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Halloween H20: 20 Years Later

#41 - Halloween H20: 20 Years Later
Steve Miner, 1998

Twenty years after surviving an encounter with a serial killer and going into hiding out of fear that he will strike again, a woman soon discovers that the killer is on the loose again.

How do you follow up a Halloween sequel that reveals Michael Myers' real origin story to be that of a lackey to a cult of evil druids? Simple - you effectively pretend that one (and the three sequels before that) didn't happen and start from scratch. H20, the seventh entry in the series, picks up twenty years after the events of the first two entries and centres on how Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) has been living in the decades since being rushed from not one but two scenes of Michael murder. It turns out she faked her death and is now living in northern California under an assumed name, working as the headmistress at a prestigious boarding school that is also being attended by her teenage son John (Josh Hartnett) and carrying on a secret tryst with one of the teachers (Adam Arkin). However, she's still severely wracked by the trauma of her encounters with Michael that manifests in manners as varied as substance abuse, relationship issues, and night terrors. As if that wasn't bad enough, it turns out that Michael has finally learned the truth about her whereabouts and is on his way out west to finish what he started - and almost certainly carve up a lot of innocent bystanders in the process.

Coming out in the wake of the hit meta-slasher Scream means that H20 leans into a similarly self-aware approach as it makes all manner of call-backs to its source while also playing up its humourous elements (especially through LL Cool J's security guard/aspiring novelist). Director Miner worked on the first two Friday the 13th sequels where he oversaw Jason Voorhees' transition from helpless victim into a Michael-esque killer and played his own part in codifying the slasher genre as a result; this makes him a sensible choice for the role (especially during a third act that does call to mind the appreciably frantic conclusion of Friday the 13th Part III). The film is moderately successful at grounding its horror in Laurie's decades-long trauma and how it affects her seemingly pleasant new life (especially when her overprotective nature threatens to drive a wedge between her and the rebellious John). However, more often than not it seems like window dressing that only offers the slightest of variations on the formula of teens (namely John and his immediate social circle) being targeted by Michael - this can be discerned by just how much the film really kicks into gear once Laurie becomes directly involved in conflict with Michael past the film's halfway mark (but hey, better late than never, I guess). As with Return of Michael Myers, H20 does get by through a combination of return-to-form goodwill and having a not-too-different take on the material while ultimately failing to become a genuinely good film in the process. At the very least, its final scene alone cements its place as one of the better sequels in such a way that any attempt to directly follow it up would almost certainly embarrass the franchise.