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Face-Off: Halloween H20 vs. Halloween 2018

Right at this moment, Jamie Lee Curtis is fighting Michael Myers on the big screen once again in director David Gordon Green's new HALLOWEEN sequel - a sequel that ignores Curtis's previous return to the franchise, Steve Miner's 1998 film HALLOWEEN H20, while feeling very much like it. They're both anniversary films that ignore previous sequels and focus on the trauma that Curtis's character Laurie Strode has been dealing with ever since her first encounter with Michael Myers back in 1978. So since both of these films take the same approach and deal with the same subject matter, let's figure out which one did it better.

If you haven't seen the new HALLOWEEN yet, be warned that there are some SPOILERS below, although I tried not to go into specific detail on a lot of things.

LAURIE STRODE

Laurie Strode has had a tough time trying to move on from the events of Halloween 1978, when she found out the maniac who killed her friends and attacked her was her long-lost older brother. She is plagued by nightmares and hallucinates the image of Michael Myers. She has tried all sorts of therapy, is on multiple medications, and self-medicates with copious amounts of alcohol. She has made bad decisions and had bad relationships, one of those being with an abusive, chainsmoking methadone addict who left her sometime after they had a son together. She is able to put on a strong face in public, so successfully that she has even become headmistress at a secluded boarding school - a career that makes sense for the Laurie we met in 1978, and one that allows her to live on a gated campus protected by a security guard. She watched Michael Myers burn in '78, but his remains were never found, so she lives in fear that he's going to show up alive some Halloween and come after her again, even after she has faked her death, changed her name, and moved across the country. She's right to be afraid. H20 does a good job of giving an idea of the sort of damage the events of Halloween '78 did to Laurie and Jamie Lee Curtis plays it well, although the character can seem shrill and off-putting sometimes. The film also could have spent a bit more time on her story and dug a little deeper into the character.

The latest HALLOWEEN disregards HALLOWEEN II and catches up with a Laurie Strode who, forty years down the line from the events of the first film, is even more damaged than the Laurie of H20 was. Rather than pursue a career in education, this Laurie has dedicated her life to survival. Her gated property has a security system and a private shooting range where she guns down mannequins. Her house has hidden rooms and she owns guns and knives that are ready to be used for self defense. She knows Michael Myers is alive, he has been locked away in a sanitarium since '78, and she is sure he's going to escape someday. She wants him to, so she can kill him. Her obsession has beaten her down and messed up her life. She's a recovering alcoholic, has had two failed marriages, and she lost custody of her daughter Karen when the girl was 12. Laurie is a strong woman and is clearly capable of kicking ass if threatened, but there are times when the pain she feels comes to the surface. She breaks down, when she sees Michael Myers being loaded onto a transport bus she cries and screams. Curtis delivers a great performance, and I like this version of Laurie better than the one in H20... But again I'm left with the feeling that the film could have spent more time with her and dug even deeper. This movie has a large ensemble, and while Laurie has a major role she sometimes gets lost in the mix.

MICHAEL MYERS

The effectiveness of the Michael Myers played by Chris Durand takes a major hit from the film's mask debacle. Most of his scenes were shot with a generic, blank white mask and then had to be reshot with a new mask that looks pretty goofy. The mask from Halloween 6 also makes a return in one scene, and in another the mask has received a CGI touch-up. Beyond the mask, I've never liked Durand's performance very much. He can move slowly and swing a knife, but he didn't bring anything interesting to the role. His best moment comes in a room full of tables, when he starts flipping the tables over two-by-two, knowing Laurie is hiding under one of them.

Although original Michael Myers performer Nick Castle came back to put on the mask (a good replica of the original mask, but aged 40 years) for one scene, the slasher is primarily played by James Jude Courtney, and his performance feels like a mixture of the robotic movements of Dick Warlock in HALLOWEEN II with the intensity and brutality of Tyler Mane's Michael Myers in the Rob Zombie movies. He can really mess people up. One interesting thing is how often the film shows him observing his surroundings. You can tell he's thinking, listening, and contemplating options beneath that mask. I wasn't blown away, but the performance was good enough.

