Halloween: H20 is perhaps the strongest of the MM infused Halloween sequels. It also does something very smart, and pretends that 4-6 never happened, which is an amazing coincidence as most moviegoers did the same thing. In the original script for H20, they do include them, including the death of Jamie, and the Thorn curse, but opted instead to simply focus on Laurie Strode (which makes sense as it was originally going to be called The Revenge of Laurie Strode).
That’s a welcome relief and a smart thing to do. As I’ve said repeatedly in comments and on the Imaginarium podcast, the more sequels a movie has, the more disjointed the mythology becomes, and far more discrepancies pop up. Throwing everything out and starting from scratch almost is the key to H20’s success. It’s also the shortest of the sequels, running a scant 86 minutes (less when you subtract the credits), yet when it ends you don’t feel like it was rushed or that you were ripped off. It’s like a Snickers bar, it satisfies you.
H20 was directed by Steve Miner, one of the forces behind and director of a couple of the Friday the 13th movies, and it’s readily apparent he’s honed his craft, as H20 is lightyears beyond anything he’s done prior. He relies on the jump scares though nowhere near as much as H5&6, but for the most part keeps the creepiness and dread ratcheted up. One of the things I read in comments in my review of the original Halloween, was that I couldn’t really fault the movie for lack of logic, as it was almost a fever dream where reality and nightmare collided. I didn’t, and don’t buy that for the original, but for H20 it makes perfect sense. Laurie (played by Jamie Lee Curtis in a stunning performance), hallucinates seeing MM nearly everywhere, in windows, mirrors, the corner of her eye-you name it. Yet when she closes them and then opens them again, he’s always gone. Her son refers to her as a functioning alcoholic, and certainly that could play a part in her seeing things-so you never really know what’s real and what’s not.
Set 20 years after the events of H2, the film opens with Dr. Loomis’ former nurse discovering her house had been broken into. Two neighbor boys (one being Joseph Gordon Levitt) investigate, and end up being murdered by MM who had stolen the file on Laurie from the nurse’s home, and then kills the nurse as well.
Meanwhile in a sleepy little California town, Laurie and her son John are living a life as normal as possible, aside from the yearly bout of paranoia Laurie suffers from. Having faked her death, she escaped to CA, and lives under an assumed name. It’s Halloween weekend and the students at the school where she works are going on a camping trip-all except for her son, whom she refuses to let go. When she finally relents, he doesn’t go anyway, instead sneaking into the basement with some friends for their own Halloween party (not to mention underage drinking and nookie getting). Of course this all sets up a confrontation between Laurie and her brother, in a battle to the death.
Adam Arkin shows up as her guidance counselor boyfriend, and LL Cool J also wanders onset as a smut writing security guard. Both do well in their roles, even if they are a bit shallow, they’re at least likable, especially LL Cool J trying to convince his wife on the phone to give him time to become a writer. It’s a conversation every struggling artist has had with a significant other at one time or another.
H20 is fun, fast paced, scary, and well done. Carpenter was asked to direct it, and he initially agreed, but his asking fee of $10,000,000 was more than producer Moustapha Akkad was willing to pay. That alone should tell you why the franchise really went into the shitter. Akkad cares nothing for the franchise other than how much money he can make for as little investment as possible. In a way I’m kind of glad JC didn’t direct it, as I like what Miner did. One other great cameo to mention is Jamie Lee Curtis’ real life mother Janet Leigh, as her doddering, batty secretary. Trivia time: the car you see Janet Leigh drive off in is the same car she drove in Psycho (the one she traded in her other car for). Thanks Wikipedia!
Josh Hartnett as Lee’s son is very good in his first feature length role. He has a natural presence and likability onscreen, and such a winning smile you can’t help but having naughty thoughts about him. Well, okay, maybe that’s just me, but charisma aside, he has some acting chops, and really wish he would do more.
Watching Curtis reprise her role from 20 years earlier is the main draw to H20. It’s fun to see how her character has changed, and how much she’s grown as an actress. When she goes head to head with Michael, you almost feel sorry for the ass whupping he’s about to get. This is the Laurie Strode we saw at the end of H2, shooting Michael’s eyes out, and not the virginal, afraid of her own shadow Laurie we see at the beginning of H1. The only thing missing is Dr. Loomis, and I think it was a smart move not to recast him, as Donald Pleasence will always own that role (though there is an actor who does a v.o as Loomis).
The violence is intense, graphic, and not as gratuitous as you might think. Carrying on a tradition from every MM Halloween flick, he once again stabs someone, lifts them up by the knife and sticks them into a wall. Actually I think he may fling this one away, but close enough. When you get to a sixth sequel , it’s pretty hard to keep things original, and certainly H20 doesn’t do anything new, but as the saying goes, it’s not the story you tell, but how you tell the story. And in this case, H20 tells it very well indeed.
Tomorrow: We conclude the Halloween retrospective with the final sequel, Halloween Resurrection! Can Rick Rosenthal duplicate his success of H2? (hint: not a chance)