'Halloween' filmmakers go to the well once too often Review: Jamie Lee Curtis reprises her role of 20 years ago and faces that all-too-familiar bogey man once more.

August 05, 1998|By Chris Kaltenbach | Chris Kaltenbach,SUN STAFF

Let us hope this is where the franchise dies.

The franchise is "Halloween," the series of horror films (or, as the sub-genre the original "Halloween" helped usher in came to be called, slasher flicks) begun 20 years ago by director John Carpenter. For his third feature, the director took $300,000 and a script about an escaped lunatic preying on the teen-agers of tiny Haddonfield, Ill., and turned out a classic of both horror and suspense -- not to mention one of the most successful independent films ever made.

The filmmakers should have stopped while they were ahead.

Twenty years and six sequels later, we're left with "Halloween: H20," a standard-issue slasher flick with but one redeeming attribute: It brings back Jamie Lee Curtis as Laurie Strode, the teen-age baby-sitter whom bogey man Michael Myers set out to get on Halloween night 1978.

Did we mention that Laurie was Michael Myers' sister? Yep, it was a pretty horrific evening all around.

Laurie's all grown up now, serving as headmistress of an exclusive private school while living under an assumed name and one serious black cloud. Two decades and a failed marriage have done little to erase the memory of that long-ago Halloween. She also has a teen-age son, John (Josh Hartnett), who has to live with his mother's paranoia -- especially every Oct. 31.

For while Myers allegedly died in a fire ("H20" pretty much pretends that sequels 3-6 never happened, not a bad move), she doesn't believe it.

Good thing, because he didn't.

Curtis, who made her film debut in "Halloween," has told interviewers she wanted to do a sequel that re-visited and re-evaluated her character 20 years later. Indeed, the movie's take on Laurie Strode as an emotional wreck of a woman, who spends the better part of her life trying to blink away the images of Michael Myers that her mind keeps conjuring up, suggests the film may be onto something. The film's high-water mark comes when Laurie and Michael look into each other's eyes; it's a chilling moment.

As a plus for "Halloween" fans, "H20" is sprinkled with references to the original film, everything from actors (Nancy Stevens reprising her role as a nurse) to actual lines of dialogue. And, of course, there's Carpenter's ubiquitous, haunting music.

Curtis clearly enjoys reliving the role that brought her fame, and Hartnett is completely believable as the rebellious teen being smothered by his overprotective mother. Other cast members and potential victims include familiar TV faces Adam Arkin ("Chicago Hope"), Michelle Williams ("Dawson's Creek") and Joseph Gordon-Levitt ("3rd Rock From the Sun"). LL Cool J shows up as a security guard with literary aspirations; even Curtis' mom, Janet Leigh, has a bit part as a secretary.

But once Laurie realizes Michael is back, it's off to the races -- "H20" becomes a chase movie: Michael chasing teen-agers, Michael chasing John, Michael chasing Laurie, Laurie chasing Michael. Nothing terribly frightening there.

Unfortunately, director Steve Miner and screenwriters Robert Zappia and Matt Greenberg may have seen "Halloween," but they didn't learn much from it. Had they paid attention, they'd realize the bogey man's not nearly as frightening when you can see his face. And if there's one bogey man who's suffering from overexposure, it's Michael Myers.

'Halloween: H20'

Starring Jamie Lee Curtis, Adam Arkin and Josh Hartnett

Directed by Steve Miner

Released by Dimension Films

Rated R (violence and vulgarity)

Running time 82 minutes

Sun score **

Pub Date: 8/05/98

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