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THE F*CKING BLACK SHEEP: Halloween: H20 (1998)

11.10.2011by: Ryan Doom

THE BLACK SHEEP is an ongoing column featuring different takes on films that either the writer HATED, but that the majority of film fans LOVED, or that the writer LOVED, but that most others LOATH. We're hoping this column will promote constructive and geek fueled discussion. Dig in!

Halloween: H20 (1998)
Directed by Steve Miner

“Myers does nothing for an hour except pace around slowly here and there.”

For years, the Halloween franchise was in a slow decline. Things started so swell with John Carpenter’s original, changing the horror genre and all that. Once he left it behind, however, the films lost their way. Lost their effectiveness. Dr. Loomis, played by the always excellent Donald Pleasance, kept the series going despite a drop in quality until the real Michael Myers (you know, Death) came for him. After that, franchise was left with a problem. Where go from there? After all, you can’t just unplug an ATM that spits out cash. Nope, gotta keep the money rolling in…so why not give Jamie Lee Curtis a call?

I don’t have a problem with Curtis. She’s a good actress who has been in some damn good movies, and who has rarely phoned in the role. Even in her lesser, crappy movies, she was a star who filled up the screen whether you liked her or not. I guess it was inevitable that she would return to the role that launched her career: Laurie Strode. As the years flew by and the movies kept coming out, eventually they would ask her and make the paycheck about right. Plus, after Scream, the horror genre was all Viagraed up again, making it acceptable for an actress of Curtis’ level to return to it.

In many ways, Curtis’ return was a great thing. It brought things full circle for Curtis who hadn’t played the role since Halloween II. Was it worth the wait? Well…sorta. I mean it’s cool and all seeing her match up against her brother, but her role is so bland and predictable. Her character just isn’t interesting. The basic plot of Laurie and her killer brother still fit, but still Myers never developed beyond a silent killer who gets stiff slicing necks, he loses some luster over time. The producers went for what was expected, creating a slick, professionally produced feature that would appeal to a broad audience. They wanted it to be Scream (which I’ll come back to).

Along with Curtis, H20 boasts an impressive cast. You have Adam Arkin, LL Cool J, Janet Leigh, plus a crop of up and comers in Michelle Williams, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and the messy headed Josh Hartnett, who always seemed like a poor man’s Ashton Kutcher. Actually, I take that back. That’s cruel. Hartnett isn’t as bad as Mr. Moore. It’s just his sloppy bed head hair that bugs me. Performance wise, he’s fine, but that damn hair. He really needs to keep a comb with him. At the same time, it’s interesting the Mr. Cool J had an odd streak of playing service characters at the time. In Deep Blue Sea, he played a cook with a parrot and a love for God and booze. Here, he’s a security guard who wants to write romance novels. Sure.

As I watched H20 again, the name that stood out, beyond Harvey and Bob Weinstein from Miramax, was Kevin Williamson of Scream and I Know What Did fame. Essentially, it meant that Halloween was due for the an upgrade, a full body plastic surgery given by the man who revived horror. Of course, the original Scream is a great movie. Can't take anything away. But that doesn't mean that every single horror franchise needed to imitate it. What made Halloween great was its dirtiness, its grittiness. If you go back and watch the original, it has a stylistic flair that none of the other films could imitate. And that's the problem with all the sequels that followed. None of them were capable of recapturing that artistic darkness that Carpenter brought. That includes H20. Steve Miner, a veteran horror director, doesn’t bring anything new or creative. Instead, he makes the look like a studio picture. It feels as if he took all the notes Williamson gave.

Oh, and the worst thing about H20? Nothing happens for far too long! It’s a damn slasher movie and besides seeing Gordon-Levitt with an ice skate stuck to his face, Myers does nothing for an hour except pace around slowly here and there. That might have worked in the original, but 20 years into the franchise, you gotta try something new.





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