Halloween: Resurrection (2002) Halloween: Resurrection (2002) *

     Halloween H20 may have represented something close to a triumphant return for the Halloween franchise, but it was unmistakably written to be the end of it as well. Indeed, it owed a non-trivial share of its effectiveness to that very finality. Executive producer Moustapha Akkad had no intention of quitting while he was ahead, however, and he’d been shrewd enough during the film’s development to insist on a contract clause committing Jamie Lee Curtis to an additional sequel in the event that one were greenlit. It took a while for that day to arrive (the era of nigh-annual sequels to popular horror films was well and truly over by 1998), but when it did, Curtis issued a rather startling demand of her own: Laurie Strode had to die. She’d fulfill her old contract by taking on Michael Myers one last time, but if Akkad wanted to keep making Halloween movies after that, he could fucking well do it without her. Curtis had the right idea, not merely in regard to her participation in the Halloween series, but also as to her implicit judgment upon its continued existence. Halloween: Resurrection wound up being easily the worst Myers-centric Halloween movie to date, and I frankly can’t see how it could have turned out any other way.

     Those of you who saw Halloween H20 might be asking right now, “Didn’t the last movie end with the killer being decapitated? I mean, sure, we’ve seen that bastard shrug off a lot since 1978, but we’ve clearly entered a whole new zone if he’s bouncing back from having his fucking head cut off!” Even Moustapha Akkad realized there was no arguing with that, so Halloween: Resurrection begins by establishing that the guy Laurie Strode (Curtis) beheaded three years ago wasn’t actually her homicidal brother at all. You see, when the first paramedic arrived on the scene at Hillcrest Academy that Halloween night, and found Michael Myers (now played by Brad Loree, from Futuresport and Timecop) down but still not quite out, the Boogeyman of Haddonfield seized him, crushed his larynx to prevent him from identifying himself by speaking, and switched clothes with him. It was that paramedic who was bagged up and loaded into the ambulance that Laurie later stole, that paramedic who revived as she sped away from the scene of her brother’s latest rampage, and that paramedic who took a fire axe to the throat after being pinned between the ambulance and a tree trunk when Laurie ran the vehicle off the road to incapacitate him. That’s all bullshit, of course, because no gravely wounded paramedic would have had any reason to attack Laurie immediately after freeing himself from his body bag, and no one except the real Michael Myers could have stood up to what Laurie put her masked assailant through before she lopped off his head. The patent implausibility of the whole business rather spoils what would otherwise be a rather astute and interesting development: maddened by guilt over killing the wrong man, Laurie has spent the intervening years confined to a high-security mental hospital, in a persistent catatonic state. Mind you, the latter premise is also spoiled from the opposite direction within moments of being set up, because as soon as her nurses leave her cushy cell to continue their rounds, Laurie spits out her meds and adds them to the ever-growing cornucopia of un-swallowed pills filling the torso of the rag doll that she never lets go of so long as anyone else is around to see her. Far from being catatonic with guilt, Laurie has actually been cynically exploiting the hospital to give her a fortified position from which to prepare for her brother’s surely inevitable next attempt on her life.

     Now it happens that one of Laurie’s fellow inmates is an autistic by the name of Harold (Gus Lynch, of Willard and Hellraiser: Hellseeker), who is both obsessed with serial killers and annoyingly gifted in the field of escaping from confinement. What’s more, Harold habitually combines his two hobbies by slipping out of the asylum while cosplaying as some notorious maniac. He’s fundamentally harmless, and he never goes far, but perhaps you can see why the staff would make a priority of corralling a recidivist escapee who likes to dress up as John Wayne Gacy or whomever. One night, when the security cameras catch a man roaming about the grounds, clad in the auto mechanic’s coveralls and expressionless rubber mask that constitute the signature look of Michael Myers, the graveyard shift guards jump to the seemingly reasonable conclusion that Harold is up to his old tricks again. It’s the last mistake they ever live to make. With the guards eliminated, Myers is at liberty to search the whole hospital for his sister, but remember that Laurie has been anticipating this night for three whole years. Michael’s attack ends with him hanging by one ankle from a chain fall on the asylum roof (not sure why that thing is up there, but okay), and Laurie steeling herself to chop him into as many pieces as might be necessary to be rid of him once and for all. There’s just one problem. Having already killed one innocent man in her evil brother’s place, Laurie decides at the last second that she must know for certain before striking the fatal blow. That means getting close enough to Michael to unmask him— which unfortunately is also close enough for him to grab, stab, and hurl her from the roof to a messy death several stories below. It might take Myers all night to extricate himself from Laurie’s trap, but he has all night now that his unfinished business from Halloween of 1978 is concluded at last.

