Monday, October 31, 2011

Halloween: H20 and the Unofficial Scream Sequel

I was watching Steve Miner's Halloween H20 the other night for the first time in many a year - let's face it, John Carpenter's 1978 original is the one most people, myself included, would go to when wanting to watch Michael Myers going chop chop - and recognised that it's actually as much a pseudo entry to the Scream franchise as it is to Halloween. The backstory to Halloween H20's screenplay is somewhat murky, but I think it's known that Kevin Williamson, hot off of the success of Scream, and the in-production I Know What You Did Last Summer, Scream 2 and The Faculty (still the Weinstein company's golden boy), was asked to write the screenplay, but that was thrown out except for the bare bones, but then he was brought back in to rewrite parts and... well, it sounds a bit complicated. Nevertheless, Williamson's influence on the film is unmistakable and, really, is far more obvious on the finished product than John Carpenter. In the end. instead of noticing the similarities between Halloween H20 and Halloween (of which there are indeed many: the classroom discussion about fate; "everyone's entitled to one good scare"; etc etc), I was noticing the similarities between Halloween H20 and Scream.

The obvious connections begin right from the opening scene which, besides adopting the new hot "opening victim" trend of the time, utilises Marco Beltrami's music cues from Scream! At first I thought it was just a comical bit of pay back since Wes Craven quite clearly appeared to be doing the same thing with Carpenter's classic score at various points in Scream, but as the film went on it just got more and more noticeable with Beltrami's score reappearing time and time again, and in very obvious ways. Even the way Beltrami's music weaves throughout the action is the same. Sidney Prescott goes to open a door? So does Joseph Gordon-Levitt at the same music cue. It's truly baffling. The long dormitory chase scene between Jamie Lee Curtis, Josh Hartnett and (Young Artist Award nominee for Best Performance in a Feature Film - Supporting Young Actress) Michelle Williams, as well as the final van chase, is scored entirely to pieces from similar scenes in Scream. I also think I hear cues from Tatum and Cici's death scenes from Scream and Scream 2 respectively, as well as Gale's chase scene through the soundproof studio in Scream 2.

Add that to the frequent inclusion of Carpenter's original theme (or variations of it), more Beltrami score, but this time from Mimic, and even a moment of Bernard Hermann's Psycho score during the scene with Janet Leigh, and it's hard to pick up any original music by the film's supposed composer, John Ottman.

Apparently Ottman's music was sparingly used, but that the producers wanted music "more like Scream". I guess coming from the same studio made actually using the music from Scream much easier and probably cheaper. Still, disappointing considering Ottman's score is very good (it was eventually released under the name "Portrait of Terror" and is available on iTunes).

However, it's more than just the music that brings about echoes of Scream. Much like Kevin Williamson's screenplay for Scream has characters named after famous horror icons ("Loomis" for instance), Halloween H20 has characters like "Casey". There's even a line of dialogue where Jamie Lee Curtis' longtime victim tells her son and his girlfriend to "drive down the street to the Beckers". This, of course, reflects upon the opening scene of Scream where Casey Becker's father told his wife to "drive down to the McKenzies", which was of course a reference to the same line being spoken by Curtis' Laurie Strode in the 1978 Halloween. Sheesh, are you still with me? Furthermore, the characters played by Adam Hann-Byrd and Jodi Lyn O'Keefe are clearly photocopies of Stu Macher and Tatum Riley from Scream, plus a large part of the focus being on the more adult characters is similar. I mean, for crying out loud, they even watch Scream 2 here!

Perhaps even more obviously a Scream artifact is the appearance by Janet Leigh. About eighteen different jokes in one, Leigh's appearance alongside her daughter (duelling scream queens if you will) as a character named "Norma" - oh yes - who drives the same car from Psycho while that film's music plays in the background and she recites lines from the original Halloween. That's even more twisted than the opening of Scream 4!

Thankfully, the LL Cool J character is just an original travesty! No erotica authoring security guards in the Scream franchise as far as I can recall! Still, I like Halloween H20. Sure, it's more of its time than the original, which was revolutionary to not just the horror genre, but cinema as a whole. It reminds me of that period of horror that coincided with my own growing love for cinema. The era may be decried by horror enthusiasts, but I will always view titles like this and Scream, I Know What You Did Last Summer, The Faculty, Urban Legend and so on with a tad more of a forgiving nature. Scream 4's failure to revitalise the slasher was that film's biggest disappointment. As for Michael Myers and his butcher knife of fun? Well, a 3D sequel to Rob Zombie's reimagined remakes is on the way. I think I'll stick to H20.

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