DYSFUNCTIONAL FAMILY

H20 ignores HALLOWEEN 4 - 6, so never mind Laurie's daughter Jamie from those films. Here she has a 17-year-old son named John, who has had all he can take of his mom's overprotectiveness, paranoia, alcoholism, everything he has had to put up with his entire life. She won't accept that Michael Myers is dead and move on, so he's starting to take control of his life and rebel against her... Beginning with putting together a secret Halloween party with his girlfriend and two other boarding school students who didn't leave on the trip to Yosemite his mom wouldn't let him go on. John proves to be totally worthless when Michael Myers shows up, but he does have some good confrontational moments with Laurie that help us understand where he's coming from.

There's a lot of drama in Laurie's family. Her daughter Karen was taken away from her, and Karen has still never forgiven her for putting her through a childhood of survivalist training and paranoia. Laurie's granddaughter Allyson is similar to how she was when she was a teenager; she's a good, responsible student, but is open to having a reasonable amount of fun. Allyson wants to connect with Laurie, wants their family to be close, but the hard feelings between her mom and grandmother and Laurie's obsession with Michael Myers make it tough to move forward. When Michael Myers shows up, Karen remembers the lessons her mother taught her, while Allyson becomes sort of superfluous. The drama is good, but John's moments in H20 felt more emotional than Karen's.

MURDER SPREE

Only five people died in the first HALLOWEEN, so H20 aimed to keep its body count low as well. After three people are killed in the opening sequence (two of those are off screen, but one of them got an ice skate planted in his face, so that's neat), we have a long wait for the next kill... and it's off screen, too. The fifth kill is a brutal and showy one, but the sixth murder, the last one we see Michael Myers commit, is my favorite - an enhanced version of a classic kill from HALLOWEEN II.

Forty years after killing five people in the first HALLOWEEN, Michael Myers comes back in a major way in this film, racking up over a dozen kills. Some of those are off screen, we only see the gruesome aftermath, but several are on screen, and people get destroyed in this movie. Michael is choosy about his victims, but proves he's just as willing to kill a young kid as he is to knife, strangle, bludgeon, and crush the heads of adults. He clearly has a lot of built-up aggression he needed to let out.

REMATCH

Laurie and Michael are reunited with roughly 15 minutes of movie left, first seeing each other through a window in a door. At first Laurie is just focused on getting John to safety, but once she has done that she decides to turn and face her attacker. She smashes the controls of the school's shut gate, grabs an axe, and goes slasher hunting, calling out her brother's name. As their confrontation goes on, there's a role reversal. We join Michael as he walks through the school, waiting for Laurie to jump out and attack. She actually manages to subdue him pretty quickly, then goes an extra step to make sure she has defeated him for good... But that triumphant ending isn't what it appears to be.

This rematch also begins with a moment involving a window in a door, but instead of just looking at each other as they did in H20 this time Michael attacks Laurie through that door, busting the glass and grabbing her... And receiving a hell of a wound in the process. This confrontation also takes up the last 15 minutes of the film, but there's a moodier atmosphere here as Laurie and Michael hunt each other inside a dark house where Karen and Allyson are hiding in a safe room. H20 had a bit more direct fighting, while this one has more stalking and moments of tension. This also has a satisfying ending, although it's not likely to be any more final than the ending of H20 turned out to be.

HALLOWEEN (2018)

HALLOWEEN H20 did it first, but HALLOWEEN (2018) did a lot of things better. The main issue with H20 is that Miner wanted to make the film as short and quick as possible, and it suffers a bit because of that. Both the dramatic storyline and the stalking and slashing could have benefited from having more time devoted to them. The new HALLOWEEN is 20 minutes longer than H20, so it has some extra time to spend... Although it does use up too much of its time trying to give too many characters depth and something to do, when it could have focused in more on the most important ones. I have issues with both of these movies, I get entertainment from both of these movies, and in the end the 2018 film takes the win in more categories.

Especially in the Michael Myers category.

Do you agree with the outcome of this Face-Off, or do you think H20 should have been the victor? Leave a comment below to share your thoughts on these films. If you have suggestions for future Face-Offs, you can contact me at [email protected].

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