Page 1 of 3
Echo Bridge / 86 Minutes / 1998 / Rated R / Street Date: May 3, 2011
Okay, go ahead and flame me, but I think Halloween H20 is one of the best horror sequels to come down the pike in many a moon. Sure, this is part 7 of a series that long ago ran out of gas, but is it really fair to slag off Halloween H20 as just another lame slasher redux, or worse, a rip-off whose sole reason for existing was to cash in on the post-Scream horror resurgence? It may be all of those things, but it isn't cynical, and works for one very simple reason: they made Michael Myers scary again.
Though I liked isolated moments in the other Halloween sequels, and even enjoyed the silly Myers-less Halloween III, let's face it, he hasn't been the most terrifying guy as of late. I am adamant that one of the main reasons most of the other sequels failed to deliver the scares was because not only was some stuntman playing The Shape, but they also saddled him with really goofy masks that never looked quite "right." Admittedly, in H20 Mikey's new visage still isn't quite as cool as the original Myers mug, but I think it's the closest any of the sequels has come to finally making him the scary motherfucker he was in the original. So far, so good.
Now, the story. A fairly clever if cliche-ridden exercise in postmodern stalk n' slash, for once we actually have a real character here, the original and still unparalleled Scream Queen, Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis). After her early encounters with Myers in Halloween I and II, Strode has gone into hiding and is a big ol' mental mess. She has renamed herself "Kerri Tate," and following a failed marriage, now teaches at a posh New England boarding school. With her son about to turn 17 and one serious drinking problem to nurse, Myers is suddenly back on her tail after 20 years... or is he? (And where the hell has he been living all these years, Club Med?) But forget logic, because this isn't so much a psychological character study as it is the stuff of myth, a story of redemption that finally provides closure for Laurie Strode. And that is a key reason it works, because for only the second time in the series, The Shape swinging back into action actually functions as an allegory, restoring the series back to its proper place as a modern myth.
Thankfully, conceptualist Kevin Williamson pretty much discards the other crappy sequels. The story is appropriately minimalist, just like the original: Laurie/Kerri has simply failed to confront her demons, and as all horror movie fans know, you can't run from your fears, you have to face them. Of course, there are also the requisite horny teenagers, bloody slashings, a plot twist or two, and in this era post-Scream, a liberal dose of ironic humor. But the gore and cheap shocks are kept relatively at a minimum, with the emphasis on suspense and fear. Though I was tentative in my enthusiasm when Steve Miner was announced as director (John Carpenter declined), I have to say he does a good job, reducing his penchant for overediting and paying able tribute to the more fluid style of original.
If anything, my biggest complaint with the film was the mad, mad, mad rush to get it out by August 1998 instead of its original release date, October of that same year. Hence, it often feels more like a rough cut - the last 15 minutes a breathless relay race by Miner to see how fast he could finish the film. Of course, it is Jamie Lee Curtis who makes this movie anyway, and it's her show all the way. She was really high on doing this film, which saves H20 from becoming just another lame Halloween sequel. She has always been proud of her Halloween heritage, and is nice to see an actress pay tribute to her roots without cynicism or condescension. She certainly doesn't need the paycheck, so Jamie, you rock! I think Halloween H20, imperfect though it may be, was a genuine attempt to pay tribute to the series and the fans.