This blog is devoted to all those pieces of 20th century culture too often pooh-pooh'ed by the so called 'high brow' crowd. The stuff that conjoures words like 'vibrant', 'garish' and 'lurid'. Cheap paperbacks, b-movies, exploitation, fantasy, horror and hokey sci-fi - all have a place on this blog where the trash of yesterday is recognised as the classics of today.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Movie Review: Halloween H20: 20 Years Later (1998)

As much as I love the original Halloween (1978), it's been a relatively recent infatuation. The late 70s was a bit before my time. My time was the 90s when Wes Craven's self-referential Scream (1996) had turned the slasher genre on its head after many years of stale sequels and had inspired a new boom in the field of masked killers stalking teenagers. This, the seventh entry in the Halloween series, was the first Halloween movie I saw in the cinema and I can remember thoroughly enjoying it. But like most movies of the 90s, I haven't paid it so much as a second thought since seeing it back in '98. Deciding to watch it again, more than 10 years since its release, I discovered not just another generic Halloween sequel, but a thoroughly well made entry in the franchise and a damn good update on the original.

Largely ignoring the three sequels that dealt with Laurie Strode's daughter and her own encounters with her uncle Mike, H20 returns to Jamie Lee Curtis' character, who is now the headmistress of a fancy private school in California where her 17-year old son (Josh Hartnett) attends. Having faked her death and changed her name to 'Keri Tate' in an effort to throw her murderous brother off the scent should he still, by some miracle, be alive, Strode suffers from recurring nightmares and is pretty heavy handed with the old liquor bottle. During a very well done opening sequence, the home of a nurse who used to work with the now deceased Dr. Loomis is robbed and the file on Laurie Strode (presumably containing details on her new alias and current whereabouts) is stolen. Soon Myers is doing what he does best in an effort to kill his nephew who is now 17 (the same age Strode was when Myers resurfaced the first time).

Apart from the awesomeness of seeing Jamie Lee Curtis return to the role that she did so well twenty years previously, The film contains a large number of 'in joke' type stuff that us nerds love. From Joseph Gordon-Levitt's sudden appearance wearing a hockey mask often sported by another psycho-killer from a different franchise to the cameo of Janet Leigh (Jamie Lee Curtis' mother) who was the star/victim of Psycho (1960) alongside the very car she drove in said classic, H20 is just as self-referential as Scream. And, unlike most entries in the genre, H20 actually takes its time with characterisation and exposition. In fact it's nearly an hour into the movie before Michael Myers makes his appearance at the California school to begin his one-night rampage. Curtis is just as great to watch as she was in the original and her quick-thinking and motherly toughness is a breath of fresh air from all the running, screaming teenagers we've seen in pretty much every slasher movie since 1978. In fact the movie spends a surprisingly little amount of time on the teenage victims, instead focusing on the more mature storyline of a mother's over-protective tendencies and psychological trauma of her past. One other plus is the film's musical score. Using John Carpenter's iconic theme tune, the tinkling piano notes of the original are replaced by sweeping brass and strings, making the eternally creepy theme a much grander and more epic affair.

My only real complaints with the movie lie with the character of Michael Myers himself. I don't know what it is but he just doesn't seem as menacing as he was in the original. Despite some shots that bear striking similarity to ones in the original (reflections in glass, appearing and vanishing in the blink of an eye etc) there still seems to be something missing. Also, with all the time taken explaining Laurie Strode's reappearance after her supposed death (mentioned in one of the sequels), you would have thought that a bit of attention would have been directed towards the killer himself. What exactly has he been doing for the last 20 years (assuming that the sequels are now non-canon), and how did he survive the blazing inferno that concluded part 2?

All in all, a great conclusion to the series. Too bad it was all spoiled by the awful Halloween: Resurrection (2002) and the recent remakes. But nevermind Rob Zombie, H20 remains the true successor to the 1978 original.

No comments: