Halloween H20: Twenty Years Later (1998) Review
**** Out of 5
Tagline- 20-Years Ago He Changed the Face of Halloween, Tonight He’s Back
Release Date- August 5th, 1998
Running Time- 86-Minutes
Screenplay- Robert Zappia & Matt Greenberg
Director- Steve Miner
Starring- Jamie Lee Curtis, Josh Hartnett, LL Cool J, Michelle Williams, Jodi Lyn O’Keefe, Janet Leigh, Chris Durand and Adam Arkin
When it comes to horror franchises the Halloween series is one of the most iconic and the original Halloween kicked open the door for the wave of slasher films that dominated the market in the 1980s. H20 was released in 1998 and of course based on the title came 20-years after the original, but to me it was far more fitting it was released 10-years after Halloween 4 since both films go back to the basics. After Halloween 3 attempted to take the series in a new direction and was a sequel by name only, but it ended up brining the series to an end and was despised by fans of the series. While over the years Halloween 3 has gained a cult following its still largely dismissed. Halloween 4 brings back Michael Myers and resurrected the series and was actually the number 1 movie for 2-weeks straight. But by the time Halloween 5 was released in 1989 the tide was starting to turn on the slasher film and Halloween 5 became the lowest grossing of the series also released that year were Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan and A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child and Jason Takes Manhattan also became the lowest grossing and Elm Street 5 took in roughly half of what the 4th film brought in. As much as I personally enjoyed Halloween 5 and believe it or not its my favorite sequel of the original series, but it kind of backed the series into a corner and by the time the 6th film was released in 1995 the slasher film was dead and Halloween 6 like the 3rd film also tried to take the series in a new direction only this time with Michael Myers, but the 6th overly complicated a simple formula and was plagued by production troubles and while it turned a profit it wasn’t very successful and like Halloween 3 was mostly dismissed by fans. However in 1996 Scream, which was written by Kevin Williamson and directed by Wes Craven was a massive success and brought back the slasher film. Originally before Jamie Lee Curtis was on board Halloween 7 was gonna be made DTV and continue the series, but not continue the thorn angle. Once Jamie Lee Curtis signed on the story was altered and made for a theatrical release and it would ignore the events of Halloween 4-6 (obviously 3 as well) and would continue from Halloween II.
I hate when a film comes out and ignores previous installments, but in the case of Halloween I really don’t think there was much of a choice. For starters the last two weren’t as successful in terms of box office business and general fan opinion and again the 6th film overly complicated the formula. With the return of Laurie Strode (Curtis) linking 4-6 would be too complicated. In Halloween 4 its stated Laurie died 11-months ago, which would place her death sometime in November of 1987. So that begs the question why would not only Laurie fake her death nearly a decade after, but why would she leave her daughter Jamie in Haddonfield? And why didn’t she return for her? Some people blame Halloween 4, but at the time nobody knew Jamie Lee would return and sure looking back there’s a number of directions Halloween 4 could have gone, but again who knew Curtis would return. In H20 Laurie has a son John Tate (Hartnett) who is 17-years old and yet in Halloween little Jamie having a brother was never mentioned. Trying to link 4-6 would just not only complicate the film, but slow it down too much and originally there was a passing mention, but was dropped in rewrites, but for the hardcore fan it would have too many questions and would take away from the film. Even all these years later it does bug me to some degree a whole bunch of films were wiped from the timeline, but its not difficult to see why.
20-years after the events of the first 2 Halloween films, Laurie Strode is now living in Northern California under the name Keri Tate and is headmistress of a private school. For the last 20-years she’s lived in fear her brother Michael Myers (Durand) would find her and with the 20th anniversary, Michael has returned to finish what he started.
