Halloween Marathon: 1998

I’m doing this because I haven’t seen them all and have a lot of work to do and need something to watch. It’s been about 20 odd years since I watched this original, so let’s delve back in…

Previously: 197819811982198819891995

Retcon Alert!: Yeah, these are going to start appearing with frequency. This movie is an alternative follow-up to Halloween II, which means it does not acknowledge Laurie’s death, her daughter Jamie, the Cult of the Thorn or any of their silliness. Dr. Loomis has still died off-screen, but not at the hands of Michael.

Movie: Halloween H20: Twenty Years Later

Released: 1998

Director: Steve Miner

Cast: Jamie Lee Curtis, Josh Hartnett, Chris Durand, LL Cool J, Adam Arkin, Michelle Williams, Janet Leigh, Jospeh Gordon-Levitt, Nancy Stevens

Plot: Twenty years after her encounter with her murderous brother, Laurie Strode lives in fear under an assumed identity. Her fears are proven valid when Michael invades her school, targeting her and her teenaged son.

Review: Halloween was once the great trend setter in horror, laying down the rules for the new slasher movie sub-genre. Now it’s trying to reinvent itself by piggy-backing of the newest popular trends kicked-off by Scream. The dialogue is snappy, there’s plenty of pop-culture references and everything is self-aware. It makes for an odd circular relationship between the two films, especially since Halloween appears on a TV in Scream while Scream 2 appears in this film.

Bringing back a smaller character from the original movie for a stand-alone prologue adventure is certainly a good way to reset the scene. Marion Chambers (Stevens) was there to swap dialogue with Dr. Loomis in the original’s early scenes, and we learn she’s been caring for the retired doctor in the years before his death. Michael has returned after a 20 year absence looking for information, and in doing so he kills Stevens and a young Jospeh Gordon-Levitt. No informed of his sister’s secret identity, he begins tracking her down.

Laurie (Curtis) has been living under an assumed identity and has built a life around herself. She is a teacher and principal at a prestige school, attended by her 17 year old son John (Hartnell). She also has a beau in the form of guidance counselor Will (Arkin). Not that Laurie isn’t damaged by her experience with Michael Myers, and the frequent nightmares and alcoholism are testament to this trauma. I like how much these characters feel like real people. Curtis gives the older Laurie plenty of links back to her role from 20 years earlier whilst making her feel like she’s lived a life since. Her relationships with Will and John have some ups and downs in the small amount of time we spend with them prior to Michael’s rampage, giving them a degree of depth and believability. The frustrations with her job and coworkers adds more to the role, as we see her dealing with lax security guard Ronny (LL Cool J).

After the mish-mash patchwork of the previous two movies, it’s a relief to have some competent screenwriting behind the movie as it goes through the paces. There are enough matters of circumstance set up to isolate the main cast in an enclosed setting so Michael (Durand) can slowly stalk them around the campus. When defending themselves from his attacks we get some decent sequences based around a dumbwaiter, and then a fairly intense moments with Laurie hiding under a table. It’s fun stuff.

What the movie doesn’t do is wrap things up in an interesting or exciting way. The entire third act feels like they’re rushing through a checklist and yet every time it feels resolved, it keeps on going. It would turn out that this is all part of an elaborate set-up into the next movie, but it doesn’t make this a satisfying conclusion. She really didn’t have to crash that van while she was still in it.

Some of the meta-commentary, which was so popular at the time, is cheesy. But it’s a good cheesy. Jamie Lee Curtis and her real life mother Janet Leigh share a couple of scenes, with the elder Scream Queen playing assistant to the younger. The opening chords from the Psycho theme music was a nice touch. It’s a fun nod to the legacy of these two actors.

It’s not one of the best examples of slasher movie from this era, but it is, surprisingly, one of the best entries in this franchise.

Rating: SIX out of TEN