they are now, when they’re greeted by many film fans—even young ones—with apathy or cynicism. When I was a teen, they meant getting more of a flick we loved, and the promise of a continuation of John Carpenter’s HALLOWEEN, the movie that had made a horror fan out of me two years before, was cause for huge anticipation. But I held off from seeing it on opening night, because the appeal of catching it on that Saturday—Halloween night—was just too great.

30FOR31HALLOWEENIIThis outing was particularly special, because it was the first time I went to see a R-rated movie without a parent or adult guardian (usually one or both of my grandparents, who, God bless ’em, took me to horror pictures when my parents demurred). There were four of us, all two or three years shy of 17, but for the occasion, we arrived wearing costumes and masks, figuring that if they couldn’t see our faces, they wouldn’t be able to tell our ages. Sure enough, we breezed right in (and not long after, discovered we didn’t even need the disguises to attend R movies at this theater, but that’s another story…).

I went as Michael Myers, armed with a reasonable facsimile of his mask (an official one not yet being available) and a “butcher knife” made of cardboard and aluminum foil. This came in handy when, early in the movie, some guy behind us wouldn’t stop talking, so I slipped the mask on and whirled around, growling “Quiet!” and brandishing the fake blade. His response? “Is that knife real? I’ll give you 10 bucks for that knife.” But the gesture had its effect, and he shut up.

However, the rest of the young crowd, ourselves included, carried on in the most appropriate way. Everyone there was primed for a good, scary time, and they got it. There were cheers when the title came up, and I was thrilled to hear that great theme music (reorchestrated by Carpenter and Alan Howarth) issuing from a big screen again, accompanying the spooky opening-titles sequence. There were screams aplenty when Michael Myers lunged and loomed out of his hiding places to attack his hapless victims, shouts of encouragement as Jamie Lee Curtis tried to escape his relentless pursuit and groans and catcalls when the marshal said something stupid during the heat of the climax (followed by more screams when he paid for his stupidity at the business end of Michael’s scalpel).

It was the ultimate Halloween-night fright-film experience, and I left the theater convinced that HALLOWEEN II was as good as its predecessor. Time and perspective have altered that point of view somewhat (I still think it’s an honorable follow-up, if not as accomplished as Carpenter’s movie), but I’ll never forget the thrill of sitting in that theater, surrounded by a like-minded teenage audience, collectively happy to be scared and loving every minute of it.

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About the author
Michael Gingold
Michael Gingold has been a member of the FANGORIA team for the past three decades. After starting as a writer for the magazine in 1988, he came aboard as associate editor in 1990 and two years later moved up to managing editor. He now serves as editor-in-chief of the magazine while continuing to contribute numerous articles and reviews, as well as a contributing editor/writer for this website.
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