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Movie Review

In 1978, director John Carpenter's low-budget, high-chills Halloween revived a tradition of suspense, shock and terror that had been lying dormant in American cinema. Not since Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho had a knife-weilding maniac caused so much mayhem at the box office (costing just $300,000, the original grossed $55 million—a lot of money at that time). The profitability of this creepy, violent tale sent the production of slasher films into high gear, and earned star Jamie Lee Curtis the title of Hollywood's "scream queen." She went on to make other cut-em-up movies, including Halloween's first sequel.

1981's Halloween 2 relied less on suspense, choosing to step up the gore for audiences yearning for more "creative" murders and an increased body count. Several other sequels followed (without Curtis), strip-mining the franchise by simply giving its ashen-masked killer more people to slice and dice. But Curtis returned in 1998 to celebrate the original's 20th anniversary by bringing closure to the series and returning it to the storyline that drove the first two films.

Halloween opens with a young boy named Michael Myers stabbing his teenage sister to death with a butcher knife on Halloween night. He spends the next 15 years in silence at a sanitarium where he is monitored closely by a doctor convinced that Myers is pure evil. On Halloween night, 1978, he escapes and heads back to the quiet Illinois suburb where he once lived. Unbeknownst to the teenage Laurie Strode (Curtis), she is Michael's other sister, who was adopted by another family after hers collapsed beneath the weight of her sister's murder. Myers is obsessed with killing his remaining sibling, and murders a handful of others in the process before his doctor tracks him down and empties a revolver into him. But this bogeyman isn't so easy to kill.

Halloween 2 picks up later that night as a battered and bruised Laurie is rushed to the hospital. With bodies piling up in his wake, Michael follows her there and proceeds to chase her through the building's winding corridors. Once again, the intrepid psychiatrist appears on the scene, causing an explosion that sets Myers ablaze—burns that would kill any normal human being. But, once again, this is no normal psycho.

Halloween H20, technically the sixth sequel, disregards all those that came before it with the exception of the first two films. It focuses on a still shell-shocked Laurie 20 years after the most terrifying night of her life. To secure her safety, her death was faked, her name was changed to Carrie Tate, and she relocated to California. Laurie has been married and divorced, all the while battling alcoholism and a dependence on pills to quell her nightmares. She's now dating a decent guy, and her 17-year-old son attends the boarding school where she serves as headmistress. But that black-sheep brother of hers has figured out where she is and, on Halloween night 1998, plans his own version of trick-or-treat.

Positive Elements: Not much. A mother demonstrates a maternal instinct. A headmaster makes an attempt to encourage two female students to stay out of trouble.

Sexual Content: Teens talk of having a "roaming orgy" on the vacant campus. A string of hormonally inspired comments reveal one boy's obsession with sex. His girlfriend sarcastically tells an elder she's headed out for a night on the town to pick up guys and drop roofies in their drinks for a "date rape kind of evening." Adults engage in foreplay, but get interrupted before it leads to sex.

Violent Content: News clippings and photos provide snapshots of carnage from the 1978 murders. A woman's throat is slit. Two boys are found dead, one with a hockey skate imbedded in his face. Boy stabbed in leg. Security guard is shot, shown lying in a pool of blood. Man gets stabbed with a butcher knife and raised off his feet. Teen shows up in dumbwaiter with his throat mangled. Girl nearly loses her leg to plummeting dumbwaiter, then gets stabbed repeatedly before being hung by an electrical fixture. Prior to being decapitated by an axe, the killer is stabbed with a kitchen knife, struck with an axe, pounded with a rock, run down by a van and crushed when the van pins him against a tree.

Crude or Profane Language: Frequent exclamatory profanities include inappropriate uses of Jesus' name, the s-word and a few prominently placed f-words. There's also anatomical slang, and a man reads erotic literature over the phone to his woman.

Other Negative Elements: A teen swipes several bottles of beer from a woman's fridge. Later, two other boys shoplift a bottle of booze from a liquor store for a drunken make-out session with their girlfriends. Laurie tries to drown her fear and anxiety in several glasses of wine.

Summary: Director Steve Miner told Entertainment Weekly [8/14/98], "I guess the theme of the whole thing is that your demons will always be with you unless you confront them and banish them to hell where they belong. If the movie's about anything, that's what it's about. But really what it's about is scaring the s--- out of people."

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Jamie Lee Curtis, Adam Arkin, Michelle Williams, Josh Hartnett, Janet Leigh, Jodi Lyn O'Keefe, LL Cool J


Steve Miner ( )


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Bob Smithouser

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