Saturday, October 18, 2014

Halloween H20

It may have seemed like a difficult task, getting the Halloween franchise back on track after such a dull entry—part six—that not many people had seen.  Usually, after the part numbers get larger, moviegoers disregard the films and feel that these franchises have ran their course.  That’s definitely how I felt when I had heard they were planning another sequel to the Halloween series of films.  Part six had left such a bad taste in my mouth that I was ready to give up the chain of films forever.

However, a couple of years before Halloween H20 was released, a resurgence of horror films started with a simple, yet smart, film called Scream.  It was different than the cheesy horror flicks of the 80s as it gave us shrewder characters that would go against the grain of your usual B-movie types.  Instead of having them get into thoughtless situations that would make us—the audience—yell at the screen to tell them they’re going the wrong way or that they should run out of the house or grab the gun, the characters in these newer horror films of the mid 90s acted out intelligently and would function in ways that we’d commend.

One of the sole reasons why this rebirth of horror films worked and became hits was because of the writing created for that Wes Craven film.  A relatively unknown screen writer, Kevin Williamson, changed the horror horizon with that film, giving us characters that were more self-aware and not clich├ęd.  After writing for such hit films as ScreamScream 2I Know What You Did Last Summer, and The Faculty, many other writers and filmmakers started emulating his style into their own films.  So, even though he isn’t credited for the screenplay for Halloween H20, I’m sure he had a hand in it as executive producer of the film.

Another item of note that helped me believe there may be some saving grace for this film was hearing that Jamie Lee Curtis was reprising her role as the character of Laurie Strode.  But at the same time, I was a little confused.  I’d been following the franchise since its inception in 1978 and knew the character of Laurie died, leaving behind her daughter, Jamie, who had died at the hands of Michael Myers later in the series.  So how was Laurie Strode going to be back in this upcoming sequel?  Then word came out that the movie was going to ignore the events of parts four through six, essentially being a sequel to part two.  Even though I felt it was a bit of a cheat, I was still intrigued.

One other thing that drew my attention was the announcement that Steve Miner was slated to be the director of this film.  I was familiar with his direction in Friday the 13th Part 2 and Friday the 13thPart III, but didn’t know if he was cut out for this potentially important sequel touted as being a twenty-year milestone sequel of the classic 1978 film by John Carpenter.

Well, August 5th of 1998 came around and I visited a local movie theater to watch Halloween H20.

The film opens with Marion Whittington (Nancy Stephens), the nurse that had been taking care of Dr. Loomis before he died, coming home to find her house broken into and goes to her teenaged
neighbors, Jimmy (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) and Tony (Branden Williams), for help.  Jimmy decides to check out the house and sees that Marion’s office was ransacked.  Later, Michael Myers (Chris Durand) appears and kills Jimmy and Tony, as well as Marion.  It turns out that he gets files from Marion’s office that has information about Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) and how she’s still alive, relocated to California with a new identity.  He then travels to the boarding school to where Laurie Strode (now Keri Tate) is the headmistress and has a son, John (Josh Hartnett), but Laurie is still haunted by Michael and what transpired all those years ago.  Facing her fears, she comes face-to-face with Michael again and decides to stand up to him once and for all.

Overall, this movie is one of the best sequels this franchise had ever released.  Bringing back Jamie Lee Curtis (which I had heard she had been hoping to do a final sequel, even requesting that John Carpenter come back to direct—obviously he didn’t) was phenomenal and made this sequel very poignant.  The themes they’d incorporated into the film as a whole—introducing the discussion of Mary Shelley’s book, “Frankenstein,” and how the main character of Dr. Frankenstein had to face his creation—were perfectly placed to integrate it into the film’s climax.  A few scenes were perfectly acted out by Jamie Lee Curtis, particularly when her character sees Michael on the other side of the door’s window for the first time.  If Curtis hadn’t taken this role, the film would’ve been another run-of-the-mill sequel that no one would’ve cared about.

The only problem I have with this film is something I didn’t have a problem with when I had first seen it.  Back in the late 90s, the dialogue you’d hear in these types of horror films was the norm.  ScreamUrban LegendI Know What You Did Last Summer, etcetera, solidified those types of discourse between characters where they speak with bigger words, using exaggerated terms as if they’re all college graduates.  It’s hard to explain, but after watching a few of those movies in a row, you’ll see what I mean.  The exchanges that bother me the most is the ones between Charlie (Adam Hann-Byrd) and Sarah (Jodi Lyn O’Keefe).  I guess it may be possible for a couple of people to really speak to each other that way, but it sort of takes me out of the movie nowadays.

Now, the stalking and killing that Michael Myers does throughout the movie is awesome.  Chris Durand does a perfect job at taking over the Shatner mask and really embodies the character the best since Nick Castle back in 1978.  He performs the monotonous walk and the creepy gazes effortlessly.  But I guess I can’t give him all the credit, because the way the film was shot and the ideas they conveyed throughout the film helped tremendously.  The scenes at the beginning, as Michael is shown creeping behind Marion as she’s facing the camera, make you want to scream “HE’S BEHIND YOU!”  And one of my many favorite parts is when the mom and daughter stop at the rest stop to use the restroom.  You’ll enjoy that if you haven’t seen it already.

So, what’s my final “bit” on Halloween H20?

This sequel is the most satisfying one of the whole series, maybe even better than part two.  It’s forgivable that the filmmakers decided to ignore parts four through six, but still wish they had thought of a way to keep the continuity with them.  Although you may think of this as Jamie Lee Curtis’s swan song for the Halloween movies she’s starred in, she was actually contractually obligated to return in a sequel, which she had (more on that some other time).  If you don’t want to burden yourself with watching every single movie in the franchise, at least watch the original with part two and end it with Halloween H20.

Thanks for reading and Happy Halloween!

Cinema Bits is on Twitter and Facebook.