Daily Archives: October 30, 2020

Halloween H20: Twenty Years Later (1998)

*. Of all the modern horror franchises I think the Halloween films constitute the most chaotic.
*. On a strict accounting, Halloween H20 (usually pronounced H-2-Oh and not H-Twenty), is the seventh film in the series, and indeed the original working title was Halloween 7: The Revenge of Laurie Strode. We got here by a very long and winding road. To make a long story short, H20 picks up where Halloween II left off. Halloween III remains an aberration, while the events of Halloweens 4-6 are now assumed to have never happened. Just in case you’re keeping score.
*. My initial response here was badly mistaken. I saw the kid in the hockey mask being used for a jump scare. I saw Janet Leigh talking to Laurie about “We’ve all had bad things happen to us,” before getting into a very familiar-looking vintage car. I was thinking to myself that this was maybe a lead-up to Scream.
*. But like I say, this was badly mistaken. In fact, Scream had come out two years earlier. And at one point the kids are even watching Scream 2 in their dorm room. So this wasn’t a step moving the genre toward Scream but a way of nudging the Halloween franchise in the Scream direction.
*. Though uncredited, the story was based on a Kevin Williamson idea and he apparently worked quite a bit on the script. So I’m guessing that’s where the whole Scream vibe was coming from. Not that it’s totally unwelcome, but it does seem like a not very necessary echo. You can think of the genre as swallowing its own tail, with the Halloween franchise now ripping off the film that was ripping it off.
*. As for the movie itself, I found it strangely uninvolving. It’s not too bad once it gets going, and I didn’t mind that it took a long time to get going. Laurie (Jamie Lee Curtis) is an interesting character, even if she’s surrounded by the usual collection of stereotypes (a list headed by her indestructible brother, who struck me as even more blank than usual). They go to the well far too often with the fake jump scares, but there are still a couple of decent scary scenes. I just found myself not caring very much about what was going on.
*. It’s not that I care very much about what’s going on in any slasher movie, but H20 left me feeling particularly out of it. Maybe it had something to do with the Scream influence I mentioned, that sense that nothing here is to be taken seriously. I don’t know. In most respects this is far above average when it comes to slasher movies, but it seems caught between different worlds. Is it an attempt at providing closure, or is it setting us up for a new beginning? Given the producer’s refusal to let Michael die, you can guess what the answer would be to that one, but it’s not clear just based on what this film presents, where the ending is quite definitive. It also seems like a step in a new direction, but it’s not as clever as later “postmodern” slashers, or as dark and violent as the various reboots that were coming down the pipe (including Rob Zombie’s Halloween).
*. As I began by saying, the Halloween franchise is a bit of a mess. The pieces don’t really fit together that well, and not just in terms of any larger narrative continuity. For what it’s worth, I’d rate H20 one of the best in the series, even if it’s also one of the least engaging.