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How often is the seventh film in a horror franchise actually good? Not too often. In fact, WES CRAVEN’S NEW NIGHTMARE and HALLOWEEN: H20 are the only two instances that come to mind. Of course, both of these are follow-ups to genre classics, but this factor alone does not guarantee a good sequel. The reason that WES CRAVEN’S NEW NIGHTMARE and HALLOWEEN: H20 succeed is the fact that the filmmakers love and respect the original movies and imbue their follow-ups with the same type of spirit.

HALLOWEEN: H20 ignores the third through the sixth film and picks up the story twenty years after the night he came home. Where the homicidal Michael Myers had been hiding for the past two decades is anyone’s guess (probably working as a network programming executive). However, when Michael does return, it’s with a vengeance. First, Michael visits the home of Dr. Sam Loomis, where he trashes the office of his deceased former nemesis. However, after finding the file marked Laurie Strode; Michael disappears into the darkness, but not before leaving the requisite carnage in his wake.

HALLOWEEN: H20 then shifts location to an exclusive private school in Northern California, where we discover what has become of Michael Myers’ sister. Having been so traumatized by the events of that Halloween evening twenty years prior, Laurie Strode faked her own death and has been living in hiding as the private school’s headmistress Keri Tate (Jamie Lee Curtis). Still suffering from nightmares, as well as seeing her own personal demon around every corner, Keri is a functioning alcoholic with a fully stocked medicine cabinet that would give any small pharmacy a run for its money. Despite her psychological problems, Keri is able to hang on to thanks to the presence of her seventeen-year-old son John (Josh Hartnett) and her boyfriend Will Brennan (Adam Arkin). On Halloween night, the school arranges a field trip for most of the student body and faculty, which leaves only a handful of people on the deserted school grounds.

Of course, right after everyone is gone, Michael shows up for a "family reunion." Once Keri/Laurie realizes that changing her name and hiding from her fears hasn’t done her any good, she decides to face down her personal demon and confront Michael one final time. HALLOWEEN: H20 is a fun, clever and scary movie that pushes all the right buttons and delivers everything the audience wants to see. There is plenty of suspense, however the gore is held to a minimum- just like the original HALLOWEEN. Jamie Lee Curtis never forgot her horror movie roots and she is obviously enjoying the opportunity to once again play the character that started her career. Curtis brings just the right levels of strength and vulnerability to the role, making the character’s personal turmoil believable. The cast of HALLOWEEN: H20 also features Michelle Williams, Adam Hann-Byrd, Jodi Lyn O'Keefe, LL Cool J, Nancy Stephens, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Brandon Williams and Janet Leigh in an amusing cameo.

HALLOWEEN: H20 comes to DVD as entry in the Dimension Collector’s Series. As far as I concerned, this disc is a collector’s edition in name only. First, the DVD is overpriced at $39.98. Second, the wide screen transfer has NOT been enhanced for playback on a 16:9 displays. Third, supplements are so minimal, that most standard releases from other companies contain more extras. With that said, let’s get to the disc at hand. HALLOWEEN: H20 is offered on DVD in a wide screen presentation that restores the film’s 2.35:1 theatrical aspect ratio. On a 4:3 display, HALLOWEEN: H20 looks great. The image is sharp and highly detailed; plus shadow detail proves to be quite good on this relatively dark movie. Color reproduction is strong, with well-saturated hues and realistic looking flesh tones. Neither chroma noise nor bleeding affected the hot colors, especially the reds, which can be problematic. Blacks are a deep inky black and the image has excellent contrast. Film grain is apparent in places, but it never really calls attention to itself. Dual layer technology, as well as the higher bit rate it provides keeps digital compression artifacts at bay.

The Dolby Digital 5.1 channel soundtrack has a simple, but effective mix that makes good use of the discrete format. There is good channel separation in both the front and the rear. Sound effects are well placed, which creates a genuinely foreboding atmosphere. Dialogue is very clean and always remains intelligible. Bass reproduction is strong, which adds some punch to the mix. English subtitles are encoded onto the DVD.

The interactive menus are a pretty basic affair, except for the full motion previews on the scene selection feature. Extras include Unmasking the Horror, a fifteen minute featurette that features interviews with director Steve Miner, plus cast members Jamie Lee Curtis, Josh Hartnett, LL Cool J, Michelle Williams and Adam Arkin, as well as John Carpenter, Wes Craven and Kevin Williamson. Also on the disc, is a music video for Creed's What's This Life For, plus an interactive trivia game.

Someday, I hope that HALLOWEEN: H20 is released on DVD as a proper collector’s edition. This "proper collector’s edition" DVD should include a 16:9 enhanced presentation, as well as real supplements like an audio commentary with the director and cast members, theatrical trailers, television spots, extra footage, outtakes and an expanded documentary on the making of the film.




DVD reviews are Copyright © 1999 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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