Monday, October 1, 2012

Halloween H20: Twenty Years Later (1998)

        On Halloween night, 1978 in the small mid-western town of Haddonfield, Illinois, Michael Myers murdered a total of sixteen people.  After that terrifying night, Michael Myers' only living relative, Laurie Strode, was killed in a car accident.  Haddonfield has been peaceful and quiet for twenty years with no sign of The Shape.  Now, in October of 1998, Michael Myers returns. He begins by breaking into Marion Chambers Whittington's (Dr. Loomis' nurse from the first two films) house to find out that Laurie Strode is really alive and had faked her death.  Michael kills two high school guys who live next door as well as killing Marion.  It turns out that Laurie Strode is now residing in Northern California with her teenage son John, has changed her name to Keri Tate, and is the head mistress at a private school.  Laurie has been having nightmares of her brother returning to kill her and her son.  John has been taking care of his mother and is sick of her overprotection and paranoia.  So, John, his girlfriend Molly, and friends Charlie and Sarah decide to stick around on campus to have a private Halloween party since mostly everyone else has left on a camping trip . Meanwhile, Michael finds his way back to Laurie and kills anyone who gets in his way.  This leaves John and his friends in grave danger and forces Laurie to face her fear head on by taking on Michael in a shocking finale that would have and should have been a great closing to the Halloween franchise.

             John Carpenter changed the horror genre forever when he made Halloween in 1978. The film has gone on to become a horror classic that has been talked about for three decades.  Halloween was followed by four sequels in the '80s.  In the mid '90s, Miramax had bought the rights to the Halloween franchise under their Dimension wing.  In 1995, Dimension and Halloween's executive producer Moustapha Akkad released the franchise's sixth installment titled Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers.  The film disappointed fans and was a confusing mess thanks to serious re-editing to please some snobby fourteen year old kid who thought the producer's cut sucked.  Also, the franchise's main star Donald Pleasence who played Dr. Sam Loomis had passed away shortly after completing additional dialogue for the film.  Since Loomis was originally intended to return for a seventh film, the ending was redone to not feature Loomis, making the film even worse.   The future of the franchise was at a standstill.  Jamie Lee Curtis noticed that it was approaching the twentieth anniversary of the original Halloween and wanted to make a Halloween film that would reunite herself, director John Carpenter, and possibly P.J. Soles (Lynda). Both John Carpenter and P.J. Soles turned down the offer. However, executive producer Moustapha Akkad liked the idea of bringing Jamie Lee Curtis back as Laurie Strode for a twentieth anniversary film.

             The horror genre was resurrected in 1996 with the clever slasher hit Scream, which was written by at the time an unknown writer named Kevin Williamson and directed by horror veteran Wes Craven.  Scream made horror films hot again. We got slasher hits such as I Know What You Did Last Summer and Urban Legend.  Akkad decided that this new Halloween film should ride on the coattails of the new wave of teen horror hits that Scream started.  Kevin Williamson was hired to oversee the script and to produce the new Halloween film. Williamson said in interviews that the original Halloween is what made him want to be a screenwriter and was his main influence while writing Scream. In fact, there's sequences in Scream where John Carpenter's Halloween is playing in the background on the television.   Jamie Lee Curtis had seen Halloween 3-6 and hated them, so she wanted this new film to play out like a direct sequel to Halloween (1978) & Halloween II (1981).  In the late summer of 1998, Halloween H20: Twenty Years Later was released to theaters. With a hot young cast, Laurie Strode, and a surprising shocker of an ending, Halloween H20 was a pretty decent hit and breathed fresh air into a dead franchise.

        Halloween H20 was actually the first Halloween film that I was able to see in theaters and I had a blast.  The audience I was with  seemed to enjoy it too since they were all jumping, screaming, cheering, and laughing.  Now I know there's a group of people out there that hated the mid-late '90s horror trend of self awareness, but most of it didn't bother me that much unless it was the extremely low budget straight to video films or some not so good sequels. I guess the reason they don't bother me is because I grew up with them. To be honest, I was exposed to these types of horror films before I really got into the older and more classic films.  The first actual horror film that made me a fan was the original Halloween and then Scream came out and I got hooked. I didn't really have much knowledge of the genre back then like I do now.

             I do however see the flaws in this film now that I didn't see back in 1998. Before I get into those, I would like to talk about what I enjoyed about Halloween H20.  The screenplay written by Robert Zappia and Matt Greenberg is pretty good. I happen to love Kevin Williamson as a screenwriter and you can definitely tell that he had a lot to do with this film as well as with the screenplay. One thing that I've always enjoyed about Williamson's writing aside from cool stories is very well written characters.  The man writes teen dialogue well in my opinion. He may throw in a lot of references to films that he loves, but what film geek doesn't? When I wrote Hallowscream, I named the two teens Fred and Jason and made them BEST FRIENDS as well as combining the titles of the first two horror films that made me a fan of the genre together!  Kevin Williamson was another inspiration for me growing up. He's a great writer in my opinion and I want to be a great writer too.  Anyways, this post isn't about me, it's about my opinion of Halloween H20.

