release year: 1998
genre: horror sequel
viewing setting: home DVD, 10/31/09 and theater, 8/5/98
what I expected: something scary yet worthy of being a sequel to the 1978 classic
what I got: a good measure of satisfaction

synopsis: 20 years after being terrorized by her insane brother, Laurie Strode has to go through it all over again.

impressions: Halloween was - and still is - one of the finest works of horror ever filmed, and it will always hold a special place in my heart. It's unfortunate that so many movies (and sequels) that came after it trivialized the genre. In this series' case, Halloween 2 was a direct (and effective) sequel, and the story should have probably ended there. Halloween 3 was unrelated to the Michael Myers plotline. Halloween 4 was the first of the sequels to essentially make Michael invulnerable; while it recaptured much of the terror of the first two, it was followed by a fair sequel and then a very confusing, muddled one. Halloween: H20 writes off everything but the first two and then takes its own path; this was probably the best route to take, and it works well here. Laurie Strode is now Keri Tate, and if the deceased Dr. Loomis hadn't kept a file on her, Michael never would have found her. She's an emotional wreck and she's got a boyfriend, a son, and a good job at a remote boarding school. The stage is well-set for Michael to come back 20 years later and wreck her life again. On to the film itself...good camera work, good (but not excessive) use of false shocks, good pacing. There aren't too many deaths (6 confirmed, direct kills) and they aren't too bloody, but they are for the most part spooky. Michael spares some people he could have killed, just like in the first two movies; this makes it more suspenseful, because you never know if someone's going to live or die when they're in close proximity to the killer. One final note: the ending is highly satisfying.

audience participation factor: High, especially after Michael makes his presence known to the core protagonists. Most of the audience actually seemed to believe the movie was really happening. I got the distinct impression that they'd seen the last few Halloween sequels, but probably not the original movie.

acting: Pretty good. Jamie Lee Curtis did a good job, as did Adam Arkin. LL Cool J was a riot as the school's somewhat-lax security guard.

final word: Worthy (if not 100% original) horror fare, and a worthy sequel to a true classic.

rating: B-

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