It All Happens In The Dark

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The NIGHT HE… went to California.

Halloween: H20 (1998)

I remember the first time I saw the 1978 Halloween. I was in middle school and for years I had been in love with The Friday the 13th films. I even had recurring dreams about Jason Voorhees. I still do occasionally but now they’re not frightening just strange – a recent one featured Bjork as a camper. But moving on… my mother took note of my adoration of the hockey mask killer and told me that if I wanted to see a REALLY scary movie I should watch Halloween. So I did. And I loved it. I still have a fond spot in my heart for mama Voorhees and her son, but upon that first viewing of Halloween I discovered what true horror was.

So that’s my story. Now onto Halloween: H20‘s story. The film opens in Langdon, Illinois on October 29, 1998. Nancy Stephens reprises her role as Nurse Marion Chambers (née Whittington) and for someone who has been smoking all these years she looks pretty good.

Marion became Dr. Loomis’ nurse in his declining years. Returning home tonight she discovers someone has broken into her house. And the file marked ‘Laurie Strode’ is empty. Uh oh. Well, it isn’t long before we see Michael hoovering in the background and soon enough we have a stabbing, a hockey skate to the face and a slit throat. And it isn’t even Halloween yet! Michael nicks a car and begins a cross country odyseey. I am curious about what he has been up in the interim – did he go to school? Learn a trade? Travel abroad?

For any naysayers who might suspect Michael is too old to get up to these seasonal hijinks, a detective who cracks a joke about the boogeyman having ‘alzheimers and a walker’ is met with another detective’s response: “He’d be younger than I am! I was fifteen when he killed his sister.”

Over the opening credits we see a montage of old new clippings, one that shows us Laurie Strode with a caption that reads: “Survivor of Halloween murders killed in auto accident.” I told you back in my review for Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers that she faked her death and left Jamie Lloyd behind. She knew when the gettin’ was good so she cut her loses, left that little brat behind and had a new kid, Josh Hartnett. OK, I made that up. But Josh Hartnett does play her son, John, in his first film role.

Now we go to Summer Glen, California where Laurie Stroke is now Keri Tate because she did fake her death (see!) and she is head mistress at Hillcrest Academy. And boy is she fucked up. She has awful nightmares, she has a medicine cabinet full of pills… and she has a son… who… is… a… TEENAGER. Could her life be any worse?

We learn that Laurie’s husband was an abusive chain-smoking methadone addict who left her, but she has Alan Arkin now, playing the school guidance counselor, Will. But even he doesn’t know about her past.

Laurie/Keri is very overprotective of her son, for obvious reasons, and she is not about to let him go on the field trip to Yosemite which is leaving after school (and will effectively empty out the campus). John says he knows that today is THE DAY but he says, “We’re through with all that. We really are.” OK, John… see, this Halloween is going to be a romantic comedy!

John’s girlfriend Molly (Michelle Williams) also cannot go on the field trip because her father neglected to make her tuition payments. Their friend, Sarah (Jodi Lyn O’Keefe) has no interest in going, and if she ain’t going, her boyfriend Charlie (Adam Hann-Byrd) sure as hell won’t be. So they plan to all stay behind and have their own little Halloween party.

Now we’re at a rest stop off an interstate in California and Michael decides he doesn’t want to drive his cool green car anymore – he needs a creepy vehicle! Luckily a mother and daughter have one and happen to pull into the same rest stop. I am curious about the story of these two – the mother and daughter. The mom seems so fun and in touch, but when she gets alone by herself in one of the bathroom stalls, she seems utterly overwhelmed and exhausted. Are they running from someone? Can we get a Halloween spin-off for these two?

LL Cool J plays a security guard (back at Hillcrest) who writes romantic novels in his spare time and isn’t half as annoying as Busta Rhymes was in Halloween: Resurrection.

We have a classroom scene with Laurie/Keri teaching the novel Frankenstein and discussing confronting monsters and fate, in which Molly looks out a window and sees Michael lurking, turns away to answer a question and looks back to see he is gone. Sound familiar?

