Hot off the heels of unbelievable success with Scream, screenwriter Kevin Williamson was recruited by none other than Jamie Lee Curtis and commissioned by Dimension Films to come up with a way to revive the Halloween franchise (which had been practically destroyed by the studio's previous installment in the series) for its th anniversary. The now-legendary -page 'scriptment' Williamson wrote presents a Laurie Strode still leaving in terror, petrified by the notion that sooner or later her brother Michael is going to catch up to her once more. It's the story of how Laurie, a once-confident teenage girl cast into a life of fear by one night of unrelenting horror, slowly regains her self-assurance and learns to deal with the hand Fate has inevitably dealt her.
Though the initial story came from confessed Halloween-worshiper Williamson, Halloween: H was actually scripted by Robert Zappia and Matt Greenberg and directed by slasher veteran Steve Miner (Friday the th Part and Part ). While Williamson's original outline (which you can read right here at Chiller in the Script Vault) set up at least a somewhat interesting vision, the way these three interpret that vision leaves quite a lot to be desired. While H is certainly not the WORST film in the franchise's history, it is certainly a far cry from the classic that inspired the huge boom of slasher films in the early s (and, eventually, inspired the original Scream). While I can always enjoy another Halloween film just for the fact that it's a slasher movie that gets theatrical distribution, Halloween and The Curse of Michael Myers had little more to offer than cheap scares and lots of gore, but in a weird way I think I would have preferred those exploitative elements to the half-hearted and watered-down slasher fare that H ultimately presents.
From the opening moments of the film, in which we witness the return of not only The Shape but also the original nurse from the first film, one might actually think that H has its head on straight. The first five minutes of the film are quite wonderful, staying very true to the story's roots and capturing perfectly the sense of Halloween ambiance of the first two films (with a beautiful use of the 'Mr. Sandman' song from Halloween II), while updating it and giving it a very fast-paced, more modern feel. If the rest of the film had continued in this vein, it would have possible surpassed Halloween II as the superior sequel. Sadly, H instead runs straight into a brick wall and keeps running, completely unaware that it's going absolutely nowhere.
Bringing Jamie Lee Curtis back was obviously a step in the right direction, and the way her character has evolved (thanks mostly to Williamson and Curtis' collaboration) is really quite interesting. However, this core story, as interesting as it might be, is somewhat underdeveloped; one of many aspects of the film that seem to be tossed out to the audience as cool ideas, only to be cast aside when it became too difficult to deal with it and still have a slasher movie that came in with a running time that feels barely as long as a music video. Lost as well are the great character dynamics and relationships of the Williamson treatment. While the original story called for Strode's son to be a complete jerk, largely the result of her poor parenting, in the film he's just a happy-go-lucky guy, not likable or dislikable but instead just a bland, blank slate. The Molly character, an ugly duckling with an inner struggle and unreciprocated desires towards Strode's son in the treatment, is in the film nothing more than a warm body to be chased. These alterations would not ordinarily be so outstanding, but it's hard to get attached to any characters in a film that runs minutes, and the fact that these characters are so non-existent makes that task even more difficult.
And then there's Michael Myers. What was once THE embodiment of fear has in H been reduced to almost an afterthought. While there is somewhat of a conscious effort in the film to get back to the slow, impending-doom feeling of the first film, it is on an entirely superficial level. Sure, they've brought back the idea of quick glimpses of Myers in mirrors and peeking around corners, but Miner and Co. seem to have lost all of the subtlety that came along with them. Fleeting glimpses of the stalking killer will only work if they are used sparingly, not placed dead-center of every frame, exposed and prone for everyone to see. Furthermore, the film is about how Laurie Strode ultimately overcomes her fear of Michael Myers, but it's hard to imagine a five-year-old being afraid of the Michael we see in H. In addition to the worst 'Shape' mask of the series, the H Michael Myers lacks any sense of presence or creepiness, looking more like a toned-down, sterilized character from a theme park than the boogeyman. His kills are done without any threatening tone, and the characters he kills are practically not even there to begin with, making H easily the least scary film in the series.
In addition, it's important to note how much the music makes a difference in Halloween movies. Small traces of John Ottman's great score exist in H, but % of the music he composed for the film was inexplicably thrown out in favor of a Marco Beltrami hack job that sounds note-for-note EXACTLY like his work for Scream. The post-modern, self-referential slant of the new generation of slashers once again works against the genre, as viewers are suddenly drawn out of the context of the movie and find themselves asking, 'Is this a Halloween movie or another Scream flick?'
With every film released in the series, there is always the hope that another Halloween film will somehow magically regain the sense of brilliance created by John Carpenter's original. And while there are those few fleeting moments in Halloween: H where the film ALMOST gets there, by and large it leaves both Halloween fans and overall slasher enthusiasts quite disappointed.