HALLOWEEN H20: 20 YEARS LATER

halloweenh203.5 Stars

1998/18/83m

A.k.a. Halloween 7

“Blood is thicker than water.”

Director: Steve Miner / Writers: Matt Greenberg & Robert Zappia / Cast: Jamie Lee Curtis, Adam Arkin, Michelle Williams, Josh Hartnett, Jodi Lyn O’Keefe, Adam Hann-Byrd, Janet Leigh, L.L. Cool J, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Nancy Stephens, Beau Billingslea, Charles Durand, voice of Donald Pleasence.

Body Count: 7


Some things in life are inevitable; “death and taxes,” my dad always said. But let’s not leave out the commercial tendancy to ‘strike while the iron’s hot’ so to speak, or, cash-in on a trend. In this case it was Scream. Scream, Scream, Scream wherever you looked in the horrorsphere left in the wake of Wes Craven’s let’s-state-the-obvious slasher flick. As that film featured footage from Halloween, only survivalist recluses would be fool enough not to consider a big time return to form for the first born serial slasher. Yes, Michael Myers came back!

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In Halloween H20 (oddly pronounced H-2-O like, y’know, water…), we catch up with Jamie Lee Curtis’ final girl extraordinaire Laurie Strode, who faked her death and went into hiding, ending up as the head teacher at an exclusive prep school in California, miiiiiiiles away from Haddonfield. Unbeknownst to Laurie – masquerading under the name Keri Tate – the late Doc Loomis’ house has been ransacked, his faithful nurse and a couple of unlucky neighbours murdered and Laurie’s whereabouts discovered. Roll titles.

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While we reacquaint ourselves with Laurie/Keri, learn that she’s an alcoholic with a rebellious seventeen-year-old in Josh Hartnett, Michael drives across country in time for a Halloween reunion, complete with kitchen knife, boiler suit and freaky white mask. On the day itself, Hartnett and a trio of friends hide out in school for a private party that is, of course, crashed by Mike, who chases the survivors in Laurie’s direction for the ultimate showdown when she opts to stay behind and kill big brother once and for all, doing a neat 360 on Laurie’s mousy run-and-hide attitude from twenty years earlier.

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H20 was intended to be the last word on the subject and so ends with one of the most satisfactory resolves in the history of a genre infamous for loopholes and get-out clauses to allow for possible franchising opportunities. Effective as it was, watching it back now in the knowledge that we were cheated to satisfy the ridiculous concept used in Halloween: Resurrection four years later is frown-inducing to say the least. This, along with the script’s choice to ignore the story arc created in films 4-6, makes for a bit of a redundancy on H20‘s part, it’s rendered nothing but a handsome distraction. And that’s a little insulting to longterm fans of the series, who’ve invested in the unfolding saga of Myers tracking down and killing all his relatives only for it to be closed off, denied and then reverted to cut n’ dried slasher shenanigans in the next film.

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Nevertheless there’s much to enjoy here; Curtis is on fine form as Laurie, while almost nothing like her former self, she’s tough when the chips are down and really gives Michael a taste of his own medicine during the climactic one-on-one smackdown. Her supporting cast are good too, with Arkin amusing but underused as her lover, Michelle Williams – fresh from Dawson’s Creek at the time – as Hartnett’s girlfriend and even LL Cool J manages to squeeze some likeabilty out of his standardly foredoomed security guard character. Curtis’ mom, Janet Leigh, also turns up for a great cameo as a secretary, complete with her original Psycho car and hints of its theme as she requests of Laurie that she “be maternal” for a moment…

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There are some decent back-to-basics terror sequences on show, with Michael leering through windows in the background and spooking lost teens around the deserted school. This is only tripped up by a shrunken body count, which could have used another couple of disposable teens to add gravitas to Michael’s killing ‘spree’ at the academy. Things are amped when Hartnett and Williams flee from Michael and find themselves locked in gated vestibule, being slashed at through the bars.

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The film, based on a draft by Kevin Williamson, who was involved in almost all the slasher flicks of the period (and is credited as co-executive producer here), is positively littered with references to former films in lines of dialogue, musical quips (Carpenter’s theme still plink-plonks along nicely when called for) and visual motifs, all of which make H20 an enjoyable experience, even if it was made irrelevant soon after, indicating it sold out for a slice of the Scream pie. A solid sequel, not as honestly enjoyable as Halloween 4 and possibly Halloween 6 but one of the better entries in a great series.

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Blurbs-of-interest: O’Keefe played the sex-crazed killer of Teacher’s Pet; LL Cool J was in Mindhunters; Nancy Stephens was reprising her role from the first two Halloween films; director Miner helmed the first two Friday the 13th sequels.

4 comments

  • Eric Henwood-Greer

    I admit, I get why many fans were disappointed by aspects of the film, but to me it’s still much more enjoyable than any other parts, except the first two. I’m one of those fans, that hardcore fans probably hate, who is happy to see those three films as a trilogy, and to completely pretend that what happens to Laurie Strode in the next film, never happened (OK, in fact, I’ve never even SEEN Ressurection, even though I have it on a cheap DVD. I just can’t make myself). I know Jamie Lee was obligated to appear in the next movie by contract, but it just all seems so cynical (then again I’m one of those slasher films who identifies more with the heroines of these films than the killer–). But it does seem like a huge kick in the gut to have viewers follow Laurie, and witness her final moments of H20–finally overcoming–only to be told int he next film she went insane and then have her nonchalantly killed off.

  • Yeah I agree about poor Laurie, I think after aggravating so many long-term fans by ignoring the interim sequels, they then rub salt into the wound by killing off the series’ mainstay. And then remake the original!!

  • The most irksome thing to me about H20 is Chris Durand’s performance as Myers. His hunched posture in many scenes is laughable especially in the scene where he sits up after being ejected through the windsheild of the van by Laurie/Keri (I assume this was an homage to the original when he eerily rises up behind Laurie in the bedroom). H20’s Michael just doesn’t feel right to me and even though Ressurection was terrible I give props to Brad Loree for delivering a believable “Shape.”

  • I have to concur with Eric. Like ANOES 1, 3, and 7; I prefer to look at Halloween as a trilogy. I enjoy 4-6 as a sort of Stab franchise take on the Shape’s reign of terror. But only Halloween, Halloween 2, and H20 exist for me in the series’ canon. Mostly because of the Circle of Thorn stuff, which I absolutely hated even as a kid. I didn’t want Michael to be some stupid mystical Druid possession guy. And the doctor in part 6 attempting to rewrite the series’ history by taking credit for everything that ever happened was the worst thing ever.

    This film isn’t perfect, but it’s a damn shot better than all the sequels that surround it (and most slasher films then and since). Steve Miner and Kevin Williamson brought enough genre experience and respect for the series to the table to make Jamie Lee’s return satisfying. And the ending (which is the one, true ending of the franchise) was and still is a perfect way to finish the story.

    It’s a shame John Carpenter negotiated himself out of directing this one. But considering that he would shortly after direct the atrocious Ghosts of Mars, maybe it was for the best that Steve Miner was brought in the helm the project in his stead. If you can’t get the guy who created this franchise, you can at least bring in the guy who oversaw the best of another one. And it’s a small victory to someone to doesn’t care for these things, but I thought it was great to see the series return to a 2.35:1 aspect ratio. The stunning cinematography was one of the many things that caused the original film to stand out, and continues to so many SOV imitations later.

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