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Halloween: H20 (1998)
Rated R

Starring: Jamie Lee Curtis, Adam Arkin, and L.L. Cool J

Rating:
**
out of
*****

I remember when I was in fifth grade, I snuck downstairs late at night to sneak a peek at the original Halloween when it was on HBO. I was mesmerized and scared to death at the same time. "The Shape," aka Michael Myers, was a chilling and oddly fascinating character. The sight of his shadow on the side of a building sent shivers up my spine.

I remember a scene that showed his silhouette against a house for a few seconds and the camera cut away as someone caught a glimpse of him. When the camera returned, he was gone. Little things like that scared me more than what little blood there was. Halloween sparked a number of imitators that added buckets of blood, but none of them had those little scary touches like the scene of "The Shape" against the wall.

So when Halloween: H20 was announced, I was at once a little skeptical but excited. Jamie Lee Curtis would reprise her role as Laurie Strode, the survivor of the first and second Halloween movies. H20 would be ignoring those sequels from 1982 to 1996, that had basically turned the storyline into another slasher epic, with the addition of psychic powers, strange secondary characters and a complete loss of focus on the true nature of what had made the original so powerful. With a lot to live up to, Halloween: H20 had the potential to disappoint as easily as it could return the series to greatness.

Unfortunately, the movie does not live up to the original. It barely matches up to 1981's unnecessary Halloween II. It tries very hard to be better than those other, now ignored, sequels, but it doesn't quite make it.

It's now 1998 and Laurie Strode has moved to Northern California to take a job as the head of a private school. She has a 17-year old son named John (Josh Harnett), who attends the school. Laurie and John have been battling the demons inside Laurie's head in different ways. Laurie copes through alcohol and John tries to keep her straight. It's beginning to take a huge toll on both of them, and something's got to give. A visit from Michael Myers, however, is not quite what they need -- but it's what they get.

I'll leave what little plot is left to the movie. If you decide to see it, you won't need to take notes to keep anything straight. It's as simple as slasher movie plots get, with plenty of false scares and predictable dialogue. The movie tries hard to be unique, even including appearances from L.L. Cool J, Adam Arkin and Janet Leigh (Jamie Lee Curtis' real life mom and Psycho star.)

However, director Steve Miner, who directed Friday the 13th Part II and Friday the 13th Part III, attempts to pay homage to the original by aping some of its best scenes. Only one, involving a closet, pays off. The rest are so blatantly lifted from the 1978 original, it gives the movie a by-the-numbers appearance, as if Miner expected to regain the greatest of the original by taking the best scenes from it. That's like attempting to retain a painting's originality by simply taking a picture of it. It may look good from far away, but up close it's going to be missing more than a few key elements.

If nothing else, Halloween: H20 serves as an adequate final chapter in the splintered timeline of the Halloween series. That's about it.

Trivia: Director Steve Miner has also directed episodes of TV's Dawson's Creek and Diagnosis: Murder. (Source: The Internet Movie Database)

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