Halloween H20: Revisited

John Carpenter priced himself out of the production, so it was up to Friday the 13th Part II and III director Steve Miner to fill his shoes for Halloween H20.

But can anyone really fill Carpenter’s shoes?

In this update (terrible title, my god) we meet Laurie Strode again, 20 years after the Haddonfield massacre and living under an assumed name. And she’s moved to California, which is rather hilarious as there were a few unintended palm trees as well as a mountain range popping up in the supposed “Illinois town” of the first film.

Strode is still being tormented by visions of The Shape, creepy masked killer Michael Myers.

Gotta hand it to Myers. Maybe he had a private investigator? Or maybe he’s telekinetically connected to his sis. Who knows? Either way, he managed to find her and make the 2,000-mile trek out west.

Rarely can horror films be accused of being blessed with acting talent. But…There’s an embarrassment of riches here. There’s Jamie Lee Curtis (a given), but also Michelle Williams, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Josh Hartnett, Adam Arkin, and LL Cool J as well. So with a running head-start, how does this one fare?

Upon revisiting…not so well.

First off, the Hogwarts-type setting where Strode is headmistress doesn’t do it any favors.

Sense of place can make a world of difference in horror. The very best horrors have exceptional, memorable settings. Think The Texas Chain Saw Massacre or the grimy streets of Ed Koch-era New York in Maniac.

This is a humdrum stucco prep school. Dull-as-dirt.

And there are two ways to go with antagonists: either they’re the focus and you go inside their heads like Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer, or there’s the less-is-more mystery…what we’ve come to expect from Michael Myers. Here, he “insists himself upon you,” to paraphrase Peter Griffin’s take-down of The Godfather.

By the admittedly low standards of reboots, H20 isn’t even close to being the worst. That being said, it occupies space alongside Zombie’s Halloween as thoroughly unnecessary.

** (out of 5)

[Check out our podcast discussion of Halloween H20!]

Friday the 13th Part V: A New Beginning

Is every moment a fresh beginning? If you’re TS Eliot, you’d say so…but a series like Friday the 13th? Lately it’s been more whimper than bang.

When did chinks start appearing in the Jason armor? Maybe here, with Friday the 13th: A New Beginning? Possibly, but there’s still so much nuttiness that it makes for a very compelling series entry indeed.

Friday the 13th Part V, follows up on the tale of young Tommy (Corey Feldman), who managed to escape the clutches of the Butcher of Camp Crystal Lake. This was a point where recent Hollywood whistle-blower Feldman had yet to become a star big enough for his agent to pull him away from this project (The year this was made, 1985, was the same year Corey’s career took off in The Goonies).

Here, Tommy is at the grave site of Mr Jason Voorhees. It’s a disturbing scene, in more ways than one, as Jason’s supposed “final” resting place is being beset by grave-robbers. In a downpour, Tommy watches as Jason re-animates (maybe a misnomer, as he wasn’t really dead) and eviscerates his two desecrators.

Tommy is then taken to the local sanitarium, one Pinehurst Halfway House (run by the Unger Institute of Mental Health), a secluded residential treatment facility for youngsters. He’s got the flop sweats, and has still got his creepy masks in tow, mostly as a tie-in to the fourth movie in the series…But not really. It’s at the facility where Tommy is introduced to his fellow misfits, as well as the centre’s overseers and staff.

This includes: a Blondie knock-off, Violet, a Goth-lite whose bad akimbo dancing matches the lurching Crispin Glover in Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter; Reckless Reggie, a little African-American kid whose grandpa is Pinehurst’s chef; chunky chocolate aficionado, Joey, and an assortment of townsfolk lifted straight out of the Beverly Hillbillies.

Meanwhile, two of the town’s greasers have been murdered by their ride, two lovebirds laid waste in a thicket, and a masked man is on the loose, even as the mayor proclaims Jason is, “a handful of dust!”

Friday the 13th: A New Beginning is wacky and lovable, with a bunch of illicit drug-taking heretofore unseen in the series. There’s a cat jump scare that could’ve appeared on Mad TV, and death-by-shears ripped off from the proto-campground gore-fest, The Burning.

Good times!

***1/2 (out of 5)