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Dustin Putman

Dustin's Review
Halloween: H20 (1998)
2 Stars

Directed by Steve Miner
Cast: Jamie Lee Curtis, Josh Hartnett, Michelle Williams, Jodi Lyn O'Keefe, Adam Hann-Byrd, LL Cool J, Adam Arkin, Nancy Stephens, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Branden Williams, Janet Leigh, Emilee Thompson, Lisa Gay Hamilton, Chris Durand.
1998 – 82 minutes
Rated: Rated R (for violence and profanity).
Reviewed by Dustin Putman, October 27, 1998.

Note (08/29/07): The following review, written in 1998, is more or less still representative of my opinion of "Halloween: H20." However, having seen the film several times in the years since, my rating would now stand at a mildly positive 2 stars. Yes, the movie is too short, but it is also stylish and suspenseful enough to recommend.

John Carpenter's 1978 classic "Halloween" was a masterpiece, the best horror film I have ever seen. I am sure no genre film of its type will ever surpass it, but when I heard that Jamie Lee Curtis was returning for a 20th-anniversary sequel, my hopes ran sky-high. I thought to myself, while no sequel could equal the original, it could very well be, for once, a truly worthy follow-up. Going into "Halloween: H20," I was all set to see a great horror film in the vein of the original, and with the talent involved, I was almost positive it wouldn't be anything less than superb. Well, I have now seen "Halloween: H20," and I am very saddened to say that the film was a disappointment.

Most people are very familiar with the original "Halloween," as it was about a teenage babysitter, Laurie Strode, played by Curtis, on Halloween night whose evil, psychotic brother went after her on Halloween night, thus hoping to have murdered both of his siblings. "Halloween: H20" picks up exactly twenty years later, as Laurie Strode now lives under the false name of Keri Tate, has a 17-year-old son (Josh Hartnett), is the headmistress of a posh, exclusive private school, and lives every day of her life terrified that her brother, Michael Myers, will come back, thus hiding behind prescription drugs and alcohol. Laurie's fears happen to come true on Halloween night, as all of the children have gone on a vacation, except for Curtis' son, his girlfriend, Molly (Michelle Williams), and their other two friends (Adam Hann-Byrd, Jodi Lyn O'Keefe), leaving them, as well as Laurie's boyfriend (Adam Arkin) and the school security guard (LL Cool J), alone at the school to fend off Michael Myers, who has found out where his sister has been hiding all of these years.

That is the set-up for "Halloween: H20," a film that all but disregards Parts 4-6, which is alright with me, since they started to get off track, focusing on ridiculous druid claptrap. This new film also obviously has a larger budget, has moody, atmospheric cinematography, and pays homage quite cleverly to the original. Luckily, it also includes enough suspense for two movies, and a good amount of scares, most prominently in the lengthy prologue, which is flawless and terrifying, and could stand well on its own as a short film. The movie playfully toys with you quite a lot, especially in a creepy scene set at a desolate rest stop, and involving a young child and her mother...not to mention the man with the mask. There is another moment involving a garbage disposal that is absolutely nerve-racking. There is also a very funny small perforamance by Lisa Gay Hamilton, as LL Cool J's girlfriend. Although we only hear her voice on the telephone throughout, she is dynamite. All that I have mentioned so far is simply great. It is probably scarier than all of the other sequels, and is more stylish. It even has a sweet cameo by Janet Leigh ("Psycho"), Curtis' real-life mother.

But, overall "Halloween: H20" is an incredibly huge letdown. The biggest problem with the film, and this large quiff pretty much leads to all of the smaller problems, is that the movie is 82 minutes long! If the makers are going to take the time to bring back Curtis, not to mention the feel of the first one, then why did they make the movie little more than an hour in length? By making it so short, it seemed almost utterly empty. I liked all of the actors, but the characters were so slight and sloppily written that we didn't get to spend nearly enough time with any of them or learn anything about them. Even the star of the film, Curtis, isn't in it nearly enough.

To make a long story short, this is what "Halloween: H20" feels like: the movie contains a first act and a third act, but the middle 20 minutes are missing. It feels as if a reel was somehow lost, and that is truly disheartening. The picture had so much potential, so much suspense and scares, and...a second act that is nowhere to be found.

Another thing that is disappointing is that, aside from the first scene and one scene set in the town, the movie doesn't even feel like Halloween. By setting the movie mostly away from the town and in the confines of the school, we miss out on the establishing shots that have made the Halloween films so memorable; moments that show pumpkins outside of houses, and trick-or-treaters running from house to house as a killer lurks outside with them. That is all missing, and an incredibly big mistake.

No matter how good a "Halloween" film is, they always have had that classic music score, and this one has it too, sort of. But aside from two scenes, a lot of the music doesn't sound anything like it. In fact, the score sounds exactly like the one from "Scream," and this is no surprise since the person who did that score, Marco Beltrami, also lended himself to perform additional music for this one. Big mistake.

"Halloween: H20" had a lot going for it, and I could praise it endlessly for all of the fabulous moments within, but I'd rather criticize it for only giving hints to how truly impressive it could have been, but wasn't. It is a missed opportunity. After all, why make a 20th-anniversary sequel when it is going to have a running time less than most animated features?

©1998 by Dustin Putman

Dustin Putman