Halloween H20: Twenty Years Later (1998)

Back to the grind. I’m so close to wrapping up the original Halloween series that I can taste it. All I have left to watch is Halloween Resurrection before I start on the duo of Rob Zombie flicks that I can say I hate because it’s cool to hate on Rob Zombie even though a majority of the films in the original franchise are awful (fight me, Halloween fans). I’m actually curious if I might like Zombie’s Halloween and Halloween II more than most people because I don’t have a zealous devotion to the almost 40 year old series. I’m getting ahead of myself, here. I’ve just cleared the seventh of the eight original films, and I’m rearing to go fly down the home stretch.

mv5bnza3zjmzzwitnwuyny00zmnilwiwymytn2uxnwuwmgy5yzc2xkeyxkfqcgdeqxvymtqxnzmzndi-_v1_sy1000_cr006791000_al_Halloween H20: Twenty Years Later is the worst titled slasher film ever, and was a nice change of pace to the Halloween franchise when it came out. Directed by Steve Miner (Friday the 13th parts 2 and 3), H20 made a point to completely ignore the giant, incoherent mess that was Halloween 4, 5, and 6.

H20 follows a disguised Laurie Strode twenty years after the events of John Carpenter’s Halloween and Halloween II. Jamie Lee Curtis makes a return as Laurie Strode, now living as Keri Tate, the headmistress of a private school in California. Her son, John (Josh Hartnett) is also there, whenever the plot demands it. Michael Myers tracks Laurie down and makes a sweet road trip from Illinois to California to confront her and try to kill her again. It’s pretty much just a direct sequel to 1981’s Halloween II, but Jamie Lee Curtis was twenty years older than she was in the original, so they obviously had to push that aspect. Also, LL Cool J is in this movie.

Honestly, H20 is one of the better Halloween movies. Being a cynical, jaded horror fan means that a movie needs to really earn it’s love from me, and maybe it’s just the bitter aftertaste of Halloween 6 left in my mouth, but H20 is a pretty passable little slasher. It’s competently shot and the acting isn’t that bad for the late ’90s. It’s got a baby Joseph Gordon-Levitt making a cameo at the beginning and the kills aren’t half bad. I liked seeing a bit more brutality with Michael Myer’s murders, but Friday the 13th Part 4 this ain’t. And most importantly, it tries to go back to being about the suspense. Carpenter’s Halloween was built on being suspenseful and scary because you didn’t know what was going to happen next or who was safe. The later films devolved into predicable, formulaic movies that began adding to the Michael Myers mythos with unnecessary, bloated backstory and confusing plot twists. H20 strips all that away and makes itself about one thing: a guy in a mask with a knife who kills people. Sometimes simpler is better.

While this is one of the better Halloween films, I would like to remind everyone that fulfilling that criteria is not hard. H20 is not a fantastic movie. It’s an okay movie, at best. If you like slashers like I do, you’ll have a fun enough time with this one. This film doesn’t take itself too seriously, and while the character drama and deaths are grounded and serious, the film does have some comedic relief in the character of Ronny the security guard (LL Cool J!). H20 also manages to do a couple subversions through it’s running time, one which I thought was a nice twist on a tired horror trope. You’ve all seen it, characters are trying to escape the bad guy (who is walking menacingly towards them, never running) and they are at a locked door. Our heroes have the janitor’s key ring but– gasp there are dozens of keys on the ring! Which one is the right one? How will they find the right key to open the door to safety from their assailant at literally the last second?! H20 kind of flips this one on it’s head and instead puts our characters behind a locked gate, but —gasp they dropped the keys! Now, Myers, hell-bent on slicing and dicing these teenagers has to fumble awkwardly with a big ring of keys to try and catch them before they can escape. It’s not Scream, but hey. It’s a nice play on the old cliché.

5

Speaking of Scream, Wes Craven’s 1996 masterpiece makes a cameo in this film, and I don’t know how I feel about it. H20 was a slasher flick released in a post-Scream world. The director made the conscious choice to include a clip from Scream in his movie. I’m surprised and a little disappointed that Miner used a clip from a movie that deconstructs and satirizes the boring, stagnant slasher genre in his boring, stagnant slasher film. Sure, there’s the occasional comical quip and the whole keys debacle I mentioned earlier, but there isn’t enough wit in H20 to make me think that the director understood Scream and instead chose to put it in because it was popular at the time (Scream 2 was released a year before Halloween: H20).

Overall, Halloween H20: Twenty Years Later was alright. It’s a perfectly fine movie to play in the background while you clean your living room or play a board game with your friends. It’s nice to see Jamie Lee Curtis in a slasher flick again, especially since she isn’t phoning in her performance here. Out of all the Halloween films I’ve seen, I would put H20 in my Top 3, behind the original Halloween and Halloween II. If Halloween franchise was just the first two films and this one, I’d consider it a pretty solid little series. Check this one out if you get a chance, it’s worth it if you’ve got an evening to kill.

-David

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