Sunday, October 30, 2011

Halloween: Water

I was a sunny 16 in 1998, toiling away behind the concession stand of now closed movie theater when Jamie Lee Curtis returned to the genre that made her famous. Halloween: H20 (we'll get to that title, don't you worry) didn't impress me then, it feeling far too tame and sleek, a false-classy picture trying to distance itself form the Dead Teenager chapter of cinema it had birthed.  Thirteen years and Netflix Instant Watch later, it felt right to revisit the film and see how well it held up.

Also, I was really thirsty and H20--I'll stop now. 

Because I won't later.

Quick Plot: Twenty years after Michael’s ’78 autumn slaughter, Laurie Strode is now living an assumed identity as the headmistress of a snooty prep school in Northern California. Having faked her death  to avoid being associated with parts 4-6 in case her brother came back, Laurie now spends her days slurping down Chardonnay, necking with the school guidance counselor, and coddling her 17 year old son John (played by the “introduced” Josh Hartnett). John does as a good-looking young man in a Kevin Wiliamson-inspired film does and mopes about his independence, looks sharp in a ruffled school uniform, and dotes upon Michelle Williams. 

If only Halloween night’s biggest challenge was sneaking away for a cafeteria sponsored party! Sadly Michael emerges from...well...

a discount mask shop I guess to stab Dr. Loomis’ former nurse in the search for Laurie’s new digs. That turns out to be easy enough that a two-day drive in the vintage car belonging to a murdered woman gets him to his little sister just in time for the entire school to take a vacation without her, her boyfriend, son, son’s girlfriend, sassy security guard, and a few pieces of easy knife fodder.

So. H20. Halloween 7. Halloween: 20 Years Later. Halloween: Liquid

The title is killing me.
A lot of things about Halloween: Water are killing me. Not EVERYTHING. Without question, we can agree that Halloween: Hydrogen + Oxygen surpasses the miasma of its predecessor and Bustariffic followup. But for the film to so haughtily dismiss Parts 4 and 5 as if they’re pure tripe, not classy enough for the return of horror royalty...well, amongst other issues (H Two Oh?), it irks me.
Jamie Lee Curtis is wonderful as Laurie Strode. Was in the ‘70s. Was in the early ‘80s. And yes, still was in the ‘90s. We never doubt for a moment that this is our favorite final girl all grown up, a damaged but secretly strong woman who’s been waiting in fear for the majority of her life. It feels RIGHT watching her stand up to the Boogyman.

Sorry Tyra. There’s an art to this sort of thing.
Unfortunately, a great scream queen doesn’t necessarily make a film. Halloween: The Water Movie is riddled with issues, most of which are indicative of its time and place as a late ‘90s studio horror film. I stopped counting fake-out jump scares when I reached ten within the film’s first thirty minutes. That was exhausting, but then something great happened: I was able to almost NOT watch anything that happened onscreen because these dramatic SOUND CUES would PUNCH ME IN THE EARS whenever something EXCITING was about to HAPPEN..

Or if there was just another jump scare jumping my way.
So that’s part of Halloween: The Liquid You Need To Stay Alive’s problem. Two parts, actually. And there’s a third:
It’s too frickin’ nice.
Now I don’t need the nihilism of a Rob Zombie universe just become the word “Haddonfield” is mentioned. I just need to be scared, to believe the black-eyed boogyman is going to stab his way through whatever blocks his ultimate target. I can’t do that when 1) Michael’s atrocious mask displays some charming baby blues and 2) I don’t buy for one moment that he’ll kill anyone of mild sympathy.

Take, for example, an early scene where a passing driver and her young daughter pull over to a questionable rest stop bathroom. Director Steve Day of the Dead 2008 Miner stages a tense setup as these two female innocents hide behind dingy doors while the black-clad Michael sneaks in. We catch a glimpse of him through the bathroom crack, a terrifying image that wouldn’t give these ladies a chance. Except, of course, he does. All he wants is a ride, which is easy enough to get by grabbing a pocketbook and 


Ooops, just a spider. 

Nevermind, he’s gone. Carry on.
Look, I don’t WANT to see a cute little girl filleted on the roadside. And I kind of understand the idea that building this early tension is supposed to put us on edge for the later carnage. And that the original Halloween was far from the gratuitous bloodbath folks misremember it as. But when every three minutes, a scene ends with a false danger, it’s hard to EVER care.
It doesn’t help that in true studio form, the body count ends up being too small to form an adequate trivia night team in heaven. The main victims have the word “Main Victim” all but tattooed on their pretty faces, while the ones that SHOULD die because their characters ARE PUT IN EXTREME DANGER BY ONE OF THE MOST DANGEROUS CREATURES IN CINEMA manage to run, stab, get shot, get stabbed, and pretty much tango with Michael before ending the film with their attractive mugs barely bloodied.

