27 Oct 2013

[HORROR OF HALLOWEEN] 'Halloween H20' Review

Director: Steve Miner
Writer: Robert Zappia, Matt Greenberg
Stars: Jamie Lee Curtis, Josh Hartnett, Michelle Williams, Adam Arkin, LL Cool J
Running Time: 86 mins
Sub-Genre: Slasher, Thriller, Festive
Release: August 1998

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.

The Halloween Franchise has come a long way since John Carpenter's classic back in 1978, we have got a lazy follow-up, an anthology direction, 2 bland Myers revamps, a horrible cult attack, a trashy reality romp and two average reboots with a kink for strippers. The Franchise was never really able to pick itself back up from the dirt after the 1981 sequel, and until then none of which have been able to shine quite like the 7th entry to the Franchise, Halloween H20: 20 Years Later.

No slasher film will ever be able to match the masterful craft of John Carpenter's original, Halloween was the very film that established the slasher genre for what it is today, and if it wasn't for Mr.Myers we wouldn't have Freddy, Jason or even Ghostface. Around the time H20 was released the sub-genre was starting to strike back up again after the huge success with Scream, and shortly after Scream 2 the long-awaited sequel that every Halloween fan wanted arrived, a sequel that displayed the life of Laurie Strode after all these years, something that the dumb 4th and 5th tried to skate past and ignore by claiming her death. Luckily H20 was able to recover from that and forget the downright trashy sequels that came after part 2 to deliver a straight-faced sequel that brought back the story that made the first so great.

Halloween H20 to me is a perfect sequel, too often we deal with sequels that waffle off kilter and head into the completely wrong direction that ends up causing them big time when a rubbish sequel is once again displayed and the Franchise's value decreases bit by bit. The Halloween Franchise suffered from the same fate that caused the fans to go numb, hoping and praying for another sequel to come in hopes that it would do the franchise justice, and after The Curse of Michael Myers, who could blame fans for loosing hope. H20 couldn't have come at a better time, and with things starting off a little stale we soon get the sequel the fans and the franchise all deserved; one that would do Carpenter proud.

H20 follows a formula that works, and at times it suffers from cliche overload we still get to see something truly tense and frighteningly fun. Not being as direct as part 4, H20 isn't afraid to take its own direction in order to tell its own story, and that is something the other sequels were not able to grasp with care. Alongside the first it looks good but not great, alongside the rest of the sequels it looks superb; perhaps it was partly due to the failure of the other sequels why H20 looks so fantastic, but personally I find as a film on its own an absolute blast.

Tension never goes scarce here, and even from the opening scene we are presented to hair-standing nerves that even the broadest of horror fans could endure, the film doesn't skimp on the aspects that made the first so superb, but instead embraces them to make a new chapter to a story that was worn out, something that was once so original but turned itself into one massive cliche, and although H20 suffers from the same problem from time to time, it proves to be quite original for what it is, and thankfully it does the franchise justice.

Thankfully the mix of a talented cast and some effective tense scares keeps things fresh, and with one scene in particular that involves Laurie chucking knives in hope that once will catch Michael is nail-biting intense. H20 goes back to basics to deliver a tense, fun and somewhat claustrophobic ride that has a thing or two for sharp knives, really sharp knives. The beginning is fantastic in a sense that it listens to the audience, pulling away from those nasty cliches that break a horror. We see Dr.Loomis' nurse find herself in a predicament were her house was broken in to, the lights have been cut and there's a strange noise down the hall, but we see her do everything right; she flees from the scene and rings the police in a safe home, but even then Michael finds away to pick her off in the nasty fashion she doesn't deserve. H20 plays with our derivative expectations and proves that even in the day of Scream 2, another sequel can well and truly surprise.

Surprisingly the cast are able to hold their own, and one unlikely candidate proves to flesh out his character just as much as the next guy, again, stabbing the horrible cliche's in the back saying that black minimalistic bodyguards can also survive in horror films, and LL Cool J proves exactly that and does it with a smirk on his face and a spring in his stride. As expected Curtis delivers a superb performance as everyone's favourite babysitter, and the transition from haunted woman to kick-ass leading lady proves more than successful and Curtis shines brighter than she did in '78.

This is a genre fans type of flick, filled to the brim with nods and winks to those that came before it, and any buff should get a kick out of Leigh returning, dragging her car in Psycho back with her. After the fantastically intense middle act we get a beautifully presented final act that less is more, and whilst we watch the darkness take its shameful form in the eyes of Myers as he begs for forgiveness we see a sequence that proves that you don't need to follow cliches to make something darkly unique. Michael Myers strolls from one act to the other, behind the terrifying blank expression, leading with his evil glazed stare, and as fantastic as H20 is, it's success is the Myers it presents, and the hate and hunt that is presented between Strode and Myers; those scenes between the pair are absolutely superb, and without the one-on-one battles, the film simply wouldn't have had the impact it seemingly deserved.

VERDICT: Halloween H20 proved that going back to basics is the superior option, despite what the Scream franchise once claimed. Tense, scary, fun and hauntingly claustrophobic  H20 was proof there was still strong life left in Myers as well as the Franchise, and although it would never quite match the craft of Carpenter's classic it is still a superb sequel that should be adored by fans of the original and movie buffs alike.

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