Michael Myers Gets A Hair Stylist - H20 and Resurrection - Can't Stop the Movies
Can't Stop the Movies

Michael Myers Gets A Hair Stylist – H20 and Resurrection

Sassy and sarcastic teenagers walking down hallways.  Just the thrill I'm looking for.

Sassy teenagers walking down hallways.  Just the thrill I'm looking for (from H20)

After the disappointing box office returns of Halloween 6 it seemed that the series was destined for the direct-to-video market.  However, because of one smash-hit from another horror giant that seemed to be out to pasture, the series was brought back for a 20 year reunion.

The smash-hit was Scream, the 1996 postmodern slasher that skewered the genre just as much as it embraced it.  Wes Craven brought slasher films into the '90s with a lot of the same dark humor that propelled the artier Sundance and Miramax crowd at the start of the decade.  So Jamie Lee Curtis, in the hopes of getting John Carpenter to direct again, tried to reboot the franchise that launched her career as well, and forget the escalating absurdity of the last three films.

Even with the flaws of H20, I still got a tingle when Jamie Lee Curtis goes back into the school to fight.

Even with the flaws of H20, I still got a tingle when Jamie Lee Curtis goes back into the school to fight (from H20)

Carpenter, unfortunately, passed on the opportunity to direct and the duties passed to Steve Miner, who worked previously on that other horror franchise Friday the 13th.  Halloween's scares, when effective, were a bit more cerebral and better constructed than anything in the 13th series and H20 follows suit by placing attractive people in an isolated area and letting Michael loose on them.

But this isn't the same Michael from the previous three films who became an action-hero devil messiah.  This Michael apparently broke into a gym shower to make sure that he was nice and clean before starting his rampage across the boarding school that Laurie lives at.  Scream's aesthetics do not suit Myers, and the too-white tint of his mask giving him away in the dark like a flashlight.  Miner relies on a variation of the teleporting killer to try and make the scares effective but the set-up for each kill and their respective payoffs are too easy to spot and then guess how they will be used.

The dialogue and plotting suffer from its attempts at being another Scream.  We have a fake-out  introduction where a star of some note, in this case Joseph Gordon-Levitt, killed in the opening ten minutes.  The jokes keep coming as well, but less in the way of kids fooling around or the overblown statements of the Druid trilogy.  Instead it's sarcasm through and through, with exchanges like, "Anyone ever tell you second-hand smoke kills?"  "Yeah but they're all dead."  Halloween hasn't tried this hard to be hip or funny and isn't pulling the same self-referential angle nearly as well, no matter how many winking casting choices, like an appearance by Psycho's Janet Leigh), or details added.  It's a smoothed-over rendition of both worlds, and just doesn't work.

"Have you tried the Vidal-Sassoon vibrant hair line?"

"Have you tried the Vidal-Sassoon vibrant hair-line?" (from H20)

Even the visuals of the film feel half-cooked.  The first fifteen minutes feature a camera that isn't following the same POV strategy of the earlier films, but is presented more as a ghost story with a camera that is free to float around the buildings with ease.  This would make sense if more were made of the way the memory of Michael haunts Laurie, or if he had become a literal ghost, but he's the same killer he was before.  Stranger still is the enthusiasm Michael shows for killing.  There's one part where he is chasing after Laurie through the courtyard and he twitches his knife in anticipation - less the sign of the cold killer and more an excited kid.  Even the colors are drab with everything grayed out to enhance the white of Myers' mask.  It's never interesting or fun to look at.

There is one saving grace to the film that continues through to the start of the next film.  Laurie is no longer a victim, and shows greater willingness to fight Michael, almost to the point where she has set up her life as one giant trap to finally kill him.  Many times in the film her lover appears as Michael in reflection, only to turn around and see that it's not the psychopath she was hoping for.  There is also several lines of dialogue that show how obsessed she has become with Michael over the years, with her son telling her that she should not handcuff him to the memory of her dead brother.  So when she finally kills him in the end there's a sense of genuine sadness as the chase is over, and there's nothing left for her to do.

In fifteen minutes the intrigue of the franchise is sent off with a kiss.

In fifteen minutes the intrigue of the franchise is sent off with a kiss (from Resurrection)

Unfortunately, that one saving grace is completely mucked up by just about everything that happens in Resurrection.  The idea that Laurie is more obsessed and in love with the idea of being the one to pierce Michael is tested and then laid to rest in the first fifteen minutes.  Laurie, after years of plotting and fighting, kisses Michael on the lips of his mask as he stabs her, watches as she falls to the earth, and some romantic music plays in the background .  When she says, "I'll see you in hell" it's less a threat and more a realization.  She lost the game she loved, and now it's time to die.

You tried, Busta.  You tried.

You tried, Busta. You tried (from Resurrection)

Then the interesting subtext gets completely blown on a stock murder scenario featuring Busta Rhymes, Starbuck of Battlestar Galactica, and the least talented star of American Pie.  As quippy as H20 was, it did not have Busta Bust kick Michael Myers through a fire yelling, "Trick or treat motherf***er".  There's are nuggets of good ideas throughout Resurrection that go sadly under-utilized or are played up more for laughs again - like the live streaming audience that is watching the murders over the internet, or the celebrities who can't understand why this town might not want to relive the history of Myers.  Resurrection may not make the mistake of playing a Creed song over the credits (the most confusing tonal shift in the entire series), but it removed the reason to keep watching the series in a torrent of bored performances and stock kills.

So it died out, or seemed to, until five years later.