A decades old folk tale surrounding a deranged murderer killing those who celebrate Valentine's Day, turns out to be true to legend when a group defies the killer's order and people start turning up dead.
Trapped in an isolated gas station by a voracious Splinter parasite that transforms its still living victims into deadly hosts, a young couple and an escaped convict must find a way to work together to survive this primal terror.
On Halloween in 1963, Michael Myers murdered his sister, Judith. In 1978, he broke out to kill his other sister, Laurie Strode. He killed all of her friends, but she escaped. A few years later, she faked her death so he couldn't find her. But now, in 1998, Michael has returned and found all the papers he needs to find her. He tracks her down to a private school where she has gone under a new name with her son, John. And now, Laurie must do what she should have done a long time ago and finally decided to hunt down the evil one last time. Written by
Back before Lions Gate (now Lionsgate) held the monopoly on mainstream genre pics, Dimension Films was the go-to place for horror and suspense of the 'indie' sort. In 1998, with Wes Craven's 2 "Scream" films maintaining the public interest to great financial success, Dimension decided to put their acquisition of the "Halloween" franchise to good use (especially after the atrocious "Curse of Michael Myers") by making a sequel to end all sequels (at least until the atrocious "Halloween: Resurrection" turded up multiplexes).
In addition to being one of the most instantly-recognizable titles in all of horror, "Halloween: H20" came to screens with an added incentive: it marked the series return of original protagonist/victim Laurie Strode (played with cat-like veracity by Jamie Lee Curtis). Curtis' presence, in addition to the reliable skill of director Steve Miner (who cut his teeth on two "Friday the 13th" sequels), plus a story that wisely disregarded the incidents of all the sequels past "II," set "H20" up as the series payoff I was so eagerly awaiting. After leaving the theater, I was more than satisfied with the end result.
Years go by. Dimension becomes a notorious den of re-cuts, re-shoots, and re-castings (just ask Wes "Cursed" Craven) still trying to mine the 'Fresh-Faced-Teen' demographic that doesn't seem to exist anymore. Upon re-examination of "H20"'s box/poster art, I noticed a recurrent motif (from "Scream" to "Phantoms" to "Nightwatch" to "Rounders") in design: the proliferation of airbrushed faces looking Deeply Concerned about something, in addition to an over-reliance on bold, exclamatory blurbs from dubious sources (WWOR-TV, anyone?).
But I'm not reviewing the marketing tactics of a company whose former glories (namely Tarantino and Rodriguez) are now its only source of revenue.
"Sin City" notwithstanding, "H20" might have been the last good movie to come out of Dimension. At its core, it is a surprisingly compact (86 minutes, including credits) horror-thriller that moves so briskly we are never able to get too cozy with the characters. Miner goes for the subtle compositions that marked John Carpenter's original, and is fairly successful: the film refrains from the obligatory sex and self-referential attitude that would have been profitable at the time. From frame one, "H20" feels like a continuous, flowing set-piece...but the way it sidelines its characters leaves a hollow echo when it's all finished. Also unfortunate is that the suspense is so heavy-handed it seldom creates tension; this might be attributable to Chris Durand's overly self-conscious portrayal of the menacing Michael Myers. The relationship between Curtis, her son John (Josh Hartnett), and Myers is the film's intriguing familial triangle, but is disappointingly underdeveloped (though for the sake of the series, it wraps things up well enough).
In the end, "H20" is Curtis' show. She imbues her character with as much straight-faced commitment as she did in '78, in addition to a toughened exterior bent on preserving family values at any cost. The denouement, which contains a moment as touching as it is creepy, gives new meaning to the phrase, "tough love."
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