     Supposedly the rest of the film is meant to take place a year after all that, not so you’d notice from anything actually done or said onscreen. For the first time ever in a Halloween sequel, we find ourselves fresh out of relatives for Michael Myers to hunt down and kill (we’re clearly not supposed to remember that Laurie has a son in this timeline), so the focus shifts instead to the house where he spent the first six years of his life. No one has ever wanted to buy or rent the place in all the nearly four decades since the original Haddonfield Halloween Murder, turning the increasingly dilapidated edifice into the perfect venue for… Jesus Christ, an internet reality show?!?! Yes indeed. Dangertainment is the brainchild of Freddie Harris (rapper Busta Rhymes, who also appeared in the Samuel L. Jackson Shaft a couple years earlier) and his longtime friend, Nora (supermodel Tyra Banks, who would find herself hosting an actual reality show a year later). The idea is to hand out fiber-optic headset cameras to a carefully chosen pack of twenty-something narcissists, and lock them overnight in some purportedly haunted place, which they will explore in search of the “truth” of whatever is supposed to have happened there, livestreaming their activities to the Dangertainment website. The reason why “truth” needs those quotation marks is because the site will have been prepped in advance of the investigators’ arrival, not just with a second, well-concealed set of webcams, but with bogus “evidence” of secret horrors once committed on the premises. In the case of the Myers house specifically, Freddie and Nora are having the place rigged to suggest that Haddonfield’s least favorite son was subjected throughout his earliest childhood to the most unconscionable abuse— the kind that would make just about anyone want to pick up a knife and start slashing sooner or later.

     As for the twenty-something narcissists, Nora has selected seven of them, although it isn’t entirely clear on what basis, or how they came to her attention in the first place. Jen (Katie Sackoff, from Oculus and White Noise 2: The Light) is a standard-issue blonde bimbo whose dreams of stardom seem insufficiently developed to encompass the idea that she should seek to become famous for something— but then I suppose that if the 21st century has demonstrated anything thus far, it’s that justifications for fame are now largely optional. Rudy (Sean Patrick Thomas, of Dracula 2000 and The Burrowers) is an aspiring chef who can turn literally any conversation around to bear on his passion for food, cooking, and nutrition. Donna (Daisy McCrackin, from Delirium and A Crack in the Floor) is a middle-aged ignoramus’s stereotype of a young intellectual. Bill (Thomas Ian Nicholas) is the kind of confrontational, calculatedly offensive creep that no one was yet calling an edgelord in 2002. Jim (Luke Kirby) is horny and dumb. And Sarah (Bianca Kajlich) is high-strung, insecure, and afraid of almost everything in a way that seems certain to end up mattering somehow. Perhaps the greatest mystery of Halloween: Resurrection is that it never, ever does. We know right off that Sarah is our Final Girl, because she’s the only one whose participation in Dangertainment screenwriters Larry Brand and Sean Hood ever bother to explain: Jen, inexplicably Sarah’s best friend, put her up to it.

