Halloween H20: Twenty Years Later (1998)


First, let's talk about this title.  Someone came up with the idea of abbreviating the seventh Halloween film to make it sound cool and hip, without thinking that maybe the title didn't make sense unless Michael Myers decided that he was going to take a cruise instead of stalking his extended family.  Thus, we get a subtitle of "Twenty Years Later" to explain.  Though it looks like the chemical sign for water, it's supposed to be "H" followed by the number 20.  There should be no reason to try to explain the title of a film in the title of a film. 

Then again there was no reason to make Michael the result of a pagan cult or, honestly, to have ever made Laurie Strode his sister.  For whatever reason everyone kept thinking Michael needed a back story, something proven very wrong by 2007 remake of the original Halloween by Rob Zombie.  The more motivation and story Michael is given the dumber and less scary the whole thing becomes.  As far as was known early on, he killed his sister Judith and her boyfriend because he felt like it and went after Laurie and her friends because they yelled at him and got his attention.  He is evil, he kills, and that's that.  

The original story ran its course over four sequels (Halloween III: Season of the Witch having nothing to do with the rest of the series, fulfilling instead the original attention of having different stories each movie), only the first two of which featured Jamie Lee Curtis as Laurie.  She had become quite the famous actress by the time Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers was produced, so they killed her off in an ioff-screen car wreck.  Instead, in chapters four through six Michael spent the time going after his niece Jamie, finally killing in her in Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers, as well as doing away with his main nemesis, Dr. Loomis.  

Jamie Lee Curtis agreed originally to come back to the series as a thank you to her fans, since John Carpenter's original film was what got her career going.  John Carpenter was also contacted about directing the seventh installment, but Moustapha Akkad, who had swindled Carpenter out of a good chunk of cash from the original, didn't want to do it on Carpenter's terms - which mainly meant the latter, by doing the film, would recoup a good portion of what he should have received originally.  Instead Steve Miner, who was most well known for doing the second and third Friday the 13th movies, took the helm.  Along the way, although they still kind of kept the car crash story, writer Robert Zappia decided to abandon any connection to the other films except for the second - meaning that Laurie Strode was still Michael's sister, but that she eventually faked her death and changed her name. Even though Michael survived the fire at the end of the second movie it took 20 years to catch up to her.  Also, Jamie doesn't exist, but instead she has a son.

We find Laurie (Curtis) as the teacher of a prestigious boarding school in California, which her son John (Josh Hartnett) also attends.  No one knows her true identity except him, and probably his father, who is not in the picture.  Still, there are records that were kept by Michael's former nurse Marion (Nancy Stephens), which he obtains in his usual subtle manner.  While John tries to convince his mom that Michael will never show up again and that it is time for her to stop being overprotective, his uncle drives across the country to pay them a visit.

While the movie is unquestionably a money grab (something that soured Curtis on it after a bit) it is also a major nostalgia trip.  Even though he's not Carpenter, having Miner direct is an homage to the '80s slasher films. and Curtis's involvement is obvious.  We also have Curtis's mother, Janet Leigh, show up as Norma, the school secretary, driving the car her character did in Psycho.  To my surprise the movie generally works, though I do hate the new mask that Michael is wearing; it looks like he cut eye holes in a pair of men's briefs.  Also, I kept expecting things to get really stupid, and was surprised that they didn't.  Once the killing starts it happens quickly, and most of the emphasis is put on Laurie Strode protecting her son and then going one-on-one with Jason.  Other than the mask the makeup effects are pretty well done, and the kills gruesome enough. 

The main flaw is one that is usual with slasher films: the people that are killed off are caricatures.  I have this theory that many screenwriters were either so lost in getting that first movie written that they didn't notice what was happening around them in high school, or they were home schooled, since I would assume they never set foot on a campus after eighth grade.  Many of the people that were as sex-crazed as Charlie (Adam Hann-Byrd) were at some point ignored simply because they were annoying.  Also, while the ending is wonderful (although the next movie ruined it), the way it got there was ridiculous.  It doesn't matter if the person who does it is the head of a boarding school, if they steal a police officer's gun and start waving it around, within the span of less than a minute they will find out what a bad life decision they just made.  

On the bright side, although Jamie Lee Curtis at some point decided to just get it over with and get paid, she still puts in a good performance as the troubled Laurie Strode, although I think Danny McBride realized the character better in the 2018 Halloween.  It also gives us LL Cool J in a bit part as a security guard trying to become a romance writer.  He's good and adds some needed humor, but unfortunately probably led to the idea of having Busta Rhymes in the sequel.  Since Moustapha Akkad saw nothing the series as nothing more than a meal ticket, he probably thought that if a hip-hop artist worked in one movie it would work in another. 

While none of the movies (except maybe the 2018 one) can truly be compared with the original, Halloween H20 was a valiant attempt to get things back on track after the mess the original series had become.  Unfortunately it was too successful, meaning that while this should have put the kibosh on the whole Michael Myers story, it didn't, and that decision made this version of the Halloween timeline go south quicker than the original did. 

Halloween H20: 20 Years Later (1998)
Time: 86 minutes
Starring: Jamie Lee Curtis, Josh Hartnett, Adam Arkin, LL Cool J, Chris Durand
Director: Steve Miner
 

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