Laurie Strode, now the dean of a Northern California private school with an assumed name, must battle the Shape one last time, as the life of her own son hangs in the balance.Laurie Strode, now the dean of a Northern California private school with an assumed name, must battle the Shape one last time, as the life of her own son hangs in the balance.Laurie Strode, now the dean of a Northern California private school with an assumed name, must battle the Shape one last time, as the life of her own son hangs in the balance.
Then, "Scream" happened and changed everything. It proved that not only could horror be widely appealing at the hands of gifted writers and quality filmmakers, but also showed that the old tropes and clichés could be "hip" and "cool" again when handled with care and a degree of nostalgic love.
So, it should come as no shock that after the colossal misfire that was the previous film ("The Curse of Michael Myers"), the "Halloween" series got a new lease on life with a post-"Scream" sensibility in this 1998 release- "Halloween H20: Twenty Years Later." A minor degree of self-awareness, a focus on modern teenage and young adult culture and a fun blast from the past by way of original star Jamie Lee Curtis made the series relevant and modern in a way that both worked to re-invigorate interest and also pay homage to the series origins.
The film was lovingly crafted to serve as a book-end to the original, cleverly taking advantage of being released on the twentieth anniversary of the John Carpenter classic as part of it's schtick. It was built up as the "Halloween" to end all "Halloween's"... A "Halloween" for the modern era. A "Halloween" for the sharp and post-modern 90's crowd. And a "Halloween" that honored the long- beloved roots of the series.
Directed by Steve Miner, the film revolves around Jamie Lee Curtis' Laurie Strode, now living as a teacher under a false name. Still haunted by nightmares of her murderous sibling Michael Myers, Laurie is trying her hardest to move on. But when her brother comes calling, the stakes are set for a final and apocalyptic battle from which only one can emerge alive.
The success of the film really falls onto its clear adoration of the original and the desire to "evolve" and "complete" the story that it started in a new and fresh way. You can feel the love for that film oozing in virtually every scene here, with many subtle homages and call-backs. Yet it also builds and evolves the franchise in a way that previous films hadn't. Whereas prior sequels truly did feel like they were simply trying to re-create the magic of the original to increasingly diminishing results, "H20" actually has the guts to say "No, the best way to pay tribute to the origin of the series is to make homage and continue the story, but allow it to change with the times." A huge part of that is the result of that late-90's self-aware mindset popularized by other films, and I think it works wonders. There are numerous levels of subversion that make you second-guess where it's all leading, there's plenty of banter and humor that satisfies the audience, and it also makes the wise move to make all the characters likable... nobody here really has their own agenda as so many other slasher-sequels have done with their characters.
Miner's direction is strong, with a keen sense of scope, atmosphere and composition. He finds just the right balance between old- fashioned cinematography and 90's era aesthetics, giving the film a unique tone and visual palate that both compliments and contrasts with the Carpenter original.
Performances are uniformly strong for the material. Curtis is a joy in her returning role, giving Laurie a grand sense of pathos but also a drive to finally face her fears. Supporting roles by the likes of Josh Hartnett, Adam Arkin and even rapper LL Cool J round out a likable and believable cast. And there's no sore thumbs to be found. Also of note is voice-over artist Tom Kane, who perfectly re- creates the brilliant dialog of the late Donald Pleasance in a wonderful opening sequence. (Also, keep your eyes peeled for future superstar Joseph Gordon- Levitt in a small role in the opening sequence!)
Should I have to address any negatives, I would definitely have to dock some slight points for a frankly shaky first act, which does fall back on the old tropes and clichés a bit too much. It just feels contrary to the much stronger second and third acts of the film, and it doesn't do much to subvert expectations or built on the legacy of the series. I also take some slight issue with the film's at times break-neck pace... it's already a fairly short film, and it rushes a bit too much for everything to really set in.
Still, those flaws being stated, I can't help but feel that for my money, this is the best of the "Halloween" sequels. It built off of what came before, served as a loving tribute and also book-ended the series with what was at the time built up to be the final entry in the series. To me, the "Halloween" franchise is a trilogy- Carpenter's "Halloween", it's first sequel "Halloween II" and this film, "H20." Everything else to me is pure fan-fiction.
I give "Halloween H20: Twenty Years Later" a strong 8 out of 10 as a horror fan and in particular as a fan of the franchise. Definitely worth seeing. (It's follow-up "Resurrection"... not so much.)
- Oct 1, 2016