From the Vault: Halloween H20 (1998) Simon Fitzjohn October 24, 2016 Editor's Choice, From The Vault 2558 Derided by critics and justifiably unloved even by the fanbase, Halloween 6: The Curse Of Michael Myers all but killed the franchise. Sure, there were plans for a straight-to-DVD part 7, but to all intents and purposes the saga, much like the other 80s horror titans (Friday the 13th, A Nightmare On Elm Street) looked on its last legs. But then, in the mid-to-late 90s, something strange happened – slasher flicks became trendy again. Whether it be the enormous box office success of Scream, Jennifer Love Hewitt bouncing into my affections in I Know What You Did Last Summer, or even enjoyable campus flick Urban Legend, the thirst for the masked killer returned. Heading up both Scream and ‘I Know…’ was writer Kevin Williamson, and it was he that triggered a return to the Myers saga with a treatment for a proposed Halloween follow-up that would bring back Jamie Lee Curtis’ Laurie Strode, and move away from the druid nonsense that plagued the previous entry. Williamson did actually include brief linking scenes to try and connect the earlier instalments, only for various rewrites to shrug off parts 4-6 and act as though they had not even happened. Curtis seemed happy enough to return, and so we get Halloween H20, a film that shoves the franchise 20 years on from the original film, with Strode now working as a school headteacher in California, using a new name (Keri Tate) under the terms of a sort-of witness protection programme. She even has a son, played by ‘lovable rogue’ Josh Hartnett and, while she still suffers nightmares and hits the bottle with alarming regularity, at least has a lot going for her. We know that this is not going to stay the case for long though, and after an opening scene that sees Myers pop up, dispatch nurse Marion Chambers from the first two films (thereby raiding her files and learning Laurie’s new identity), the masked one hops in a car and heads off for the west coast, murder in mind. Sadly, we are shorn of the presence of the always-entertaining Donald Pleasence this time round (due to his untimely death), so the bulk of the film centres around a bunch of kids at the school who decide to stay on site while the majority head for a Yosemite Halloween camping trip. These kids include stars to be Hartnett and Michelle Williams, while Joseph Gordon Levitt also appears briefly before getting an ice skate to the face. We also get the likes of LL Cool J and smooth talker Adam Arkin on board, with Myers a mere periphery for much of the running time. When Michael does show up at the school, the scene is obviously set for a showdown with Laurie/Keri, with a few bodies carved up (in a pretty bloodless way it has to be said) along the way. And the Michael/Laurie showdown is pretty enjoyable to be fair, with an ending which, at the time, appeared pretty ballsy on the part of the film’s makers – although we now obviously know differently. I must admit, when I trundled to the cinema to see this back in 98 I quite enjoyed it, but looking back at it again this week it seems fairly obvious that was balanced out by the extremely low expectations I had going in. Halloween H20 is too slick, too polished, too glossy – a decent enough teen horror flick yes, but far removed from the gritty, dark, nasty hallmarks of the 1978 and 1981 edits. There is simply no edge to it, no sense of danger and nothing to mark it out from the norm. Sadly, there are also plenty of moments that will undoubtedly rankle any Myers fan – why get another actor to recite Pleasence’s dialogue from the earlier films over the opening credits, when you could have used the real audio itself? Why does one of the newspaper cuttings state Laurie Strode survived an attack in 1968, when it was in fact 1978? Why oh why does LL Cool J return from the dead at the end, when he was quite clearly shot in the head/neck earlier in the film (and is shown lying seemingly lifeless in a pool of blood)? And, perhaps worst of all, just what has Michael Myers been doing for the LAST 20 YEARS – sunning himself on a beach somewhere? There are positives here – it is great to see Curtis back in the saddle, and the acting in the main is more than decent. Director Steve Miner, a veteran of the likes of Friday the 13th Pts 2 & 3, keeps a tight rein pacing-wise, and the film also stacks up pretty well when judged against the sequels that were unleashed either side of it in the franchise. But, to be perfectly blunt, that is a pretty low yardstick to judge anything by, and Halloween H20, on its own merits, is nothing more than a merely average slasher romp.