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!]

You’re Next

Invasion of the Body Dispatchers…You’re Next is a slick, at times mordantly funny, exercise in horror family dynamics. And it’s a home invasion film too, and what a home…

The Davison clan is having a family reunion in a massive Tudor mansion in the woods. Along for the ride is their significant others, including a smirking chainsmoker, Zee (with Uma Thurman’s haircut from Pulp Fiction), an Aussie teaching assistant, Erin, and a indie filmmaker Tariq to add some drama to a fracturing family. And the Davison matriarch is a WASPy Aubrey (scream queen legend Barbara Crampton) who can barely hold things together along with the religious pater familias, Paul.

The Davison boys pot-shot each other over career choices over the family dining table. Drake (the Tom Brady-styled successful one) lobbing thinly veiled insults masked as curiosity.

And speaking of masks, that’s when things get interesting: A group of 1, 2, possibly 3 men are lurking outside in animal disguises. With a spate of arrows cracking glass, the family is suddenly under siege (“siege” being the operative word as the mens’ weaponry* is positively medieval: crossbows)

In Indiewire writer Simon Barrett claims inspiration from being a “huge fan of the Agatha Christie novel The Ten Little Indians aka And Then There Were None, a piece of fiction that continually comes up in our Really Awful Movies Podcast discussions as a catchall for people trapped and being plucked off one at a time by a scrupulous, detail-oriented killer. And that’s doing You’re Next a bit of a disservice. Lots of time and effort is spent in becoming invested in the characters, always welcome in the horror milieu, and to the filmmakers’ credit, there are a few twists.

Aussie model Sharni Vinson’s Erin (pictured) is a bodacious and resourceful ass-kicker, carrying the show when things sag.

That being said, things seriously derail toward the end, with injuries sustained by the principals that would incapacitate the average Navy Seal, let alone a bunch of to-the-manor (literally) born twats like these people. Less is more is a dictum that’s seldom followed. And gore, like swearing, works best when it’s well-placed.

***1/4 (out of 5)

[*Editors’ note: You’re Next features a death-by-blender not included in our book, Death by Umbrella! The 100 Weirdest Horror Movie Weapons…because we already had a blender write-up for the cheesy 80s horror, Pledge Night.]