HALLOWEEN H20: TWENTY YEARS LATER. (1998) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

HALLOWEEN H20… TWENTY YEARS LATER. (1998) DIRECTED BY STEVE MINER. THEME TUNE BY JOHN CARPENTER. STARRING JAMIE LEE CURTIS, JANET LEIGH, LL COOL J, ADAM ARKIN, MICHELLE WILLIAMS, NANCY STEPHENS, CHRIS DURAND AND JOSH HARTNETT.
REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

I love this film. It’s one of my favourite movies in the HALLOWEEN franchise, started in 1978 and based on characters created by Debra Hill and the legendary John Carpenter. Serial killer Michael Myers, he of the white William Shatner mask, sensible boiler suit and work boots ensemble and distinctly stabby tendencies, is back and guess what…? He’s totally up to his old tricks again.

Once again, we see him chasing after his sister Laurie Strode, brilliantly played by Jamie Lee Curtis. This time around, however, Laurie is no longer the fearless teenage babysitter she once was. She’s all grown-up and neurotic now, possibly an alcoholic as well, albeit a functioning one. She’s the headmistress of a posh private boarding school in a charming little town where, one presumes, nothing really bad ever happens. Till now…

Laurie’s teenage son, played by heart-throb in the making Josh Hartnett, is a pupil at the school. Mom is having a hard time loosening the apron strings because she’s still very much hung-up on the whole being-nearly-killed-by-her-psychopathic-brother thing. She’s even faked her own death and changed her name to Keri Tate since HALLOWEEN 2. That’s how scared she is of Michael returning, and how much she wants to be prepared for it if he ever does return.

The events of HALLOWEENs 4, 5 and 6, known collectively as The Thorn Trilogy, have been set aside completely for this film. I believe the proper word is retconned, people, they’ve been retconned, although, between retcons, reboots and remakes, my poor head is completely fried. Anyway, this film is supposed to be a continuation of HALLOWEENs 1 and 2 only, and leaves out the storyline concerning Danielle Harris as Jamie Lloyd, Michael’s niece and Laurie’s daughter.

Laurie still has nightmares about Michael and her alcoholism is a condition that ably demonstrates her very human frailty and inability to come to terms with the worst thing that’s ever happened to her. Well, it’s the worst thing that can happen to anyone really, isn’t it? Not all of us have a psychotic murderer in the family, thankfully.

Laurie’s/Keri’s teenage son John is driven mad trying to convince Mom to loosen up a little and put the past behind her. She sure picks an ill-advised time to do just that. It’s Halloween (naturally!) and Michael Myers arrives at the nearly empty school- most of the students and teachers are away on a school trip to Yosemite- all ready to create his own particular brand of stabby, head-crushing havoc.

Laurie has reluctantly given John permish to go on the trip, but, unbeknownst to her, he and his girlfriend Molly and two of their friends are actually all secretly planning to stay behind. Oh, not to study or anything productive like that, but to booze it up and make out with each other in typically irresponsible horny teen fashion.

Laurie and her teacher boyfriend, Will Brennan, are planning something similar while the kids are away. Sexy hi-jinks ahoy, lol. But their presence, and the presence of the four teens, in the empty school merely makes it easier for Michael Myers to pick them off one-by-one, like  the proverbial fish in a barrel…

The unhurried, impassive-faced but undoubtedly lethal serial killer cuts a murderous swathe through the remaining staff and students in an effort to get to Laurie. When an opportunity for escape presents itself, however, does Laurie grab it with both hands or does she decide to finally make a stand and face down the man who’s haunted her dreams since forever…? I think I’ve probably given the game away with that last bit so just try to look surprised when it happens, haha.

The gorgeous browns and oranges of America in the Fall give the film a lovely warm cosy feel, despite the fact that it’s a slasher movie. The Americans really know how to do Halloween, as we know from THE SIMPSONS and MODERN FAMILY and the HALLOWEEN franchise itself. That’s certainly reflected in their beautiful scenery, foliage and unerring ability to decorate their homes and gardens to absolute perfection during the spooky season.

Michael Myers is, as always, amazing in everything he does: getting up every time he’s been hit even when you think it’s impossible, dropping one-handed down from the ceiling and walking calmly and unhurriedly after his scattering, scrambling prey without ever breaking a sweat. He’s cooler than a swig of ice-cold lemonade on a melting hot day, and just as welcome.

LL Cool J as the school security guard who wants to write torrid romances while being berated down the phone by his gobby wife is great fun too. Also, the late great Donald Pleasence, who played the now-legendary Dr. Loomis, Michael’s psychiatrist, in some of the earlier films, is affectionately acknowledged here in photograph form, which is sweet. Nancy Stephens as Nurse Marion Chambers, is here again too, and, boy, is she kick-ass…!

My favourite thing about about this film is the presence in it of Janet Leigh, Jamie Lee’s still-beautiful mammy and undisputed horror movie royalty. Thirty-eight years before this film was made, she starred as the heroine of Alfred Hitchcock’s PSYCHO, still considered to be one of the scariest movies ever made.

It’s a personal favourite of John Carpenter’s, if not his absolute fave horror flick of all time. He refers to it as ‘the Grand-Daddy of all the slasher horror movies ever made’ in an extra feature on the DVD I have of HALLOWEEN H20.

HALLOWEEN H20 gives a couple of much-appreciated little nods to the earlier film, such as subtly playing the famous theme tune when Leigh’s character Norma (Norma…? Geddit…?), the school secretary, is walking away from the school to her car. Which, by the way, was the car she drove in PSYCHO as she was running away from her old life with a stolen forty grand in her handbag, only to come a terrible cropper at the Bates Motel.

Also, Marion the nurse is named after Leigh’s character Marion Crane in PSYCHO. One certainly gets the impression that this is one film that John Carpenter wishes he himself had made. I’m so glad Janet Leigh doesn’t get killed in HALLOWEEN H20. She’s been through enough, God bless her. Shee-it. That was a spoiler too, wasn’t it…? Dagnammit…

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, poet, short story writer and film and book blogger. She has studied Creative Writing and Vampirology. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, women’s fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO

Her debut romantic fiction novel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books:

The sequel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS LATER,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books: