Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Shocktober Revisited: Halloween H20 and Halloween Resurrection

 Originally, I had planned a Retro Review for Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers, but  after doing some cursory research on the film I realized that I don't remember Halloween 6 at all. I saw it once, in the fall of 1995, and was surprised to discover Paul Rudd played Tommy Doyle in the film. Until I watch The Curse of Michael Myers again (or can locate the "Producer's Cut" mentioned online), there's really no point in revisiting a film I can't recall.

 Which brings me to Halloween: H20 and Halloween Resurrection, two movies I've barely seen again since the first time I watched them. They did, however, leave a greater impression on my mind than Donald Pleasance's final film appearance, and since I enjoy one of them more than anyone else seems to and really hate the other one, it's fitting to comment on the close of the pre-remake sequels to John Carpenter's Halloween. This one-two punch will leave the Cap'n with only Halloween 3, 5, and 6 to cover in the Blogorium*.

For those of you looking for a series recap, here's one in 60 words or less: Michael Myers kills his family, goes to a sanitarium under the care of Doctor Loomis, escapes, tries to kill Laurie Strode, fails, tries again, is replaced by an evil toy mask manufacturer, returns, tries to kill Laurie's niece Jamie, fails, tries again, fails, tries again, succeeds, but is then foiled by Loomis and a grown up Tommy Doyle**.

 Then there was a three year break, leading us to 1998, twenty years after the first Halloween. We move from Haddonfield, Illinois to somewhere in Northern California, where Keri Tate (Jamie Lee Curtis) is the dean of a private school with her son John (Josh Hartnett) and boyfriend Will (Adam Arkin). The funniest thing is that Keri Tate is a dead-ringer for Laurie Strode, and we discover that (SPOILER ALERT) she IS Laurie Strode. Laurie faked her death to keep Michael from chasing her (which is good, because Michael instead decided to wipe out the rest of her blood relations), and she'd been pretty successful avoiding (SPOILER ALERT AGAIN) her brother for the last twenty years. That is, until Doctor Loomis (the late Donald Pleasance, heard in narration) dies and Michael just happens to find his house and discover exactly where Laurie is. He also kills some kid (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) with an ice skate.

 Anyway, school's out for fall break(?) and Laurie's colleague Norma Watson (Janet Leigh, who is Jamie Lee Curtis' mother, which is technically a SPOILER for family tree detectives. I won't spoil that her father is Tony Curtis. Oh, crap) drives off in a car that looks a lot like Marion Crane (Janet Leigh)'s car from Psycho***. Michael begins stalking the campus, killing off students dumb enough to watch Scream 2 (gee, I wonder why? We'll get to that in a second...), and John and Molly (Michelle Williams) find the bodies and become "next" on the kill list. Unless Laurie, Will, and security guard Ronny (L.L. Cool J) can stop Michael.

 Why am I being so glib about H20? Well, the more I think about the film - based on a treatment by Scream co-creator Kevin Williamson - the stupider it seems. It's funny, because I guess I overlooked how stupid and obvious these references were when I was 19 (something the people who saw it with me did not), and the Cap'n instead focused on the Laurie Strode / Michael Myers story line. To be fair, that is the only thing H20 has going for it: the film decides to pretend that Halloween 4, 5, and 6 never happened****, which you can debate the relative merits of, I guess, in order to focus on the lethal sibling rivalry. The ending, where (SPOILER ALERT) Laurie decapitates an ambulance driver Michael's head is still a satisfying close to their story, one that the following film manages to ruin in the first five minutes.

 It's worth noting that even at the time we were impressed that L.L. Cool J took five or six rounds to the chest from a revolver and walked away at the end of the film. I don't remember if they said he was wearing a vest, but why would a prep school security officer need to?

Anyway, back to the way that Resurrection mangles everything, even making people who didn't like H20 say "well, at least that one didn't kill Laurie Strode." Oh, (SPOILER ALERT). Yeah, in addition to retrofitting H20 so that Michael somehow does a switcheroo with an ambulance driver before Laurie can lop his head off with an axe, they leap forward in time to an asylum where Laurie's been locked up, waiting for Michael to wander in unabated. Sure enough, they tangle, she tries to kill him (hanging? maybe?) but he stabs her or something and she falls from the roof of the asylum in what is the least effective death of a Final Girl since Jason Vorhees followed Alice Hardy back to town for some apartment complex murderin'.

But wait! That's the BEGINNING of Halloween: Resurrection, a movie that gets EVEN WORSE before Busta Rhymes drops some Kung Fu on Michael Myers. That does happen, by the way, and you don't need a SPOILER ALERT because we both know you don't have to watch this film.

So what, pray tell, could the plot of the 8th Halloween film be if the villain kills the Final Girl in the opening of the film? How about a webcam reality show about some stupid contestants wandering around the Myers house? Sound good? Freddie Harris (Busta Rhymes) and Nora Winston (Tyra Banks) sure thought so, and their web company, DangerTainment, is sponsoring this MTV's Fear knock-off. A group of college students (including Katee Sackhoff, Sean Patrick Thomas, and Thomas Ian Nichols) who "won" the chance to be on this show, wander around the house looking for clues about Michael Myers. Want to guess who has nowhere else to go after he killed his sister? Want to guess who isn't happy to find people in his childhood home? Want to place bets on whether a charred Michael Myers opens his eye for the final stinger in this turdstorm of a sequel?

The 19 year-old Cap'n may have been kind to H20, but the 23 year-old knew he hated Resurrection well before the halfway point. I remember not liking Halloween 6, but that's not as clear to me as the hatred for the last gasp of the Halloween franchise after Miramax squeezed everything left out in 2002. In retrospect, had I watched Resurrection again before Rob Zombie's Halloween, I might have been kinder, even with all of the idiotic "I'm gonna skullfuck you" dialogue. It's like the Weinstein brothers perceived a certain formula from H20 (a handful of "hot" young actors from better movies*****, a popular rapper, some referential dialogue, and whatever the newest fad was) and recycled it into a crappier version, a xerox of Kevin Williamson's already growing stale pop culture screenplays.

 Halloween: Resurrection is what people are complaining about when they talk about how awful sequels are, and devoid of the one consistent narrative thread between the first seven films (okay, six, since Halloween III isn't about Michael or his family tree), there's nothing worth investing your time in. I honestly can't say I've seen a moment of the film since we saw it on the big screen, and I know I've watched parts of H20 on cable. If one was on, the other one must have been at some point. After part 8, there was a five year layover, and then Zombie took over. At the time I write this, Patrick Lussier and Todd Farmer (My Bloody Valentine 3-D, Drive Angry) have pitched a Halloween 3D to the Weinsteins that they may eventually get to after rebooting Hellraiser (you read that right), but for now, at least I can say that Rob Zombie's Halloween 2, for as many detractors as it has, is a MUCH better movie than Halloween Resurrection, and it's probably better than H20. Now who would've thought I'd ever say that?

*For write-ups of Halloween (kind of), Halloween II, Halloween IV: The Return of Michael Myers, Halloween the Remake and Halloween 2 the Remake, follow the respective links.
** This much I gathered from IMDB's coverage of Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers.
*** SPOILER: It IS Marion Crane's car from Psycho.
**** In the interest of fairness, Williamson's original draft did include 4,5, and 6 as continuity, and writers Robert Zappia and Matt Greenberg wisely dropped the subplot.
**** And by that I mean American Pie and Save the Last Dance, and eventually Sackhoff would be in Battlestar Galactica but I'm not giving Bob and Harvey any credit for that one...

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