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review added: 10/31/00



Halloween H20
Dimension Collector's Series - 1998 (1999) - Dimension (Buena Vista)

review by Dan Kelly of The Digital Bits

Halloween H20: Dimension Collector's Series Film Rating: B-

Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): B/B+/D

Specs and Features

86 mins, R, letterboxed widescreen (2.35:1), single-sided, RSDL dual-layered (layer switch at 51:13, at the start of chapter 9), Amaray keep case packaging, Unmasking the Horror documentary, trivia game, What's This Life For music video by Creed, film-themed menu screens, scene access (13 chapters), languages: English (DD 5.1), subtitles: English, Closed Captioned


To say that fans of the Halloween series eagerly anticipated this film would be an understatement. It was, after all, the twentieth anniversary of the original Halloween, and there had been talk for some time about members of the original production returning to the series. Needless to say, there was a lot to live up to. In many ways, this film does live up to the hype, but it also leaves a lot to be desired. The bulk of the story is well written and directed, but lacks any real complexity, and the ending just goes too far over the top.

Only a small portion of the film takes place in Haddonfield. The opening of the film takes up just enough time to get rid of any remaining members from the original (with the exception of Jamie Lee Curtis) before Michael makes his big move out West. In a wise decision, the filmmakers chose to disregard most of the happenings of parts 4, 5 and 6 in the series - no more silly thorn cult or man in black. Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) is now living under the assumed name of Keri Tate in northern California after she faked her death (yeah, I know). She is now the head of a private school. Twenty years later, she's still dealing with her past and often suffers crippling flashbacks. In layman's terms, that means she's a pill-popping alcoholic.

As if that's not unhealthy enough, she is also highly over-protective of her 17-year-old son, John (Josh Hartnett). John and his girlfriend (Michele Williams) hatch a plan to have a Halloween party of their own with a few friends while the rest of the school is off on a weekend getaway. With John out of sight, Keri/Laurie's paranoia soon takes her over, and she begins to believe that her visions of the boogie man coming to get her aren't flashbacks at all. There are some inconsistencies with H20 (not the least of which is that it looks like they used about five different masks), but one thing that is constant, is a fun, haunted house-like feel. There are some fun scares in this movie. I'm not talking Exorcist type scares, but you'll jump a few times, I'm sure.

What the filmmakers wanted with this film was some sort of conclusion to the series. Up until the last scene in the film, it's a logical conclusion. I know part of the boogie man storyline is that he's never dead when you think he is, but this is just plain silly. Even Jamie Lee Curtis' great performance can't save the absurd ending. When it comes down to it, I guess I ended up wanting a few more thrills, but I have no major problems with the film outside of the preposterous ending. The movie does a nice job of tying things up, with more than a few nods to the film that started it all. But I have to say, the incestuous relationship between H20, Scream and the original Halloween became a bit of a distraction at times. John Ottman's beautiful rendition of Carpenter's original score was even partially replaced with Marco Beltrami's music from Scream. I understand that Scream brought more attention to Halloween, but there was already a huge following in place long before Kevin Williamson came along. On the other hand, without the Scream-like promotion H20 ultimately received, it may not have reached the audience it ultimately did.

Halloween H20 is the first entry in the series since Halloween III to make use of the 2.35:1 aspect ratio, and the film looks all the better for it. On DVD, Buena Vista chose to do a non-anamorphic transfer. H20 is a new film, so the print used is almost completely free of age-related blemishes. The picture quality is good, but could have benefited from the extra detail afforded by anamorphic enhancement. Still, there is little in the way of defects from the transfer process. Black levels are rich and deep, with little picture break-up from artifacting. Color reproduction and saturation is nicely accurate. There are a few instances where edge enhancement is visible, but it's only on occasion and is never intrusive. The audio is also very nice. The Dolby Digital 5.1 mix creates a nicely immersive, though somewhat limited, sound field. Low-end bass response is satisfactory and will definitely rumble your subwoofer once or twice. Both front and rear speakers are used for some really smooth panning effects, and the music track is strong but not overpowering. All things considered, the film's DVD presentation isn't half bad.

Then there are the extra "features". For a DVD with the "Collector's Series" label, this is a really disappointing disc. There are plenty of discs that offer a lot more features and aren't labeled as Collector's Editions or Special Editions or other marketing gimmicks. The most irritating thing here, is that many copies of this disc advertise an audio commentary with Jamie Lee Curtis and director Steve Miner on the cover... except there isn't one on the disc. And what actually is on the disc isn't too exciting. The Unmasking the Horror documentary is entertaining enough, but most of what's revealed has all been said before. There are interviews with most of the principal cast, the director, producer (and uncredited co-writer) Kevin Williamson and John Carpenter. Creed does not have a fan in me, but those who do like them will be delighted to see their music video for What's This Life For here. And there's an overly simple, meaningless and kind of dull trivia game - pure filler for the disc. Where's the theatrical trailer? These features just don't befit a DVD labeled as a special edition.

While the DVD may be a bit of a fiasco, the movie itself is a fun little scare ride. If you can, I'd suggest buying the film on sale. Totally avoid paying full price for it. $40 is a lot for a disc that's low on features. I'm sure this isn't the last Buena Vista Halloween DVD we'll see. Don't be fooled by the "sequel-proof" ending. Another sequel is in the works a fall 2001 release, and I'm sure we'll see a DVD six months or so after that. Hopefully, a better one...

Dan Kelly
dankelly@thedigitalbits.com




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