Halloween: H20 (1998)

Halloween: H20 (1998)

This summer, terror won’t be taking a vacation

Everyone believes that Laurie Strode was killed in a car accident but in reality, she has assumed a new name and identity in order to escape her past and is working as a headmistress in a private school. She continually has visions and nightmares of Michael Myers and turns to alcohol to try and help solve her problems. However twenty years after originally trying to murder her, Michael Myers tracks her down. Laurie must finally confront her fears and put an end to the demons which haunt her.

 

Yeah the title is a bit silly isn’t it? By any other franchise this would be classed as Halloween 7 but for some reason this daft moniker was slapped onto it. Effectively a re-branding of the series, a reboot and homage at the same time, Halloween: H20 is certainly a couple of steps in the right direction for the franchise, although they couldn’t get any worse. Ignoring that any of the sequels bar Halloween II existed, Halloween: H20 exists purely because of the success of Scream. Let’s face it, the franchise was dead and buried after Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers and it’s only the resurgence in teen horror which has brought about this sequel getting the green light. Kevin Williamson, writer of Scream, serves as producer so you know what you’re going to get here with a couple of in-jokes and nods to other films.

The best way to describe Halloween: H20 is that it’s gone commercial. Instead of pandering to the horror fans, this sequel attempts to revive the series and bring on board a whole new legion of younger fans to not only the franchise but to slasher films in general. Following the recent trend, the film is filled with a load of fresh-faced teenagers from TV shows like Dawson’s Creek with a couple of genre actors thrown in for good measure to counterbalance. So it’s striking out to two audiences at the same time and not really doing enough to appease either. For fans of the series, the film seems like a pandering to the younger audience with the self-awareness and cultural references from the young cast. For new and younger fans, the film isn’t as violent and graphic as other late 90s slashers and the pace is rather slow during the first half.

In an era of MTV audiences who need to be bombarded with information and eye candy every two minutes before they get bored, that would seem like the crime of the century. But credit must be given to the director to try and stick to the original’s less-is-more approach when it comes to gore. In a genre populated by ridiculously contrived death scenes, it was nice to see the film keep things simple and relatively gore free. The body count is low and the kills are mainly confined to the final third of the film once Michael Myers makes his presence felt at the school. Until then, director Steve Miner (no stranger to the genre having helmed Friday the 13th Part III) is content to keep the pace deliberate and more akin with the original. Granted he’s got little in the way of John Carpenter’s visual style but I can’t be hard on him for trying to stick closely to what worked for the original. For the most part it works. There’s a slow build-up of dread and it’s atmospheric at times. As in the original, when Michael starts killing, the film turns it up a few more notches. And it wouldn’t be a Halloween film without a suspenseful scene in which a character tries to get into a locked door as Michael Myers approaches them!

Halloween: H20 works for one main reason and that is down to the return of Jamie Lee Curtis. Apparently it was her idea to return to the series as she felt there was unfinished business (the cynic in me thinks she was looking for a way to get back into the spotlight and decided to cash in on the film that made her famous) and she puts everything into the performance. She’s a more experienced actress now and her character looks like she’s gone through the ringer – well let’s face it, she has! It’s an emotional performance in which Michael Myers has affected her life. As the audience who have already sat through her brushes with Michael in the past, we’re entirely invested in the character. We care about her and want to see her survive and finally break free of the demons that haunt her. It’s an emotional investment with a character that has spanned three films now and without her, the film would simply be Michael versus the teenagers which would not have sold tickets at all.

To be fair to them, the teenagers fare slightly better than usual with Josh Hartnett doing what he can with the throwaway role of Laurie’s son. The characters aren’t too dumb and make some sensible decisions but their undoing is still the usual drink and sex formula. The guy behind the mask, Chris Durand, fails to match up with some of the others in the series. His stance and posture look weird at times and the new mask itself disappoints. Still, the director tries to make the character scary again and has him return to his roots of lurking around in the background, peering in through windows and the like. Whilst Michael will never regain the scare factor he had in the original, its a few steps in the right direction.

 

Halloween: H20 is one of the better instalments in the series and that’s simply because Steve Miner has gone back to the roots and tried to build the film up a little before throwing in the kills and mayhem. It’s still not a patch on the first two but manages to overshadow the sillier sequels. This should have been where the series ended but alas, box office dictates what happens, not the fans and I feel as though we were robbed with the next sequel Halloween: Resurrection. For those who have seen the opening act, you’ll know what I’m referring to.

 

 ★★★★★★☆☆☆☆ 

 

 

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