Halloween H20: Twenty Years Later
Dir. Steve Miner (1998)
Laurie Strode has changed her name and become the headmaster of the private school her son attends. Michael is back, an event she has been dreading since the last time she saw him twenty years ago.
Normally I'm not a fan when a film series decides to reinvent itself, especially when it does so by flat out ignoring previous films in the series. I've always felt it was disrespectful to the source material and the fans, and it often comes across as a lazy cashgrab that is just capitalizing on other people's work without having enough creativity to create your own film that works within the world that they've created. Halloween H20, however, was following up a genuinely bad movie (and potentially 2-3 bad movies, depending on who you ask), and it was attempting to revive the best franchise in the genre, so... I'll allow it.
Ignoring everything after Halloween II, H20 follows Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) twenty years after the events of the original two films, now a mother and the headmaster of her son John's (Josh Hartnett) private school. She has assumed a new name, Keri Tate, and she has built a new life for herself despite her crippling PTSD from having survived two attacks by her brother, the notorious killer Michael Myers, who has returned to try to take care of business. Fortunately, all of the school kids are gone on a trip to Yosemite, leaving the college a ghost town. Unfortunately, Strode is left behind with her son and his friends (including a young Michelle Williams), accompanied by Dean of the school Alan Arkin and security guard LL Cool J. Hilarity ensues.
While Halloween H20 will not be everyone's cup of tea due to its positioning as a late-90's slasher and all of the stylistic choices that come with it, there is some truly great stuff to be found here. Some of the series' most iconic shots are found within, like when Laurie faces down Michael through a glass porthole in a door or when Michael lowers himself down from a pipe behind her. Both are stellar shots that will stick in the minds of fans of the series. The return of Curtis as Strode after a four-film absence should be more than enough reason to watch, and Michael's brutal pursuit of Laurie as he tears through the locals is a fun watch.
That said, there are some things that are not done perhaps as well as they should have been. Michael's mask, a crucial sticking point for some fans as to whether or not they like a particular film, is not as good as it was in the beginning, but it's roughly equal to the previous two films at least. It's still the blank-faced look of a complete psychopath, which is what's become so iconic about the killer. There is a relatively low body-count, and most of the kills aren't as heavyhanded (and therefore not as bloody) as in some of the previous installments. There is also a sore lack of Loomis, impossible to rectify due to the death of Donald Pleasance while making the previous film but tantalizing because this is the film that 5 and Curse should've been.
Despite it's shortcomings, I am a fan of H20. While I really did like 2018's Halloween, H20 feels like what really would've happened to Laurie Strode. She's not some witchy-looking elderly survivalist living in a compound. She's an educated, successful woman who still struggles with the trauma of what happened to her twenty years ago. It's a perfect take on the way Curtis played Laurie in 1978, and it's much closer to Curtis herself: kinda funny, clearly smart, and protective of the people in her life. For that alone, H20 is well worth an addition to the best horror franchise in existence.
Who this movie is for: Halloween franchise fans, Slasher lovers,
Bottom line: For a series that had lost its way, H20 was a delightful return to form for the fans. The returning Jamie Lee Curtis and the new additions of Josh Hartnett, LL Cool J, Alan Arkin, and Michelle Williams are not only welcome but crucial after the previous failed efforts at rebooting the series. This is also only the second film that stars both Curtis and her mother Janet Leigh. While I enjoyed Halloweens 4-6, and it's always better to have more than less when it comes to slashers, Halloween 1, II, and H20 feels like the logical timeline to make canon. Good thing it would all be undone again almost immediately.