Dimension Films // 1998 // 86 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Sean Fitzgibbons (Retired) // December 7th, 1999
The face of good and the face of evil will meet one last time.
Buena Vista's now infamous "Collector's Series" disc of Halloween: H20 has finally entered the hands of reviewers and the public. Worth the wait? Of course not.
For starters, Buena Vista has had Halloween: H20 on its slate to release for a year now. Screening copies of Halloween: H20 were delayed due to Buena Vista's huge foul-up of packaging with this release. The initial copies of this disc were labeled with a director's commentary and DTS soundtrack -- neither of which appeared on the disc. However, a month later, Buena Vista has finally rectified the situation. But enough about Buena Vista and the disc, because there is plenty to talk about with the film itself.
Ahhh, Halloween: H20, where to start? When I heard that Jamie Lee Curtis was going to participate in a Halloween sequel I immediately began to follow the production of the film. For a while they attempted to woo John Carpenter to direct, but it never happened. Nevertheless, with a storyline by Kevin Williamson (of Scream fame) I decided the film would have some value. The film was produced in an amazingly short amount of time (began shooting early '98, released summer '98) and high pre-release screening ratings had pushed the film from a timely October release to a chaotic summer release.
From the eerie opening, re-introducing Marion Crane to the film series, Halloween: H20 aspires to be a real treat. The gaping plot holes and blatant departure from the series can be forgiven due to the finer points of the film -- primarily the performances, humor, and homages made, both to the original film as well as other horror classics. 20 years after his first run in with his sister Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis), the psychotic serial killer Michael Myers breaks into the home of nurse Marion Crane where he locates files about his sister. Laurie faked her death shortly after her brother went on a killing spree in her home town of Haddonfield, Illinois, and she went into hiding. When Myers finally catches up with Laurie she has changed her name to Keri Tate and runs a private school in northern California where she lives with her teenage son, John (Josh Hartnett in his premiere role, soon followed by The Faculty). The planets align themselves and on Halloween night, when the school is emptied for a vacation trip, Myers returns to kill his sister. However, little does Myers know that Laurie, struggling with her fear of her brother, is finally willing to stand up against him and face her fears, once and for all.
Halloween: H20 has, by far, the largest production value of any Halloween film and it shows. While the concept is nothing new, the right talents were assembled to make Halloween: H20 a decent film and addition to the horror series, despite its drawbacks.
Buena Vista delivers their typical presentation for Halloween: H20 on DVD. The video is presented in 2.35:1 non-anamorphic widescreen and is, for the most part, a decent transfer. Although the transfer starts out with grainy black levels and flesh tones it soon smoothes out in time for Michael Myers' night of terror on Halloween. The 5.1 audio track on the other hand is quite well done. While mainly focused on the forward soundstage, Halloween: H20 takes subtle queues in the rear channels and presents some very atmospheric moments. Most notable is Laurie's final showdown with Myers at the end of the film, in which the soundtrack does a nice job of immersing the viewer.
As a "Collector's Series" disc you'd expect Halloween: H20 to be loaded with extra content, right? Well don't expect a director's commentary or DTS soundtrack (regardless of what early copies of this disc say on their packaging), but you can expect a 10 minute featurette on Halloween and the making of Halloween: H20 with some good interviews with John Carpenter, Wes Craven, Kevin Williamson, and Jamie Lee Curtis. You also receive a lame trivia game (using the same two clips of video constantly) and a music video, Creed's "What's This Life For." Yes, the "Collector's Series" from Dimension home video -- "a deluxe edition that takes you inside the movie!"
I'll skip the disc bashing for just a second so I can vent on my major quips with the film itself. I love the film, and it's extremely well produced, but the film so blatantly disregards the Halloween series that I could go on for days picking apart the annoying aspects...but I'll try to stick to my main points.
First of all, Halloween: H20 has no real place in the Halloween series. Originally it was going to take into account the previous six films, with a brief summary of the "Haddonfield Killings" made by a student at Laurie Strode's private school. This was Williamson's idea, but it was eventually vetoed -- most likely by Jamie Lee Curtis. Jamie Lee so despised the other Halloween films, even Halloween 2, that she wanted to completely disregard them for this film and pretend that the original, and H20, were the only ones that ever existed. But that, in itself, presents its own problems. First of all, going by the first film alone, Laurie Strode and Michael Myers are completely unrelated. Even in the documentary included on this disc, Carpenter talks about how he had no idea for the second Halloween film until he decided, late one night, to make Laurie and Myers brother and sister. So Halloween: H20 centers around the fact that Myers is Laurie's brother, but since they disregard Halloween 2, how is this possible? Even in the movie Laurie's son, John, references Halloween 2 by saying, "you saw him burn." That incident was at the conclusion of Halloween 2, not the original film. Come to think of it, Dr. Loomis also died in that fire at the end of Halloween 2 but in H20 he went on to die in his old age. Halloween 4 explains how Loomis survived the fire, but we aren't regarding any of the sequels, remember? So, as I said, it's just one huge bungled mess. Before watching be sure to throw continuity out the window -- immediately!
Another major aspect is missing from the film -- Haddonfield. The town of Haddonfield adds as much to any Halloween film as Jamie Lee Curtis or Michael Myers do. Halloween 4 was somewhat successful due in a large part to the homecoming of Michael Myers to Haddonfield, which allowed viewers to re-experience the locations from the first two films. H20 marks the first Halloween film, with Myers, that does not take place in Haddonfield, and its presence is sorely missed throughout the film.
A final insult to the audience is made during the opening credits. Donald Pleasance's voice is impersonated by some horrid actor while newspaper clippings relive the incidents of the original film. What really pisses me off about this is, although Pleasance had died when they created the film, all of the lines used in the credits sequence are said during the other Halloween films. Instead of separating his dialogue out and inserting it into the credits they get a two-bit actor to impersonate Pleasance, and it's just plain insulting.
I could go on forever about how they changed Myers' mask in mid-production (it's clearly evident in the film), and how Myers, after 20 years, just appears out of nowhere, but I digress. It really is not that bad of a film, but it contradicts all the Halloween films that I love, so it is impossible for me to ignore these aspects.
Back to the disc...well there's not much I can say that others haven't already said. This is in no way, shape, or form, a disc worthy of some "collector's" title and a high price tag. Naturally, it doesn't surprise anyone when Buena Vista pulls off this kind of a release. Without even a commentary track, Image DVD removed the special edition from Halloween: H20 on their site. The extra content you get on this disc is pretty much standard from every other DVD studio nowadays, save Fox, so it boils down to a pure waste of money and effort (or lack there of) from Buena Vista.
This disc screams rental, but I'm sure Halloween fanatics will purchase this disc regardless, and I cannot blame them. Don't be fooled by its labeling, Halloween: H20 is no Collector's disc -- despite what Buena Vista would like you to think. Go spend your money on Anchor Bay's Collector's Edition release of the original Halloween.
Film acquitted, despite gaping continuity holes, but Buena Vista sentenced to an additional 20 years in prison for their consumer scam involving their "Collector's Series" discs.
Review content copyright © 1999 Sean Fitzgibbons; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Dimension Films
* 2.35:1 Non-Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
Running Time: 86 Minutes
Release Year: 1998
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* "Unmasking the Horror" Documentary
* Music Video -- "What's This Life For" by Creed
* Trivia Game
* Official Site (All Halloween Movies)