Halloween H20: 20 Years Later

4 out of 5

Directed by: Steve Miner

A solid horror flick, with some truly tense and fun scenes, but an especially noteworthy Halloween entry, for which I’ll reward it an extra star.  While it occupies a weird space in the original series’ chronology, ignoring entries as it pleases and acting as a direct sequel to Halloween II, it probably has the best character development and story logic of any Halloween flick up to its point in time, firmly reinstating Michael Myers as an undying killer but not one without motivations: he’s after his family and their relations; he’s not just out to slash anyone who gets in his way.  This seems to give him a bit more “smarts” than in some of the others, but also leads to some rough edges where he maybe acts a bit too human – more from a scripting perspective than in presentation, though, as Chris Durand’s take on the character is pretty fantastic, excepting being saddled with an unfortunate version of the mask.  (More on that momentarily.)

The return of Jamie Lee Curtis as Laurie Strode – now hiding out under a different identity as a school matriarch, trying to keep an eye on her son (Josh Hartnett) – is not only especially welcomed, but well considered within the narrative: she’s high strung but in a rather realistic fashion for a generally shallow genre; the story has her with clear PTSD and a drinking problem, but it’s definitely Curtis grounding the character, and she’s the one who brings believability and intensity to the fantastic concluding showdowns between her and Mike.

Miner mostly does a solid job with the buildup, as Michael makes his way from Haddonfield to Laurie’s current location in California, to “celebrate” her son’s 17th birthday in stabby fashion, staying away from fake scares and using the first hour for establishing story such that we have enough attachment to most of the characters to be invested once the slashing begins, and once it does, it’s on.  There’s still some eye-rolly dumb stuff that happens once we hit that point – fumbling for keys to the door when Michael is a few steps away, for example – but we lean into momentum, helped along by a great, fresh score from John Ottman and Marco Beltrami (when the classic theme kicks in, it’s really well handled) and rushing us past such flubs.  There’s also an appreciated winky cameo from Curtis’ mother, Janet Leigh, and a nod-of-approval inclusion of the nurse from Halloween I and II (Nancy Stephens) popping up as Loomis’ caretaker – the good doctor having passed, in-universe, prior to events in the movie.

Aaand the mask.  The mask is one of the strangest things in horror cinema, to me, as it’s almost always looked pretty goofy, and often looked pretty shitty, and each flick I feel like they keep trying to figure out a way to make it look good and fail.  And they tried again here, and I think I get what they were going for – trying to allow for more expressiveness in the eyes, giving the mask some more notable human features likely for the same reason – but it crosses the line into being a bit too “animated” looking, and the hair is, like, styled, so Mike looks like a cool surfer dude.  It sucks, because, as mentioned, I think Durand turns in one of the better performances of the character.

So there’s a small list of hinky things concerning H20, but it nonetheless stands out as a solid sequel – one that builds up to an incredibly satisfying ending, something that hasn’t happened since II, so it’s fitting that it’s a direct sequel to it – and as an entertaining horror flick to boot.