Friday, 29 October 2021

Halloween H20: 20 Years Later

Director Steve Miner, screenwriters Robert Zappia and Matt Greenberg - as well as an only partially credited Kevin Williamson - follow up the strange, supernatural, tension of John Carpenter's Halloween with a film that consistently registers as a horrifying backdoor pilot that has crept its way into an early season of Dawson's Creek. Halloween H20: 20 Years Later is hamstrung by the spacious, directionless, framing of television, a mode of visual communication that fails to make much of anything out of a looming shape. The film proposes generational trauma, teen promiscuity and substance abuse but does so in ways that feel bloodless and tidy, as if adhering to the standards and practices of the small screen. Laurie herself is positioned as an alcoholic simply because she pounds two Chardonnays on her afternoon break and has a bottle of vodka on standby in her freezer. 

H20 takes place two decades after the events of Carpenter and Debra Hill's film, its connection to the other five instalments in the series either only lightly expressed or pointedly contradictory. Like David Gordon Green's current sequel cycle, H20 is, essentially, a follow-up that only absolutely acknowledges the events of the 1978 original, preferring to pick up where that film left off rather than slog through whatever pagan panic was generated afterwards. Laurie Strode has spent her years offscreen faking her death, chewing her way through a failed marriage and acquiring a preference for the aforementioned liquid lunches. Despite these setbacks, Strode - who now goes by Keri Tate - is the headmistress of a prestigious boarding school. Her son, played by Josh Hartnett, yearns to disconnect from his mother and her paranoia, weaselling out of a school trip to spend All Hallows' Eve with his friends (who include Michelle Williams). Unfortunately for all, Myers has decided to mark this china anniversary by renewing his assault on his estranged family. 

For a film designed to (once again) conclude the story of Michael Myers, the babysitter slasher consistently underwhelms in H20. Far from a massive murderous wheeze, this Myers is slight and over lit. In one shot, arranged to illicit a jump scare, Myers' gloss white mask looks like it has been corrected in post; crude computer graphics nudging detail and structure into a face that has been photographed as flat and unthreatening. Although quickly gone, the strangeness of these applied features is bizarre enough that they completely defeat the expected response, prompting a confused double take rather than the shock associated with immediate danger. Elsewhere, Myers so completely fails to fill out his slack, comfort cut, boiler suit that - even though the in-film chronology absolutely does not line up - you begin to wonder if Hartnett's teenage John has gone off the boil, recreating his uncle crimes in some twisted form of defiance. Meandering, even at 80 odd minutes, H20 does briefly display some juice in its closing moments, allowing Jamie Lee Curtis to play around with the familial connection that was foisted upon her character. 

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