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(Directed by Steve Miner)

Most genre fans agree that the 2018 Halloween reboot by David Gordon Green was pretty damned good. So much so, we've been chewing our nails to the elbows waiting for the Covid-delayed Halloween Kills and Halloween Ends (*shakes fist at microbes*). But this has had the effect of fans (and the franchise timeline) forgetting all about this decent attempt to reinvigorate the Myers saga that took place 20 years earlier. Usually pronounced "Halloween Aitch-Two-Oh", although Michael hasn't become a merman or gained "Aquaman" powers, this was a totally reasonable effort by landmark horror director Miner to make the franchise grounded and scary again. By the time Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers had crept out, "The Shape" had gone from being an enigmatic "boogeyman" to becoming a cursed being with immortal powers and guarded by a druidic cult who wants to "clone" him for… reasons. Yeah, right. The end of the "Thorn Trilogy" story arc had a *ahem* "mixed" reception from fans and an underwhelming ambiguous climax. Much like the 2018 film, this new entry completely ignores the events of the fourth, fifth, and sixth entries. Instead, it carries on from the 20 whole years from "the night he came home" and brings us the welcome return of Jamie Leigh Curtis as Laurie Strode.

It's been 20 years since the nightmarish events that took place on a single Halloween night in Haddonfield. Laurie Strode (JLC, obvs) has assumed the moniker of "Keri Tate" and become the headmistress of a prestigious boarding school in California to escape her past. Now with a son (Josh Hartnett playing John), she feels uneasy about the potential return of her missing brother Michael Myers (presumed dead in the hospital explosion from "Halloween II"). His nephew is now the same age as she was during the "babysitter murders", and the trick-or-treat date is imminent again. Understandably over-protective of him because of this, John acts out and organises a party on the deserted school grounds over Halloween night. Unbeknownst to any of them, "someone" (guess who?) has raided the archives of the deceased Dr Loomis regarding the faked death of Laurie… and killed a few teenagers along the way. It leads to an expected showdown as the feisty Mrs Strode protects her son and opens up a can of whup-ass on her errant brother, ending in a fantastic final scene…

… that was sadly ruined by the monumental screw-up of the next movie, Halloween: Resurrection, which actually tarnished the impact of H20 and indirectly led to Rob Zombie's remake in 2007. However, taking H20 as an entity in its own right and seeing it as a culmination to a three-film trilogy that centres on Laurie Strode (with her as Michael's sister), it's actually a very enjoyable entry in the franchise. There's a lot to like here. Miner (Friday the 13th Part II & III, House, Warlock) is a solid genre director and takes things back to slasher basics here. Whilst the idea of Laurie being a sibling of Michael is nixed in the 2018 reboot, it is very much a fact here. Beyond that though, all the baggage of the "Thorn" mythology and Jamie Lloyd's existence (Laurie's daughter) has been scrubbed from this timeline. And it works. As soon as you hear the remixed version of John Carpenter's classic soundtrack over the opening credits, your horror "Spidey-sense" starts to kick in and the hairs on the back of your neck rise. This is primarily due to the pre-credit sequence that plays with the slasher rules in a Scream -type way (the screenplay was based on a sequel story by Kevin Williamson) and homages the original films. News images of Michael's rampage are shown, whilst sound-bites from Dr Loomis play over the music (sadly not Donald Pleasance but a soundalike). From this approach, you know that you're going to get something a little classier that respects Carpenter's original and won't be a quick slasher rip-off.

And for the most part, H20 sticks to that profile. Curtis, little knowing she would be doing a "crazy cat lady" version of the character in another 20 years, is predictably good here. Her sense of wariness and paranoia suits Laurie fine, and the addition of her son is a neat twist. She also kicks major ass and has a triumphant moment at the climax that would have made a fine full-stop for the franchise if it had been the "final chapter". There are some great cast members to be spotted from LL Cool J as a security guard, Michelle Williams as John's girlfriend, Joseph Gordon Levitt as a red-shirt, and Janet Leigh (Jamie's real-life mother) as "Norma" (arf!) Watson. While it isn't madly gory, there are some decent kills and stuntman Chris Durand strikes an imposing figure as Michael. There are some "old school" moments of tension that really rock: Laurie dropping her jaw as she catches her first glimpse of Michael for 20 years as he looks through a porthole window at a locked door, a mother and daughter being menaced by "The Shape" at a rest stop (very reminiscent of the "teeth" scene in the 2018 film), and classic character Marion Chambers doing everything right and STILL biting the dust in the opening scene. It's good stuff and generally considered the best "sequel" in the franchise until the 2018 reboot came along. Even if you're a fan of the original or 2018 version, this is still worth catching to see how another timeline might have occurred or found a good place to stop. Just keep well clear of "Resurrection". Eew.