One of my problems with the Scream series (SPOILER ALERT) is its obvious reluctance to ever kill the characters fans adore. Dewey clearly survived Part 1 because test audiences were angry, probably scooted through Part 2 for the same reason, and will continue to limp through Scream 86 (or rather, Sc86m, which won’t make sense but neither does ACHE TOO OH so who’s complaining?) until David Arquette actually dies and his clone leaves the acting world to pursue a career in puppeteering. 

Wait, what were we talking about again?
High Points
I can’t hate a movie that opens on a close-up of a shiny steak knife as it slams downward into a fertile pumpkin

There’s a nice subtle touch in crafting Michelle Williams’ Molly as a Laurie-esque character. We don’t get much of her, but just the one scene of having her be the only student to answer an English literature question has a sweet sense of good girl nostalgia
Low Point
While it’s a good gesture to dedicate the film to Donald Pleasence, was studio warfare so intense that they couldn’t use his past dialogue for the early narrated “Dr. Loomis” moments?

Don’t name your film after water. Just. Don’t.

Lessons Learned
People like to read descriptive adjectives (as opposed to the non-descriptive adje--um)
When a bullet grazes you, it also knocks you out and makes you bleed profusely to the point that in no way could you possibly be mistaken for alive
Swinging a knife is about as noisy an action as turning on factory equipment or mowing one's lawn

Credits Curiosity
Initially, I was charmed to see a teenage Joseph Gordon-Levitt mucking around in a hockey mask and stealing his neighbor’s beer to earn a rollerblade throat slash. It was a cute pre-credits cameo that’s even more charming 13 years later when Levitt became a genuine star (rather than a grown-up Angels In the Outfield seer). But see...he dies before the credits. So why does his name even come up?

And just who edited all those jump scares? A soon-to-be 3D titan known as Patrick Lussier
Trick It/Treat It/Drink It/Bathe In It
Halloween: The Awfully Titled Sequel is silcker than most anything else in the series, with better than usual performances and some genuinely well-staged scenes of suspense. At the same time, it's flawed in a way only good money could buy and personally, rather indicative of what went wrong with theatrical horror in the 1990s. It's certainly worth a viewing for Halloween fans, as seeing Jamie Lee Curtis battle her big brother is as rewarding as it should be. But as a depends on your tolerance for 98,778,425 and counting jump scares and an equal amount of obnoxiously aggressive sound cues.


  1. LOVE this! Haha!

    (the review, not the movie...)

  2. If memory serves right, this is the one where the synth and piano Halloween score is replaced with a full blown orchestral version. That's sign number one something's amiss. I don't need my slasher films all classed up with high falutin' classical music.

  3. Exactly! It's like the movie got a really big (relatively for a Halloween film) budget and ran out of things to spend money on, so it called the nearest city symphony and rented them out for a night. One of many problems...

  4. The only thing I remember about this film was someone sitting behind me saying to her friend, "Was she in the first one?" when Janet Leigh came on screen.

  5. You should've turned around to say "Yes. But the film was actually called Bye Bye Birdie. You should leave now and rent it because otherwise, NOTHING in this watery movie will make ANY sense."

  6. You, I liked H20 when it came out, but I haven't watched it in may years. And today, actually, it was on TV so I watched it for a bit and realized that I might not really enjoy it so much nowadays. Laurie's combat moves under the table are moronic, and how the hell did Myers reach the ceiling so he could lower himself down? Weak.

  7. Awesome review. I can't argue this, even though I do kind of like the '90s slasher vibe of it (I was a homer for that era, I guess). That bathroom scene is actually one of my favorite moments in the sequels, even though, like you said, it amounts to nothing.

    My biggest complaint has always been the douche who played Michael, who basically boasted about not having watched the other films and doing his own thing when asked about being Michael. Mixed with the sound effects, he just seems wrong. I know I'm supposed to notice that Laurie got trendy, but it's like we got a trendy Michael too. Which makes me rage.

  8. If you think this movie's title is absurd, there's a drink that's advertised on TV every once in a while - H20 flavoured water...I have no idea what it is, I just know that it's not a joke!

    And as for Halloween: C (Horror at Party Beach reference, yay), one of its biggest flaws in my opinion is killing off Marion from Halloween I and II!
    This film would have been a much better movie if it was about Laurie Strode and Marion Whatsernamenurse duking it out against Michael Myers and the now evil from Part 6 Dr. Loomis! And with added Danielle Harris! For one, a premise like that could actually benefit from a higher budget so it's not used on doing an orchestral Halloween theme.

