|Review||Halloween H20||Director||Steve Miner|
|Writers||Robert Zappia and Matt Greenberg|
|Cast||Jamie Lee Curtis, Adam Arkin, Josh Hartnett, Michelle Williams, LL Cool J and Janet Leigh|
“My brother killed my sister” – Laurie Strode
|Review||Halloween||Director||David Gordon Green|
|Writers||Jeff Fradley, Danny McBride and David Gordon Green|
|Cast||Jamie Lee Curtis, Judy Greer, Andi Matichak, Nick Castle, Will Patton and Haluk Bilginer|
“He is a killer. But he will be killed tonight” – Laurie Strode
Laurie Strode (Curtis) faked her own death to make sure her brother Michael Myers wouldn’t find her. Her new identity is Keri Tate and she is the headmistress of a California private school. Her private life has always been heavily influenced by her past ordeal and her relationship with her son John (Hartnett) is strained. Laurie is a functioning alcoholic who nevertheless has gotten herself in a good position job-wise and she’s always waiting for her psychotic brother to return. Which he promptly does (twenty years later; hence the title) and a number of people bite the dust Myers style before a brother/sister showdown commences.
This film has always been a favourite of mine in the series. It manages on several occasions to capture the menacing atmosphere of “Halloween” (1978) while doing something fairly original with the material; such as setting it in California and at a private school. The writing isn’t half-bad either with a genuinely believable strained mother/son relationship, likable side characters and there’s even an endearing romantic situation going on between Laurie and school counsellor Will (Arkin). Add to that that all actors are very good here (notables especially are future heavyweights Williams and Hartnett) and fairly shallow characters come off unusually well realised. Couple that with some very neat dialogue (Laurie: “Are you tired of my bullshit?”…Will: “I’m a counsellor. I’m attracted to it”) and very cool homages to the first film and even beyond the “Halloween” universe (like Janet Leigh…The “Psycho” theme song…and a certain vintage automobile) and there’s plenty to recommend “Halloween: H20” and even surmise that it’s the best of the sequels.
It’s not perfect though! It has been rumoured that an early draft of the screenplay (which writer Daniel Farrands, who wrote “Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers” (1995) – the sixth film in the series – contributed to) made an attempt to tie in parts 4 (1988), parts 5 (1989) and 6 to what’s ultimately revealed in “H20”. Series fans know that Laurie had been killed in a car crash and her daughter Jamie became Michael’s next victim to be. Well; that part of the “Halloween” universe took some very weird turns and ultimately the decision was made to ignore parts 4, 5 and 6 (and obviously part 3 which was a standalone film anyway) and continue onwards from “Halloween II” (1981).
And while suspension of disbelief is the order of the day in most horror films; “H20” asks a lot of seasoned viewers from the start. Part 4 made some attempts at explaining how Dr. Loomis (Donald Pleasence) and Michael survived at the end of Part II but “H20” offers up no explanation and just has Michael showing up twenty years later and taking little to no time to track down his sister (for starters; why wait 20 years?). And while I do complement the writing overall there is precious little backstory for Laurie other than showing how her ordeal made her tough, trash talking (on occasion) and hard willed but still suffering from post-traumatic stress.
But taking the film at face value; it’s a breathlessly paced and thoroughly entertaining horror film that does justice to the classic original and ends with a bang. Which makes it all the more sad that a certain movie called “Halloween: Resurrection” (2002) continued the story and undid everything that “H20” did very well.
It’s been 40 years since Michael Myers escaped from a mental asylum and killed five people on Halloween night. Dr. Loomis shot Michael six times and he was captured soon after by local police and placed in custody and ever since he has been at Smith’s Grove Sanitarium.
Laurie Strode (Curtis) was the only one who survived that Halloween’s night of terror and the experience has followed her to this day. Today she’s a recluse in a built in fortress of a house, has a terribly dysfunctional relationship with her daughter Karen (Greer), a strained one with her granddaughter Allyson (Matichack) and is still preparing herself for a reunion with the mad killer that came out of nowhere all these years ago. As fate would have it Michael does indeed escape when a patient transfer occurs and once again Halloween night will be filled with dead bodies and a showdown with the victim who now wants to get her own revenge.
