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Movie Review: Halloween H20

Halloween H20: Twenty Years Later (Dimension, 1998)
Directed by Steve Miner
Written by Robert Zappia and Matt Greenberg based on a story by Zappia

In recent years, dwindling franchises have taken a reinvention approach to their respective series: Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Batman, James Bond, and Superman have all had moderate to extreme success with this approach. Well, Halloween did it almost ten years ago. After 1995’s sixth installment did very little to impress the viewers with its pointless and confusing storyline and very little in the realm of scares, the producers decided to lure one of the big guns back for a new start.

Jamie Lee Curtis, in what she called a performance for the fans, returned to the franchise that made her a household name twenty years earlier. It worked out pretty well for everyone involved, giving the first Halloween sequel I know of some good reviews. A $55 million box-office draw didn’t hurt matters, making it the highest grossing film in the series since the original.

Curtis’s Laurie Strode is now going by the name of Keri Tate and is a principal/teacher at a boarding school in California. The last three films never happened according to this sequel, which we see early on when we meet Laurie’s 17 year old son, John (Josh Hartnett). Laurie is still suffering from her 20 year old brush with death; she has turned to alcohol and pills to calm her down and stop the nightmares and hallucinations revolving around her brother’s return.

The immediate problem I had with this film was the lack of explanation for Michael’s return. Up until the last film, they had at least tried to give some sort of reasoning behind his return. H20 (Or Halloween Water as I like to call it) starts off with Michael just popping up at Nurse Whittington’s (Nancy Stephens) house; you might remember her from Michael’s escape scene in the first film. He destroys her office and steals the files from a folder labeled Laurie Strode, and then kills the nurse.

Michael’s obviously trying to get information on his sister’s location, but why does Nurse Whittington have all of Dr. Loomis’s (Donald Pleasance died during the filming of the last film) old files, and why 20 years later? What has he been doing all of this time; working at the Kwik-E Mart, biding his time because the 20th anniversary of his killing spree would be more dramatic?

From there, we pick up at the Boarding school where Laurie/Keri is pissing off her son by not letting him go on a class camping trip. Ironically making him stay behind puts him in more danger than letting him go because Michael is on his way, and now both sister and nephew are in danger.

The first two thirds of the film are fairly standard slasher film fare. We get the setup of the four teenagers that aren’t going on the camping trip planning a Halloween party of their own. Meanwhile, Laurie is getting drunker as the anniversary date goes on and consoles in her boyfriend/school counselor (Adam Arkin). We’ve also got an inept security guard, Ronald Jones (LL Cool J). He spends most of his time on the phone with his wife reading her segments from a trashy romance novel he is writing, and less time surveying the grounds letting Michael get on campus fairly easily.

All of this is for the most part uninteresting, and in the end, isn’t even a very good buildup. The film spends way too much time with stupid subplots (the Security guard’s aspirations that amount to nothing), and a lot of cute references made to the first Halloween and even other horror films. For instance, Janet Leigh, Curtis’s real life mother, plays Laurie’s secretary in the film and leaves for the weekend in the same car she drove in Psycho with a modernized version of the original score playing to boot.

The last third proves to be quite a bit more fun with Laurie having a chance to escape, she instead decides to stay back, going all “Ripley” on Michael’s ass, and hoping to end this once and for all. The final sequence is very well executed and gives an interesting definition to the idea of brotherly love that finishes off with a head being cut off. It’s a very fitting ending to an up and down film series, but more sequels were to come unfortunately.

If the rest of the film had been more in tune with the energy and creativeness of the last fifteen minutes or so, I might have enjoyed it more. However, it suffers from a lot of the same problems that the other sequels are plagued with. The main problem being Michael’s ability to be in many places at once, not to mention his choice of who he kills and passes over makes absolutely no sense here. He decides to stick around and kill Whittington and her two knucklehead neighbor kids at the beginning, but then passes on killing LL when he has the chance even though a security guard with a gun would seem to pose a certain threat to his plans.

And while Curtis is fine, the teenage characters are the most annoying of any of the previous films, and Arkin and LL aren’t really given enough to do. Also, Steve Miner was a strange choice for the director’s chair considering he didn’t exactly have a pedigree that fits his involvement. He had only directed terrible horror films, two Friday the 13th sequels and Warlock, and melodramatic bullshit such as Forever Young and episodes of Dawson’s Creek. How the producers looked at him and said that’s our guy, is beyond me.

The big litmus test for me when dealing with a sequel is would the film hold up on its own if everything that came before it was taken away. Halloween H20 really doesn’t pass this test. While it has grown on me over the last ten years, my enjoyment is based more on nostalgia and love for the original. I personally think that Parts 2 and 4 are better films. In the end, bringing back Curtis comes off as a desperate attempt to reenergize a franchise that should have died off a long time ago.

Follows: Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers

Next: Halloween: Resurrection 


Sam Loomis

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