The producers seemed so set on making Halloween: H20 – 20 Years Later an event film, they couldn’t be bothered enough to properly name it. It’s a Halloween movie, here’s when it takes place, Jamie Lee Curtis and Michael are in it. See the awful late 90s floating heads poster? If that isn’t enough to make you buy a ticket, then stay home, fellow kid. Your loss. Well, regardless of its place in the linear timeline, H20 isn’t a milestone. It’s a millstone, one of the lowest points in a series that skinned its knee on the bottom more than once.
H20 serves as a fine example of what we refer to as The Haddonfield Multiverse. This movie acknowledges the events of the first two films, but ignores Return, Revenge, and Curse of Michael Myers. The Cult of Thorn? Forget it. Never happened. Jamie Lloyd? What is that, some kind of mixed drink? She’s not involved with this. That all took place on an alternate timeline, in a Haddonfield somewhen out there. Even though you saw it happen, it never occurred. You were never there. You want to go home and rethink your life.
The big conceit here is that, at some point after Halloween II, Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) faked her own death in an automobile accident. It is never explained how she pulled that off. Whose body did she use to stand in for her own? Doesn’t that make her a murderer? Was it even in this timeline? Using an assumed identity, her name is now Keri Tate, and she is the headmistress of a posh private school in Northern California. She has a son, John (Josh Hartnett), and a secret boyfriend, the school counselor (Adam Arkin). She also has nightmares, a drinking problem, and a full blown case of PTSD. All the students have gotten onto buses and have headed off for a weekend of camping in Yosemite. John and his friends, however, have decided to stay behind and have their own romantic Halloween party. Meanwhile, Michael, that clever boy, has discovered Laurie’s secret identity and where she lives. It’s October 31st, and Michael has some family business to attend to.
You can figure it out from there. H20 does nothing to escape from the slasher formula the series established for itself in 1978. If anything, this movie takes a decent idea and, twenty years later, has grown up to be a debaser. As much as I would love to sit you down and tell you every single thing that is wrong with H20, it’s important to focus on the main aspect the filmmakers screw up: Michael.
Michael Myers is the Boogeyman. That is it. End of discussion. But in the tremendous span of time between Rosenthal’s second film and David Gordon Green’s most recent entry, they have never gotten the mask right. See, the mask and the eyes visible beneath it work in hellish tandem. The only glimpse we as viewers get into the dead psyche of Michael Myers is those cold, black eyes. This is how we know he is a monster: there’s nothing there but the occasional glare of rage.
Chris Durand, who plays Michael in H20, is way too thin. He is lithe like a dancer. Unless Michael has spent the last two decades on the South Beach Diet, this dude is not Michael. There is also too much pale skin visible around his eyes. It is obvious how young he is. No wrinkles can be seen. He hasn’t earned them. There’s no character to this character. Even a child would be able to tell that this acrobat in Dickies has not survived a hospital fire, gotten both of his eyes shot out, and tracked his sister down from Illinois to California. This little twerp is lucky if he can make it home from the club without throwing up all the Ecstasy he took while the DJ was playing “Firestarter” for the fourth time that night.
This isn’t a William Shatner mask anymore. It’s a Frank Doubleday mask, and it doesn’t work. And when your Michael is wrong, your whole movie is wrong. He isn’t the Boogeyman anymore. He’s just some putz in a mask. He is generic and his lackluster presence sucks the movie into an abyss of blech it never arises from.
But does it matter? Is this even the same Michael we learned to fear twenty years prior? Which strand of the Haddonfield Multiverse are we in? Will Rick and Morty show up?
Let’s not even talk about LL Cool J as the security guard who writes romance fiction. Let’s not bring up the scene where Laurie dumps out a kitchen drawer filled with knives and begins hurling them at her brother, like she’s the lead performer in a shit circus. How are all those blades consistently razor sharp? I’ve got a knife like Michael uses, and I have to practically smash half a tomato to get one decent slice for a corned beef sandwich. Let’s also ignore the part where Michael starts slashing madly at a couple of kids through a wrought-iron gate. It’s a furious, animalistic thing to do, but we have learned that Michael is methodical. He doesn’t run. He is a shadow. This one little bit of business, this lapse of character continuity, is enough to betray the entire film as a knock-off of itself. H20 is a Halloween movie, pretending to be a Halloween movie that might not even be a Halloween movie.
Halloween: H20 – 20 Years Later cherry picks the elements it wants to emphasize and scuttles the rest. The Halloween franchise is famous for doing that. You didn’t like what happened in a particular story arc? No problem. Wait a few years and a new production team will kick it to the curb. In that respect, you can watch H20 and, in the end, it just won’t matter. The next movie, Halloween: Resurrection, retcons the events of H20. David Gordon Green’s film chucks damned near the whole lot of Michael’s tale. But H20 is a special kind of suckmonkey, so concerned with the surface appearance of pleasing the fans, that it can best be represented by one simple fact.
H20 is dedicated to the memory of Donald Pleasence. In the credits, where the memoriam is placed, his name is spelled wrong.