We find that Michael doesn’t just haunt Laurie’s dream – she has visions of him when she is wide awake as well. She sees him everywhere really, but if she closes her eyes and collects herself and opens them again he is gone.

During lunch with Will, Laurie/Keri asks him if he thinks that something so tragic can happen to someone that they can never recover. Without giving him the details of her back story she says that she has tried everything – twelve steps, self help, therapy, meditation and none of it has worked. Now she likes white wine and vodka. John calls her a functioning alcoholic, which is why he can’t swipe any of her booze for the Halloween festivities and must sneak into town with Charlie to shoplift some.

The kids cook up a buffet from the school kitchen, decorate a hidey-hole, bring the tunes – the tunes being Creed (Creed and ‘Love Hurts’ should never be in a Halloween movie in my opinion) and wander off on their own to be killed.

Will and Laurie/Keri have carved a pumpkin and she decides tonight is the night to tell him who she really is. She spills the beans, and Will asks Laurie if she still thinks after twenty years Michael would show up. She says that he waited in the sanitarium for fifteen years for her. Will asks how old she was when it happens. Seventeen she says… and realizes why tonight may very well be the night Michael returns. John turned seventeen this year.

Laurie/Keri finds the phone dead, and John’s camping gear still in his closet and she doesn’t like how the night is developing. I’d go for more Vodka and maybe some pills but she gets the handgun she keeps under her pillow.

There is a very well done scene after Molly and John discover the bodies of their friends and spot Michael with his knife and are fleeing from him back to the dorms. Molly can’t find the right key to open the gate as Michael gains on them, and it is all very reminiscent of Laurie running across the street to the Doyle house and discovering that she has lost her keys. Molly finally does find the right key, and as she pulls the gate shut behind her, she drops them and they fall outside the gate. She tries to reach for them as Michael approaches but has to give up. Molly and John press their backs against the door, trying to get someone to open it as Michael slashes at their faces through the gate.

And now Michael and Laurie finally come face to face and it is pretty spectacular.

Then there is blood and death and closet-hiding and eventually Laurie gets Molly and John to the front gate and tells them to go drive a mile down the road (to the Becker’s house… get it?) and call the police. She is looks at Molly and remembers the discussion from earlier that day about confronting your monster and she knows it is time. She locks the gate after them, gets herself and ax and goes hunting for Michael. I liked this new assertive Laurie. It doesn’t last too long however as she loses her ax, and mostly just scampers away and hides from him. I’d be doing some running, too, but she is allowed to get her vengeance on a bit, and it was well deserved.

Unfortunately LL Cool J stops her as soon as she has Michael down and is about to get stab-happy on him.

The paramedics and police arrive, Michael is in a body bag, but Laurie knows it isn’t over. I love the look on her face here as she decides what to do. She grabs her ax, takes a cop’s gun, hijacks the coroner’s van Michael was loaded into and speeds off.

This is the definitive ending for me. Resurrection in my mind never happened. Laurie kills Michael here. Resurrection makes no sense to me at all – Michael comes once again for Laurie, kills her this time and then completely disregards John and returns to his childhood home to stalk Tyra Banks? If H20 can slip all the sequels from three to six under the rug, I can ignore Ressurection.

I was the first person in line to see this when it came out – I’m talking literally here. (And I did see it with my mother – remember she recommended the original one all those years ago?)

Having Jamie Lee Curtis back is a dream come true – it is greatly because of her that this film is successful. Another plus is that H20 doesn’t fool around – it gets in, gets it done and gets out. It doesn’t wear out its welcome or try to be something it is not. We are never going to get another film in this series as good as John Carpenters, but H20 hits all the right notes, covers all the bases, tosses in nods to the other significant films in the series and respects the fans. I was really happy they got rid of that Cult of Thorn business – I hated that shit. And I was really happy to see Janet Leigh and her car from Psycho!

The bottom line is that this is the best of the Halloween sequels and Michael hasn’t been this creepy since the original – even if his damn mask still isn’t right. B


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