Halloween: H20 (1998)

I have this one friend, he and I have known each other many, many years, and we agree on most things, in fact, his partner has often remarked that we are like the same person, only in different genders. One thing we don’t agree on however, is this film. See, despite it being a continuance of the original Halloween films, I’ve never really rated H20 (I remember vividly, seeing it at the cinema for my 15th birthday, which is only a few days after Halloween and was more excited by the trailer for the Blair Witch Project than I was by the actual film), I would go so far as to say that I prefer Halloween: Resurrection. This has been a long standing bone of contention between my friend and I, and so I am going to dedicate this post and the next to him. Byron, these reviews are for you and, while we might not agree on which of these films is the superior, I hope that at least we can come to a common understanding on both of their strong points. Your rebuttals are of course, always welcome.

In Halloween: H20 we’re reunited with all the main players from the original film: Dr. Loomis is with us via voice over (Donald Pleasence died in 1995) and his chain smoking nurse side kick is also back (for a moment anyway), still chain smoking and being bad ass. She’s a fighter until the end that one. In this installment we find Laurie living under an assumed identity with her son, John, as headmistress of an elite boarding school in California. John has just turned 17, which makes him a prime target for Michael Meyers, who as we all remember has a thing for 17 year olds, particularly those who are among his kinfolk. When the whole school body takes a field trip to Yosemite National Park for Halloween, except for John and three of his friends (and Laurie and some of the other teachers), Michael is met with perfect opportunity to do some killing… which he does in his typical non-verbal, butcher knife swinging style.

In this version, we’re introduced to Josh Hartnett, who any girl or boy who was a teen in the late 1990’s will remember became something of a sex symbol/heart-throb/it-boy for a while, before disappearing for many years and recently reappearing in Penny Dreadful. Michelle Williams also shows up, she too was coming into fame through her role on Dawson’s Creek in this period and that little boy who plays young Alan in Jumanji is also here for a while… but he doesn’t make it to the final credits. Same goes for Joseph Gordon Levitt, who plays Jimmy, or more fairly, makes a cameo as Jimmy. His ice skate through the face remains one of the funniest/most horrific deaths in any slasher film. Oh snap, and let’s not forget LL Cool J, who is the security guard/romance novelist that assists in saving the day.

Halloween: H20 returns to the simplicity that made Halloween and Halloween: II such classic films in the horror repertoire – the cast are all in a confined space, cut off from town, with little to depend on apart from their own survival instincts. Rather than multiple character lines converging, it is just Laurie who is the target (and John) and everyone else is merely in the way. By this time, the audience are familiar with Michael and his drives and his relationship to Laurie and so these are not factors which need too much attention in the plot, although Laurie does give a brief summary for those viewers who have not been playing at home for the last twenty years. There’s no secret cults, no runes, no babies, it’s all pure old school slasher…

So…if all the essential elements are here and none of the superfluous ones which made Halloween: The Curse of Michael Meyers such a drag… then why do I hate it, or more fairly, why don’t I rate it?

Well, for me, this movie promised to be a return to form. I was expecting the same sort of atmosphere as the originals, the darkness, the silence, the foreboding and I just feel like it never really gets there. Obviously, Jamie Lee is older and thus, Laurie needs to have grown and matured to a point and is carrying the emotional scars of her teen years, which undoubtedly has an affect on her life. Obviously the original films had a smaller body count than the later installments and thus this one is merely returning to form. Still, it just seems like half a film. So much time is spent setting up for Michael’s arrival (which the audience knows is imminent from the open scenes), that when he gets there, the makers have all but run out of time and thus the action is squeezed into half an hour or so. The deaths are all so close together that you’re not invested in any of them… and why does LL Cool J get to live? Look, I like him too, but apart from having one of the smallest death counts in any of these films, this one also has the largest number of survivors and I just don’t get why. I don’t often say this, but this film would have benefited from being a half hour longer and spending more time on setting up the murders and dispatching more people. Also, too much takes place in the daylight hours. So much of Michael’s horror relies on the darkness, so having the majority of the film take place in the day detracts from that (except for the early scene in the public restroom, that was awesome). Finally, as a long time watcher of the series, by this point in time Michael would be in his 40’s and as such, there are certain feats of strength which seem too much. I mean, I can disconnect from the impossibility of the fact that Michael is some kind of immortal evil that cannot be killed by bullets, fire, knives or an assortment of other weapons, but for some reason, the sight of him dropping from the rafters using only a single arm (the other is obviously holding a knife), just makes me go ‘nope.’

On the positive side, and I think this is ultimately where Byron is coming from, the film does present an excellent conclusion to the series and I think, when it was released, everyone involved thought it would be the last installment. Laurie finally has the opportunity to confront her past and, now that she has twenty years of life experience behind her, she has the gumption to be able to look Michael in the eye, without needing Loomis there to save her. In this Laurie we see the battle scars that twenty years of fear have given her, the way that the weight of her history is dragging her down and ruining her relationships with everyone that is close to her. I do love Laurie in this, despite her many foibles and anxiety issues, I think that Jamie Lee is amazing (as always) in that way that she brings this character full circle. She also ticks all the boxes when it comes to being the protective mother, not only saving John, but his girlfriend too. In a final feat of bravery, she even assists them to escape, while she stays behind to confront her brother. That’s pretty damn impressive. Talk about strength. So, yes, I am not blind to the awesome elements of this film but it’s still not one I will go out of my way to watch,

Of course money has a way of swaying people into doing things they didn’t think they would do, and so, just four short years later, Michael and Laurie were back in the final, final installment (thus far) of the Halloween franchise, Halloween: Resurrection. I can see Byron rolling his eyes here, but, as you’ll see in my next and final blog for this Halloween weekend, Halloween: Resurrection isn’t as bad as it first appears. You just have to look at it in the right way.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s