  9. Yeah Matt, I can see why a lot of horror fans would have liked H20 when it came out, but in my opinion, it's aged miserably. I feel like I"ve been watching a lot of 90s movies lately so on the other hand, maybe my spidey senses are just in full force right now to spot some of the things I didn't like about that decade of horror.

    Mike: The Michael (not The Mike) is awful. Part of it is the terribly designed mask, but he just brings nothing to the role and doesn't feel nearly as intimidating as I want from my boogyman.

    Chris: When I lived in Korea, there was a vitamin water called Human Water that tasted like regular water. THAT was disturbing!

    I can understand why the film wanted to ignore parts 4 and 5. There was a huge distance between them so it can be alienating for a younger audience (of whom H20 was clearly gunning for) and it's not like ANYONE saw or should have seen part 6. I'll admit to having a chip on my shoulder for that though, since it feels like H20 thinks it's TO GOOD to be associated with the Curtis-less sequels. And you know what? It's not.

  10. Superior review, Emily.

    Because it's Halloween and Jamie Lee Curtis, I take the good with the bad. Meaning, it was her arc that keeps me from (has kept me from) seeing the flaws within this film.

    But I completely agree with many things said. Especially the (old crush) Joseph Gordon-Levitt's credits. Probably an angent deal or something.

    You would've been minimally amused if you were in the room with me when I read about the disconnect between 4, 5, and 6 and well, the others except 3 (0y...) To say, oh they're just two different stories but we used the mythos of the previous characters is a slap in the face? Lazy? Capitalism at its worse?

    All in all, I'm glad Halloween: Water was made.

  11. H20 - needs moar colonel cochran & Silver shamrock..

    Not the worst Halloween sequel.. but we all know what the best sequel is.

  12. I am a fan of this one, like it as a "trilogy" with parts 1 & 2. That said, I would have liked it if they had someone tied all the films in, had Laurie not realize somehow that Jamie had survived the car accident and was still in Haddonfield being terrorized, maybe kept in the dark by Dr. Loomis. But, oh well. I just like it. The mask Michael wears (and even CGI at one point) not so much. But I am on board for seeing Laurie 20 years later. And I wish, since the series did come to an end, that this had been the end, and not the next film.

  13. Ashlee: It's probably the same agent deal that got the dude from Save the Last Dance to get a "Special Appearance" credit in Resurrection, even though a) he's just a supporting actor and b) he ain't that special.

    I remember being REALLY confused as to why Laurie made no mention of the fact that she had a daughter. Now if memory serves, didn't Jamie's mother die in a car accident? So one could ALMOST consider it a full arc, just pretending that Laurie didn't know she was pregnant and um, a cult came and stole her baby to give to another family? or something? Growing up, I just thought she was a really shitty mother!

    TD: EVERY movie needs more Silver Shamrock. Just imagine how much better Forest Gump would have been...

  14. CJ: We are of the same mind regarding the accident! And Resurrection...ugh. Especially the way it opens and negates the end of this film by having Michael be (SPOILER ALERT) the security guard? Or something? IT MAKES NO SENSE!

    But then, putting Tyra Banks in a Halloween movie doesn't really either...

  15. Emily, if you want to read my thoughts on the ONLY way to make Resurrection palatable, go here: Halloween Resurrection: My Cut. :)

  16. Excellent review.

    I have a soft spot for this one...having the nurse from Parts 1 & 2 show up was pretty cool (but I sort of wanted her to survive, she came this far to be done in? - it would have been so cool to see her turn up at the 11th hour and help Laurie/Keri battle Michael).

    Curtis just rocked in this one. I know a little bit about post traumatic syndrome, and Laurie/Keri's character was drawn perfectly .

    Finally, when Laurie/Keri has her son and his girlfriend hide, and yells out "Do as I say!" was excellent - it was as if she reverted back to the teenaged babysitter all over again ordering Tommy and Lindsay back into hiding.

    Oh and Janet Leigh driving the "Psycho car" was a treat.

  17. Love it Joe!

    Pax: I do feel like H20 was made with a lot of affection for the original films (the nurse's return being the most obvious evidence) and I loved how she kicked ass! Not so much when she got her throat slit. And Janet Leigh's casting--and car choice--was pretty adorable in the whole scream queen canon. Curtis is EASILY the best thing here, and hey, I'd pay to see a 2011 remake with a better script and more timeless director. In a perfect world...