“My name’s not Kerri Tate.”
With a litany of disappointing and/or critically panned sequels following Halloween II (1981), the Halloween franchise was pretty much dead in the mid-1990s. Hoping to possibly resurrect the franchise and also to cash in on the resurgence of the slasher film thanks to the success of Scream (1996), Halloween H20: 20 Years Later (1998) hit the big screen with a story that ignores all but the first two films and celebrates the twentieth anniversary of the first Halloween film released in 1978. John Carpenter was originally offered the job of directing the film but he eventually backed out of the project whenever Moustapha Akkad, who produced Carpenter’s original Halloween film (and all of the sequels after it), refused to pay him ten million dollars and to agree to a three film deal. Jamie Lee Curtis returned to play Laurie Strode only on the condition that she would kill Michael Myers in the film in a way that would not tease a sequel. Also returning was Nancy Stephens as Nurse Chambers from Halloween II.
Kevin Williamson, riding a wave of success thanks to Scream, was brought in to help write the film. While his script wasn’t ultimately accepted, his input was utilized throughout the film’s production. Also brought in was newcomer Josh Hartnett as John Tate, Laurie’s son. He pulled double duty while working on the film as he was also working on The Faculty, another Dimension film production. Portraying John’s girlfriend, Molly, was Michelle Williams. Williams was also working on the first season of Williamson’s Dawson’s Creek television series at the time. Jodi Lyn O’Keefe and Adam Hann-Byrd portrayed John and Molly’s coupled friends, Sara and Charlie. O’Keefe was already in a successful television series, Nash Bridges, and Hann-Byrd was known for playing a young Robin Williams in Jumanji (1995) and starring in Little Man Tate (1991). Adam Arkin played Laurie’s love interest, Will, and LL Cool J portrayed a school guard named Ronny. It’s also noteworthy that Jamie Lee Curtis’ mother, Janet Leigh, herself a scream queen, also has a cameo as Norma Watson, Laurie’s secretary. Joseph Gordon-Levitt also has a small role in the film.
The film takes place twenty years after the events of the first two films. Laurie Strode is now living in California under the name “Kerri Tate” and is the headmistress of an exclusive and very secure school. She has a son named John and is developing a relationship with one of her co-workers, Will Brennan. John is celebrating his seventeenth birthday as well. Oh, and it’s Halloween. The rest of the school is getting ready for a trip to Yosemite National Park but Laurie/Kerri refuses to allow John to go in case Michael Myers shows up. John, convinced that Michael is long dead and not a threat anymore, decides to rebel by having a private party with Molly, Sarah, and Charlie while the campus is empty. Michael is on his way, however, having acquired Laurie Strode’s file from the home of Nurse Chambers. He arrives on the scene once all of the students have left for their trip and begins to eliminate people one by one as he makes his way to Laurie. Will Laurie finally kill her demented brother???? Watch Halloween H20: 20 Years Later in order to find out!
While it’s definitely an improvement over the sequels in the franchise, H20 is no masterpiece. It lacks the suspense of the original film and first sequel. Michael Myers is, at least in my opinion, entirely too clean and too slim to be a real threat to his victims. This is my least favorite portrayal of Myers in all of the films. Heck, they couldn’t even get his mask right (it changes throughout the film). The cast do a fine job but there’s just not enough substance to this film to really pull it out of its own mediocrity. I did enjoy all of the callbacks to other franchises. Scream, Friday The 13th, and Psycho are all given some pretty slick references (especially Psycho) that hardcore fans of the slasher genre will enjoy if they pick up on them. The climax of the film, while meant to shock, seemed to do nothing more than provide the film with a place to stop. Even back in theaters in the late 90s the ending didn’t hit like it was meant to when moviegoers witnessed it. In all, this is a serviceable sequel that could have been much better.
Is it worth watching? Yeah, especially if you really, really dislike the sequels prior to and immediately after it. It’s sad how this film provided such a decent starting point for a new series of sequels but instead we got the trainwreck that was Halloween: Resurrection (2002). Halloween is my favorite slasher franchise, but that’s primarily based on the strength of the first two films. I also enjoyed the Rob Zombie films (I know that they are pretty divisive) but the latest trio of films, especially Halloween Kills (2021) left me wanting.
Well, thanks for checking out my review. I know that I was kind of brutal about this film (at least “brutal” compared to most of my other reviews), but it just doesn’t meet expectations. I’ll be reviewing some more films later this month and throughout the rest of the year. I promise to find some good ones for you to enjoy!