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'Halloween' Fails the Scream Test

By Michael O'Sullivan
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, August 7, 1998

  Movie Critic

Polish Wedding Jamie Lee Curtis is back for a rematch with Michael Myers in "Halloween: H20." (Dimension)

Steve Miner
Jamie Lee Curtis;
Josh Hartnett;
Adam Arkin;
Michelle Williams;
Adam Hann-Byrd;
Jodi Lyn O'Keefe;
LL Cool J;
Chris Durand
Running Time:
1 hour, 22 minutes
Under 17 restricted

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Don't go in that room!

As the dismal "Halloween: H20" lurches into theaters everywhere, that's one exhortation that moviegoers are more likely to hear from the guy in the ticket booth than from the girl in the next seat.

The 20th-anniversary sequel to the groundbreaking horror film-and the sixth in an increasingly awful series about the bulletproof murderer Michael Myers-is a styleless and predictable affair. This go-round, Myers (Chris Durand) returns to stalk his victim from the original two films, his little sister Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis), now living under an assumed name as the headmistress of the private Hillcrest High School in northern California.

"Halloween" completists will recall that Strode was supposed to have died in a car accident years ago. As "H20" explains it, that death was staged and she has been living peacefully with her son John (Josh Hartnett) under the witness relocation program.

Well, not exactly peacefully. Strode, who now calls herself Keri Tate, is an alcoholic and pill-popper who suffers from shrieking nightmares and hallucinations wherein she imagines the white-masked face of her brother in every shadow, mirror and shop window.

As it turns out, her fears are well-founded. After breaking into the Illinois home of his former psychiatric nurse (Nancy Stephens, in a cameo reprise of her old role), Myers quietly kills a few people, steals Strode/Tate's file and makes a beeline for the West Coast. If he seems in a hurry, that's because it's Oct. 29 and he only has two days left until Halloween, which is the holiday when he prefers to conduct most of his mayhem. (These little Martha Stewart touches are so important to the sensitive psycho.)

When Myers arrives at Hillcrest for the unplanned family reunion, things are just the way a homicidal maniac likes them. Apparently in an effort to conserve energy, the school and its on-campus residences are only lit with dim 15-watt light bulbs and malfunctioning on-off switches. The grounds themselves are a maze of wrought-iron gates, dark, narrow passageways and creaky dumbwaiters.

Even better, there is a resident population of hormonal teenagers just ripe for slaughter. In defiance of his mother, 17-year-old John has stayed behind from the class trip to consort with his girlfriend Molly (Michelle Willams) and two other sex-addled pals (Adam Hann-Byrd and Jodi Lyn O'Keefe) in the catacomb-like basement of the school's mess hall. Don't they know that lunatic killers are drawn to the smell of lust like a dog is to fried chicken?

Director Steve Miner and writers Robert Zappia and Matt Greenberg, it would seem, have never seen "Scream," which poked fun at the conventions of thrillers even as it embraced them. What follows in "H20" is a by-the-book fright-fest that unironically trots out every hackneyed horror movie stereotype of the past two decades.

In deference to the film's distributors, who have requested that reviewers keep "many, if not all, of its exciting [sic] plot developments a secret," I must refrain from enumerating all the offending and gimmicky devices.

Let me say just this. Midway through the exasperating film, it became clear that Mr. Myers was not the only person named "Michael" who had been turned into a rampaging, foul-tempered madman.


© Copyright 1999 The Washington Post Company

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