     The plans for Dangertainment begin going awry before the kids themselves even set foot in the Myers house. Nora and Freddie are each too wrapped up in their own final preparations to notice this, but Michael drops in on his former abode just as Charley the camera tech (Brad Sihvon, of White Noise and Severed) is trying to figure out where to put the last of his webcams. The meeting does not go well for Charley, as you might imagine. Nor is Michael’s arrival at the house just an idle visit for old times’ sake. That oubliette under the basement floor may be a Dangertainment addition, but if Freddie and Nora’s construction crew had kept digging just a tiny bit longer while installing it, they’d have punched through to the underground utility tunnel where Myers has apparently been dwelling all these years in between his periodic Halloween night rampages. In an important sense, then, the house where Michael lived before his commitment to Smith’s Grove Sanitarium is still his home, and the Dangertainment cast and crew are trespassing. This Halloween, Myers won’t have to go out for a killing spree. The overwhelming majority of these people are definitely fucked, but two of them each have some slight edge that might enable them to survive the night. Freddie practices kung fu, giving him something with which to offset Michael’s inhuman strength and resilience. And Sarah has both a cell phone and an online friend who’ll be watching the Dangertainment livestream. Myles Barton (Ryan Merriman, from The Ring Two and Final Destination 3)— or Deckard, as Sarah knows him online— will therefore be in a position to coach her from afar, feeding her intel on the killer’s movements via text message. She just has to live long enough for Deckard to catch on that the masked man slicing up her castmates with a chef’s knife isn’t supposed to be part of the show.

     For the past three installments (or four, depending on how you count the two variant cuts of The Curse of Michael Myers), the Halloween series has been struggling to revitalize itself by aping other, more vibrant media. First it was “The X Files.” Then it was Scream. And now it’s The Blair Witch Project, together with a dash of Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2. This latest impersonation fits even more awkwardly than its predecessors, accomplishing nothing but to emphasize Halloween’s utter irrelevancy at the turn of the 21st century. Creatively speaking, there is absolutely no reason for Halloween: Resurrection to exist. Having undone the thematically resonant conclusion to which Halloween H20 brought the series four years earlier, this eighth (or ninth) film offers no worthwhile vision for a new direction, no interesting ideas for how Michael Myers specifically might fruitfully be readapted to the current needs of a genre that has left him behind. At best, this movie embodies a too-little, too-late recognition of the importance of black audiences to the popularity of horror films during the 80’s and 90’s, insofar as the two biggest, most expensive names in the cast (after Jamie Lee Curtis, of course) were consciously chosen as a lure for such viewers. It’s noteworthy in any case that Busta Rhymes gets a lot more to do in Halloween: Resurrection than LL Cool J did in Halloween H20, even if Tyra Banks is pretty much just a gorgeous nonentity. Whereas LL Cool J had been little more than comic relief, Rhymes functions in some ways as a surrogate Donald Pleasence. Mind you, he’s nothing like equal to that challenge, but kudos to him for trying, and kudos to the filmmakers for giving him the chance.

     The rest of the cast, meanwhile, is in the impossible position of having to play a bunch of repellant, egomaniacal fuckheads. If they fail, they suck; if they succeed, they suck even harder. Katie Sackoff is the real standout in that department. Those of you who know her from her consistently riveting performance as Kara “Starbuck” Thrace on Ron Moore’s update of “Battlestar Galactica,” or as the one good thing about that crap-lousy reboot of “The Bionic Woman,” will be stunned at how unbearably awful she is here. What’s more, the nature of her role is such that it’s impossible to tell whether all the mugging, face-pulling, and dubious line readings are Sackoff fucking up or her character being just that insufferable. The same goes for all the Dangertainment players, really, but Sackoff is the only one for whom I have some counterexample to prove that she was capable of doing better.

     To the extent that Halloween: Resurrection has redeeming features, they’re concentrated in the prologue sequence. That part of the film is still pretty fucking stupid, featuring glaring implausibilities like a patient whom everyone believes to be catatonic being given not merely a private room in the asylum, but one more spacious than many big-city efficiency apartments, tricked out like an ordinary residential bedroom, with no sign of its institutional nature except for its stoutly locked steel door. Similarly, the mechanism whereby Myers gains access to the facility stinks of narrative desperation, and the means whereby Laurie laid her trap for him are simply never addressed at all. Finally, for those of us who remember the last movie, there’s the small matter of Laurie’s son, whom the writers of this one seem to have forgotten about altogether. All that said, it’s undeniably cathartic to see Laurie taking such a proactive approach to her brother after twenty-odd years of running away, even if her final stand goes badly for her in the end. And once you know what you’re looking at, it’s equally cathartic to see Jamie Lee Curtis get one over on Moustapha Akkad, who by 2002 was starting to look like as unstoppable a nuisance as Michael Myers himself.



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