             The characters were great.  I liked the direction they took Laurie where she is taking a lot of medication, is a bit of an alcoholic, paranoid as Hell, and vastly overprotective of her son John.  John is tired of being hand cuffed to his mother and just wants to be a regular teenager and spend time with his girlfriend Molly and his two best friends.  I also kinda liked Laurie's boyfriend Will, who's a guidance counselor at the private school.  He just wants to spend time with her, but she won't let him get too close.  The security guard Ronny was also pretty cool.  And I liked the other teen characters. The characterization is the strongest part of Halloween H20 for me.

         When the shit hits the fan and Michael begins terrorizing them, Laurie faces her demons and makes the choice to stop running from her Boogeyman and to fight him head on.  I liked that she became a stronger character in this film.

             I also really loved the opening with a small appearance by Marion Chambers from the first two Halloween films.  The opening credits sequence was cool too except for that silly Donald Pleasence dubbed voice over.

             The kills in this movie are pretty cool for the most part.  My favorites are when Michael kills this teen who is a hockey player by shoving his ice skate blade right between his eyes and when one guy gets his throat cut with a corkscrew.  We also get a really cool decapitation.

               The music by John Ottman is okay. I heard that Ottman wasn't pleased with what they did to his music in the final film.  I did love the "Mr. Sandman" song at the beginning, which was used at the end of Halloween II (1981).

              The ending fucking rocked. It totally had people gasping in the theater including myself back in 1998. Akkad and Dimension had balls to do that, but then those balls turned blue, green, and dissolved into a raped pussy drizzling blood when Halloween Resurrection was made.

              I do have a few issues with the film though. Well, most people don't like that this film was made in the tradition that Scream started, but that actually did not bother me.  I didn't like the fact that Halloween H20 ignores Halloween 4-6 though. What's the point in watching those when this film just skips over them? The only bit from Halloween 4 actually mentioned is that Laurie was supposedly in a car accident and was dead. Here, it explains that she had faked her death and changed her name.  Other than that though, no mention of Jamie Lloyd or anything related to Halloween 4-6.  Now, I can hear some of you saying that Friday The 13th Part VI: Jason Lives ignored Friday The 13th Part V: A New Beginning. Well, that was for a very good reason, that film fucking sucked. It didn't skip over three films either, just one terrible film and treated it like a bad dream.   Another issue I have is with the eight different Michael Myers masks. I didn't dig the look of the mask in this film.  I also didn't like that this film takes place mostly in Northern California instead of Haddonfield, Illinois like all of the other Halloween films did (except for obviously Season of the Witch).  And there's a few bits that look kinda campy, especially when Michael stabs Sarah in the back with his butcher knife very slowly.  Aside from those things though, I really liked the film.

            The direction by Steve Miner, who also directed Friday The 13th Part 2 & 3 was actually really good for the most part.

      The acting was pretty solid in Halloween H20. Jamie Lee Curtis returned greatly back into the iconic heroine of Laurie Strode and made her a strong woman hellbent on killing her evil brother and protecting her son.  Newcomer at the time, Josh Hartnett, was great in his first acting role as Laurie's son John (named after John Carpenter).  I could tell back in '98 that this guy was going to be a star and I was right.  Hartnett would later star in the teen sci fi/horror/thriller The Faculty that was written by Kevin Williamson.  Dawson's Creek star Michelle Williams was great as Molly, John's girlfriend.  Adam Arkin was decent as Will.  I really liked LL Cool J as the security guard Ronny.  Jodi Lyn O'Keefe was great as Sarah. O' Keefe is probably best known for playing a stuck up and popular High School bitch in films such as She's All That and Whatever It Takes. Adam Hann-Byrd was cool as Charlie.  I also loved the return of Nancy Stephens as Marion Chambers from the first two Halloween films.  There's a great cameo by Jamie Lee Curtis' mother Janet Leigh as a woman named Norma. I love that they gave her the name of Norman Bates' mother from Alfred Hitchcock's classic Psycho, which Janet Leigh played Marion Crane who gets stabbed to death in the infamous shower scene.  Chris Durand was alright as Michael Myers. And last, but surely not least, we get a great cameo by a young Joseph Gordon Levitt at the beginning of the film. Levitt has gone on to play in such films as 10 Things I Hate About You, Inception, and played Robin/John Blake in Nolan's last Batman film The Dark Knight Rises.

                Overall, Halloween H20 is a pretty good sequel in the franchise. It's not as good as Halloween II (1981) or Halloween 4, but it's the last good film in the franchise until Rob Zombie's Halloween (2007).


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