Halloween H20: 20 Years Later (1998)

(In French, On Cable TV, November 2016) Given that I have no perceptible affection for the slasher genre, revisiting the Halloween series twenty years later via Halloween H20 is more interesting for what it shows about the evolution of the genre in two decades and where the slasher genre was at the end of the nineties. Comparing the original 1978 Halloween (and its inseparable first sequel) to this nineties remake shows the gradual taming of the subgenre over the years. The 1998 version is slicker, glossier, occasionally sadistic but just as often hesitant to go too far. (e.g.; no killing kids in public restrooms, thankfully!) The focus on teenagers remains, even though this late sequel cleverly makes middle-aged Jamie Lee Curtis the hero of this belated fight with Michael Myers. Perhaps most of all, though, is Halloween H20’s demonstration that the nineties slasher genre was profoundly dull. Once the film spends the first 30 minutes setting up the plot pieces, everything else follows without much surprise or interest. It predictably builds up to a culminating fight in which the final girl presumably kills the villain … at least until later filmmakers change their minds. The problem is that Michael Myers is remarkably dull even as a quasi-supernatural psycho killer—he has no personality to speak of, and he feels less like a mortal threat than an annoyance you can’t get rid of. It’s possible to damn Halloween H20 with the faint praise of competent execution, even though even that has its limits: Much of this 90-minute film feels far too long, stretched beyond impatience through endless “suspense” moments in which we wait for the next predictable event to occur. At least there is some fun in looking at the cast: Beyond a competent Jamie Lee Curtis, there’s the big-screen debut of Josh Hartnett, an early appearance by Michelle Williams, a minor character for LL Cool J and a very short role for Joseph Gordon-Lewitt. It says much about the film’s interest that there’s more fun talking about the cast than in what happens in the film. Slasher movies periodically rise from the grave to annoy new generations, but few people seem to miss them when they go away.

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