Halloween: H20

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Our rating: four lava lamps.

Information about this film in the Internet Movie Database.

"What are you lookin' at? I swear,
that's the last time I ask the Joker for
a plastic surgery reference!"
Halloween: H20 is the latest product of the renaissance that the sub-genre known as slasher flicks has gone through since the release of Scream. Horror purists seem to lament this movement, because the films aren't completely serious in tone. But at this point, after a zillion lame "serious" rip-offs of the original Halloween, is there any point in trying to make another one? The slasher genre is so limited in scope that at this point only a sense of self-parody makes any slasher film tolerable.

That being said, Halloween: H20 is a surprisingly serious film, in its way. Yes, there are a lot of jokes. But the film actually has a direction, a point. This is refreshing, given that every Halloween film up to this point has been just a variation on the theme of "Michael Myers stalks people" followed by the occasional twist ending. Without giving too much away, this movie gives very definite closure to the Halloween series.

Halloween: H20 picks up where Halloween II left off, ignoring the events of Halloweens 4-6. In our continuing attempt to over-anaylze every genre film, we offer this revised timeline of the Halloween movies, exclusive to Stomp Tokyo. A similar timeline that covers the continuity of the first six films can be found in our review of Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers.

1961 - Laurie Myers is born.

1963 - Michael Myers (aka "The Shape") kills his sister on Halloween night in Haddonfield IL. He is six years old.

1965 - The Myers die (How?). Laurie is adopted by the Strodes, though her true parents remain a secret.

1978 - Michael escapes from Smith's Grove sanitarium. He returns to Haddonfield and goes on a killing spree, as seen in Halloween. He tracks Laurie Strode to a hospital where he and Dr. Loomis apparently die in an explosion (Halloween II).

1980 - This is where the two timelines diverge. In this revised continuity, Laurie Strode discovers she is pregnant, probably in December. It is close to this time that she fakes her own death in an automobile accident. She takes on the name Keri Tate. Tate may be the family name of her unborn baby's father.

1981 - John Tate, son of Laurie Strode and her husband is born in August. Laurie's husband eventually leaves her.

1995 (?) - Dr. Loomis, who was not killed in the hospital explosion after all, dies in Langdon IL.

1998 - Michael Myers reappears after twenty years. He goes on a killing spree in Langdon, looking for information on Laurie Strode. He then proceeds to Summer Glen CA, where Laurie Strode is now dean at a private school. Once there, Michael stalks Laurie's son, who is now 17 (As seen in Halloween: H20).

This timeline brings up some really interesting questions:

"I'd rather die than do another
tv series with Richard Lewis!
How did Michael escape after being set on fire at the end of Halloween II?

The only clue we get is given to us by a detective at the begininng of H20. He claims that the body of Michael Myers wasn't found 20 years ago, despite the fact that the last time we viewers saw it, it was lying in the middle of a hallway, burning away. So losing it would be pretty hard. Maybe the Haddonfield police are just really stupid.

(Scene: The hospital in Haddonfield, 1978)

Sheriff: "So, anybody seen Michael Myers' body?"

Deputy: "Nope. Maybe we should go ask that flaming Shatner-masked guy who walked by a couple of minutes ago. Maybe HE saw something!"

So what has Michael Myers been doing for the last 20 years?

Well, it seems that he developed his skills at sketch comedy on a Canadian television series, before moving on to an American tv show called Saturday Night Live. Then, like Joe Piscopo before him, he moved onto Hollywood, where he made several bad movies. Unlike Joe Piscopo, Myers went on to make some halfway good movies and is now a fairly hot star.

So what has the other Michael Myers been doing for the last twenty years?

When he initially shows up in H20, he's driving a seventies vintage car, complete with out of date license plate. So he acquired a car and hid out. Where? Our first guess would be Montana, because that's where all the loonies hang out. Or maybe Long Island. As TV Nation proved a few years ago, merely being a homicidal maniac will not get you noticed on Long Island.

How many freaking names does Laurie Strode have, anyway?

In the continuity of the old films, she was Laurie Lloyd, formerly Laurie Strode, formerly Laurie Myers. In the continuity of the new films, she is Keri Tate, formerly Laurie Strode, formerly Laurie Myers. She could be a women's basketball team all by herself.

In its approach to casting, H20 resembles a real movie, rather than your average slasher flick. The single best thing in the film is the inclusion of Jamie Lee Curtis in the cast. She seems to have been one of the driving forces in the production, and that is reflected in her performance. It's certainly better than her somewhat cursory appearence in Halloween II. The other adult lead is Adam Arkin, who plays Jamie's love interest. Arkin's character also has the rather unfortunate tendency to sneak up on people, a problem made worse by the fact that Arkin looks a lot like Myers in silouette. That's probably why the producers hired Arkin for the role -- his hair looks a lot like that of the Shape's Shatner mask.

"Michelle, quit cryin'! So the Gap was
out of khakis! They'll get more!"
Our main complaint about H20 involves the teen stars -- the film spends a great deal of time introducing us to some likable characters, and develops their characters to the point where we actually care. Then, mysteriously, they are gone. Without so much as a how-do-you-die, the teen characters are dispatched in various ways (some lethal, some not), leaving Laurie to do battle one-on-one against her brother. The script's sudden ditching of Strode's son John, played by Josh Harnett, is quite striking. Despite the fact that it is hinted that young John may be Myers' real target, after Myers attacks John once, John never again speaks a significant line of dialogue. And Michelle Williams (Dawson's Creek), who plays John's girlfriend, doesn't get to do anything. Perhaps this was done intentionally, to focus the film on the 20-year long conflict between Curtis' character and the Shape. Still, it feels a bit silly to sit through 45 minutes of dialogue between characters who disappear when the action begins.

Other than that slight problem, though, we were very pleased with the way H20 turned out. The filmmakers take themselves just seriously enough to make the film scary, but don't stray into the realm of stupidity. Attaching too much importance to the events in a horror movie these days is the kiss of death.

Perhaps the single most memorable thing about the film is that way that the climax is set up. Unlike the vast majority of slasher flicks that feature the final conflict occuring because the main characters have nowhere else to run, in H20 it is Laurie who stalks back into the school, carrying an axe and yelling "Michael!" And for once, we get a real conclusion.

Luckily, much of the humor in H20 is actually funny. By far our favorite scene in the film is the cameo by Janet Leigh, Jamie Lee Curtis' real life mom and the actress who played the shower victim in Hitchcock's Psycho. Playing Keri Tate's secretary Norma, Leigh gets in some great lines about being maternal and about showers. Her appearance here, heavy on Psycho lore, reinforces the bonds of cinema and blood that connect Halloween and Psycho.

In several interviews, Curtis has mentioned that this film is her "thank-you" gift to fans for her career. Her enthusiasm for revisiting the Halloween franchise is evident in her performance, and in the quality of the filmmaking. We can't think of a better way to be thanked.

Rent or Buy from Reel.

Review date: 8/21/98

This review is © copyright 1998 Chris Holland & Scott Hamilton. Blah blah blah. Please don't claim that it's yours blah blah, but feel free to e-mail it to friends, or better yet, send them the URL. To reproduce this review in another form, please contact us at guys@stomptokyo.com. Blah blah blah blah.