Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Halloween H20: 20 Years Later

I'm not a huge fan of the Halloween franchise.  It's not that I dislike the premise or anything, I just never got around to seeing most of the sequels.  The original film is still one of the best horror movies ever made, and Halloween II was an entertaining, but mediocre, slasher flick.  From what I've heard from fans of the series, the fourth, fifth and sixth entries are pretty ridiculous, which might explain Halloween H20: Twenty Years Later.  The seventh movie in the series is a direct sequel to Halloween II, and completely ignores the existence of any films that occurred between II and this one.  I was considering watching Halloween III and Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers this month, but a direct sequel to movies I enjoyed seems like a much better idea.
Pictured: pages 3-42 of the script

It is almost Halloween in 1998, twenty years after Michael Myers returned to his Haddenfield, Illinois home and killed a bunch of people for no particular reason.  One of the survivors was his sister, Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis); while she managed to avoid being killed on that Halloween night, she knows that Michael's body was never found.  In the intervening years, it seems that Laurie has faked her own death and moved on with her life.  She now lives in sunny California as a teacher in an expensive prep school.  Not surprisingly, she is not well-adjusted and self-medicates with pills and alcohol to cope with the fear of Michael tracking her down again.  But she's just being silly, isn't she?  It's been twenty years!  What kind of person would wait twenty years, staying under the radar all that time, before making a second attempt?  Maybe the kind of person who waited fifteen years after his first killing to strike a second time.  Hey...Michael Myers is that kind of person!  Laurie starts to calm down a bit, but she realizes that she was seventeen when Michael first attacked her.  So what?  Well, her son, John (Josh Hartnett, in his film debut) just turned seventeen!  OMG!  That means Michael must be on his way to kill them both right now!!!
***knock, knock***    "Um, somebody order a pizza?"

Wait...what?  Is that the actual logic behind this film?  Is is?!?  Good lord.  The film opens with Michael breaking into the home of the late Dr. Loomis's nurse (Nancy Stephens, resuming her role from the first two films) and ransacking her confidential patient records, which she inexplicably keeps in her home office.  There, Michael presumably discovers a) that Laurie is alive b) her new name and location and c) that she has a son, who just turned seventeen.  So, if you put any thought into it at all, the whole "my son is seventeen, and so was I when Michael attacked me" bit is more of a coincidence than anything else.  And exactly what has Michael Myers been up to for the last twenty years?  Since nobody has heard from him in two decades, I'll assume that he hasn't been killing his way across America.  No, I think we have to presume that Michael Myers has settled down, found a creepy woman who bore him some creepy kids.  This just seems like an older man, trying to reclaim his youthful glory; Michael is forty-one in this, after all.  Maybe he was listening to his favorite band, Pulp (that's a little-known and completely made-up Myers fact), in 1998 and this song really clicked with him.

So Michael went into his closet, dug out his old mask and jumpsuit and found that they still fit.  It was finally the day where he took the time to accomplish the one thing in life that he has never gotten around to: murdering his little sister.
First reactions to this script

Okay, maybe the premise this time around is a little weaker than usual.  While that is disgraceful (especially comparatively), at least they came up with a (poor) reason for bringing Jamie Lee Curtis back into the fold.  While never what I would call a fantastic actress, she is quite good here.  Her scream queen lungs still work quite well, and age makes her determination seem more plausible and mature when she decides to face Michael head-on.  As for the rest of the cast, Adam Arkin seemed fairly reasonable as Laurie's boyfriend, which is quite an accomplishment in a film like this.  LL Cool J was pretty awful as the world's least effective security guard/romance novelist; it's not that his character was annoying, he was just a truly awful security guard.
You're so fired
Josh Hartnett was decent enough as a high school kid who apparently cuts his own hair and wears a school uniform that is two sizes too big for him, but he was definitely the best part of the young cast.  Michelle Williams, Adam Hann-Byrd, Jodi Lyn O'Keefe, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt were all just movie stereotypes: the nice girl, the horny guy, the alternative rock chick, and the stupid skater, respectively.
"I could be so much more, if you only gave me a chance!"  I know.  I'm sorry.
There could have been dozens more underdeveloped characters in this film, but the story --- which features Michael Myers infiltrating a prep school and killing everyone he finds --- opts to send most of the students off on a field trip for Halloween.  Reducing the possible number of victims is always a bewildering choice in a slasher movie, just like having Janet Leigh make a cameo and not scream.
How do you not want to kill her in your movie?  It's not like a shower scene is mandatory!

Director Steve Miner was responsible for a lot of stupidity in Halloween H20, but there were some good moments, too.  Joseph Gordon-Levitt's death was one of the more entertaining I have seen in this franchise, and I really liked that the nurse, who shouldn't be expecting any Michael Myers trouble, was totally on her A-game and didn't fall for the typical slasher movie cliches.  Sure, she died anyway, but her character seemed a hell of a lot smarter than most of the victims I have seen in this series.  While the body count was small (just six dead) and the nudity was non-existent, I thought Miner crafted a respectable slasher pic with the tools he had available.  Some scenes, like Michael trying to kill Harnett and Williams through a gate, even looked pretty cool.  But for every cool idea, something lame popped up to counter it.  I disagree with the choice to bring back and prominently use the "Mr. Sandman" song (first used in Halloween II).  I also thought the fate of LL Cool J's character undermined a super-cool scene.  More than anything else, though, I tired of the recuperation skills of Michael Myers.  The man takes an axe wound, six stab wounds, falls from a balcony, gets his by a car, crashes through a windshield, and is crushed between a tree and an automobile --- and it still able to attack, without any hint of taking damage.  I know that this is kind of Michael's "thing," but if there was ever a time to update a character, it is in the film that ignores most of the character's history.

Despite all the stupidity, I managed to enjoy Halloween H20: Twenty Years Later.  It is certainly not groundbreaking, or even good, but I was entertained.  I laughed at the story logic, I enjoyed the kills, and I felt that the adult acting in the movie was some of the best of its type in this subgenre.  In fact, I would rate this the best Halloween sequel to date.  Of course, I have only seen one other Halloween sequel...

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