Day 31: Halloween H20 (1998)

The Halloween franchise is, frankly, quite troubled.

Unlike the other classic slasher heavyweights–your Friday the 13ths or Nightmare on Elm Streets–the sequels to John Carpenter’s Halloween–arguably the movie that made the masked slasher a pop-culture iconoffers little in terms of substance or entertainment value.

Okay, so none of these movies really offer much substance, but Friday the 13th has parts 4, 6, 7, X going for it, while Nightmare has Dream Warriors and New Nightmare that managed to recapture or improve upon the magic of the original film. Beyond Part II, in which the Michael Meyers character already starts show some wear, and the anomalous Season of the Witch, the Halloween sequels are mostly a cesspool of sub-par, derivative junk.

Hot off of the success of Scream, and with the twenty year anniversary of Halloween approaching, the brass at Dimension and Jaime Lee Curtis herself started to toss around the idea to bring the franchise back to Michael’s quest to kill his sister, Laurie Strode. A move which negates the previous four films from the continuity, where Laurie was already dead and Michael goes on a multi-movie long quest to kill Laurie’s daughter.

Curtis reportedly approached John Carpenter and his producer, Debra Hill, to return to the film, but short of supplying a few ideas to project, Carpenter backed out when producer Moustapha Akkad refused his hefty price tag.

With Carpenter out and Curtis in, the studio tapped Friday the 13th Part 2 and Part 3 director Steve Miner to direct, then cast a batch of 90’s hotties to give Michael something to stab–including Josh Hartnett, LL Cool J, an unrecognizable Michelle Williams and… wait, Joseph Gordon Levitt is in this movie?

The film picks up 20 years after the events of the first two Halloween films, with Laurie Strode, now Keri Tate, shacking up in a posh Northern California boarding school with her son after faking her death to escape Michael’s wrath. After years of drowning her paranoia in a vodka bottle, Laurie’s long-lost brother finally hunts her down and starts hacking away at her son’s teenage friends.

For a project whose primary goal is to recapture Michael in a bottle–or however that expression goes–it bears almost no resemblance to Carpenter’s chilly original. Loaded with graphic violence, a sweeping orchestral score and silly, spiteful nods to other horror franchises, including Scream, it’s almost as if Miner hadn’t bothered to watch Carpenter’s original film in 20 years or so.

Halloween is far from a perfectly acted and scripted horror film, but at least its characters somewhat resemble actual human beings. Beyond that, though, Carpenter’s film is all mood and music, with lingering shots of laundry blowing in the wind and shots of hallways scored by heavy breathing. If you’re going to rip off the original, at least do it right. Aside from Laurie’s struggle with PTSD, the characters in H20 don’t even have the good grace to behave like broad stereotypes. They’re just malleable, personality-less pod people in line for the slaughter. And Miner’s direction is flat, lifeless and not even remotely eerie.

Lacking in the innovative energy of the original, the unhinged charm of Season of the Witch, or even the visceral heart of Rob Zombie’s flawed but memorable pair of remakes, Halloween H20 is just as forgettable and bland as the rest of the rest of Halloween sequels.

It does have Joseph Gordon Levitt getting stabbed in the face with an ice skate though–you don’t see that in every movie.