Monday, October 25, 2021

31 Days of Scary Movies: “Halloween: H20” (1998)

   For the 31 Days of Scary Movies project, I tried not to repeat too many different types of movies, and was careful to avoid series. The “Halloween” films being the exception. With last weekend’s “Halloween Kills” having just been released this year, I wanted to at least revisit the original 1978 film, because I never wouldn’t at least once in October. And with the hype around the 2018 film and its now sequel, I wanted to revisit Jamie Lee Curtis’ original return to the franchise, in 1998’s “Halloween: H20.”

Set twenty years after the origial film, Halloween: H20 is, still for the Ghost, one of (if not the) strongest of the sequels. Right off the bat, it gets the look of Haddonfield right and matching the first film, with the late Dr. Sam Loomis’ house resembling most of the homes in the first film, as well as the iconic Meyers house. The opening montage— where Joseph Gordon Leavitt in celebrity cameo is dispatched as Meyers ransacks Loomis’ files clearly looking for information on Laurie Strode, does a tremendous job of explaining away the convolutions of the films that followed without Curtis, in which she was apparently killed in a car accident. Laurie has gone into hiding under a new identity, now teaching at a seculted private boarding school in California; in symmetry to the first film, that took place in Illinois but was filmed in California. Laurie teaches English and has a terrific scene with a class whiel she teaches Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein,” harkening back to when young Laurie discussed similar topics of fate in an English class during the first film.

In addition to the homages and call backs to other “Halloween” films, “H20’s” cup runs over with the inclusion of Curtis’ real life mother, Janet Leigh, in a small supporting role at the school. Immortal in horror film for her starring role in Alfred Hitchcock’s “Psycho,” Jane Leigh’s call backs (dirivng home on Halloween in the car from Hitchcock’s film) are a delight, and seeing Curtis and her mother act together is such a gift from the horror gods. This film is also otherwise filled with 1990s nostalgia; including young heartthrob Josh Harnett as Laurie’s son, and Michelle Williams as his girlfriend. Comparisons are often made to the “Scream” films, as they were huge success in the 1990s; but aside from the celebrity making a cameo and quickly getting killed off in the film’s openings, the conparisons aren’t really there. Of course, Janet Leigh’s “Psycho” invented that, and the film seems to be having great fun with that.


This film also gets right Michael Meyers’ portrayal. In so many of the seuqels, he is often stalking random teenagers; but what “H20” reminds us, is that the “Halloween” films are at their strongest—and most tension filled— when he is stalking Laurie Strode, and she is fighting back. In this film we get Michael driving again as he does in 1978, and the way he is constantly coming toward Laurie is so affective, and something many horror films in more recent years have followed. Among my favorite things about this movie is Laurie and Michael’s final confrontation, that is no less powerful and empowering today as it was when first watched over twenty years ago. Also of note is John Ottoman’s score, that smartly uses much of Carpenter’s original music, and expands orchestrally on the basic themes for the perfect ambiance of a “Halloween” film.


For too many years, I have not included “H20” as necessary October viewing. We are going to change that going forward.

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