This is pretty thin stuff. While “H20” ignored every sequel from Part II onwards this “Halloween” ignores every sequel and places itself as a direct continuation from the 1978 original. The biggest difference here is that, as was intended in the very beginning, Michael and Laurie are not brother and sister. As Part II seemed to have such a definitive ending then this new sequel does not have any plot holes to begin with and just goes with the scenario that Michael has been at the nut house for 40 years.
It does make it a little hard to believe that Myers would have become such a mythical figure with just one night of terror and a total of five bodies. And since he can behave for 40 years it seems his killer instincts can very easily be turned off. And why does he turn on again? Just because some true crime podcasters (Jefferson Hall and Rhian Rees) show up with the old mask? Or because there’s a patient transfer on a bus (conveniently moments before Halloween)? He doesn’t have any clear agenda. It just doesn’t make any sense since Michael’s uber strength (yes he still possesses that because you’ll remember at the end of Part I he was shot six times!) makes it clear he could have made an exit pretty much anytime he wanted. In the end; there’s as much suspension of disbelief required here as in “H20” after all.
But while this reboot is pretty thin it’s nevertheless a highly entertaining and a mostly successful stab at continuing the “Halloween” saga and bring back the best character who was so tastelessly discarded with in the worthless 8th instalment (“Halloween: Resurrection”). While the tie in with the “metoo” revolution, and ultimately making Michael Myers somewhat symbolic for the need to rise up and stand up to your aggressor, creates a needlessly transparent female empowerment vibe (does any male character here make any sound decision?) the film still feels well connected to the modern age and this bodes well for the upcoming sequels; “Halloween Kills” (2020) and “Halloween Ends” (2021).
As for set-pieces alone this one has far better ones than the last three attempts (including the two Rob Zombie re-imaginings) and Michael’s new night of terror is filled with gruesome deaths, solid suspense sequences and nifty homages to the original and even a few of the sequels (that the film otherwise completely ignores). Jamie Lee Curtis gives a good performance as the traumatized Laurie Strode and this quality actress proves that her talents are best served in the horror arena.
And there’s one other thing that bears mentioning. Maestro John Carpenter (along with his son Cody and Daniel Davies) provides the film’s musical score which is basically a reworking of the original score and it’s a knockout.
Comparing the two
“Halloween: H20” and “Halloween” are kindred spirits in the sense that they’re both reboots and they even feature the same lead character, and actress, in two separate timelines. In one she’s the sister of the madman and in the other the two have no relations. In one she has a son and in the other she has a daughter. In both their relationships are dysfunctional due to the trauma Laurie endured at the hands of Michael Myers. The ultimate goal in both movies is the need for Laurie Strode to confront the monster to have closure.
So which one is better? I would lean towards “H20” if that movie is taken on it’s own definitive terms. The knockout ending was nullified by the worthless (have I said that before?) “Halloween: Resurrection” and subsequently rendered mute but as a standalone film; “H20” is a winner. It’s such a tightly constructed and efficient horror film with enough tributes to keep fans happy, enough good set-pieces (and one cringe worthy leg breaking scene that I still find tough to watch), a decent enough storyline with well written dialogue and likeable characters. The brother/sister angle is more gripping (and it’s one that John Carpenter himself came up with as he wrote the screenplay for Part II) than what’s served up in “Halloween” (2018) and the showdown between Michael and Laurie in “H20” is much more gripping.
But I thank my lucky stars that the new “Halloween” came along and brought back Laurie and if early reports are anything to go by then series’ fans will get to see old faces like Tommy Doyle and Sheriff Lee Bracket return to the Halloween universe in future sequels. And let’s face it! We can always see a little bit more of Michael Myers.