Kevin Williamson wrote a treatment for the film, but apparently he was busy with other projects and was unable to write the screenplay, but there are drafts online for H20 with Williamson listed as the writer, but I can’t vouch for how legit they are. Robert Zappia was originally hired as the writer and even submitted a draft, which was liked, but once Jamie Lee Curtis signed on it needed a rewrite and Zappia was kept on and a couple of aspects of his script carried over into the final draft. The screenplay by Robert Zappia & Matt Greenberg is well written and for a 7th film it’s surprisingly excellent. I love the concept for the film and its great to see just what has become of Laurie 20-years later. I also like the change in her character from shy to a character with a bit more of an edge and take charge. The teen characters are also fairly strong, but no doubt the script is at its strongest when Laurie is the focus. Characters have some depth and the script unlike the past couple of films isn’t overly complicated and is back to the basics. H20 is very much a product of its time and the influence of Scream is quite obvious. Apparently Kevin Williamson did some uncredited writing and his style of writing is very much present.
Originally John Carpenter was in talks to direct, but when he ended up passing on it Steve Miner was brought on. Miner started off his career working on such films as Last House on the Left and Friday the 13th and made his directorial debut in 1981 with Friday the 13th Part 2, which of course was also Jason’s debut as the killer. Steve Miner than followed that up with Friday the 13th Part 3 so he’s no stranger to slasher films. Miner also directed such films as House, Soul Man and Warlock and made the underrated comedy My Father the Hero. Miner first worked with Jamie Lee Curtis on the film Forever Young, which also starred Mel Gibson and working with Jamie Lee on that film is what lead to him getting H20. Miner also directed various TV shows from the Wonder Years, the Practice, Chicago Hope, Dawson’s Creek and Psych to name a few. Steve Miner can be seen as a director for hire as he’s worked in various different genres and has more or less found success in them all, but its his work in the horror genre he’s most associated with. Whatever trend is popular at the time, Miner is a filmmaker that can deliver a film within the style of whatever trend is popular at that time. Many cite H20 as the one film in the series that captures the essence of the original, but I’d actually disagree with that. While there are clear homages to the original and Miner does take some cues from John Carpenter, but he crafts a more Scream like atmosphere. H20 is fun and well paced for most of the film, but the middle H20 does sort of hit a standstill. The one area that H20 follows the original is for a good bulk of the running time it’s a build up with Michael stalking his would be victims and while Steve Miner does create some strong suspense, but these scenes aren’t quite as strong as the original and the middle of the film does slightly lack and I think H20 could have possibly used maybe a death scene or two to keep the pace strong. However despite some slight pace issues, Miner still handles the middle sections well, but while entertaining it isn’t quite as strong as the opening and closing acts. Speaking of the closing Steve Miner very much gets the film back on track with quite an exciting final act. H20 only runs at 86-minutes and without credits it clocks in at under 80-minutes so the film moves on pretty fast and even if I felt there were some pace issues in the middle it’s never boring by any means and with the brief running time any lulls don’t last long. With H20 Miner directs one of the stronger sequels and one of my favorite horror films of the 90s. The following year after H20, Steve Miner would direct Lake Placid, which was written by the legendary TV writer/producer David E. Kelley and in my opinion was Miner’s best film, but H20 easily ranks as one of his best.
H20 marked the first film without Donald Pleasence in his iconic role of Dr. Loomis (not counting Halloween 3 of course). When I first saw H20 back when it was originally released it did feel a bit weird not seeing Pleasence and even over the years it still feels strange watching a Halloween film without Pleasence who passed away at the age of 75 in 1995, which impacted reshoots for Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers. This was also the first Halloween film not set in Haddonfield (again not counting Halloween 3). While it makes perfect sense the setting has changed, but Haddonfield very much became a character in the series. For the most part H20 gets the passing grade from fans of the series and while this one is a lot more Hollywood stylized it also has stated takes the series back to the basics. For me this was the last of the original series and I don’t even acknowledge Halloween: Resurrection, which for me was by far the worst of the series. H20 had the perfect ending to the series, but was ruined with Resurrection, which would have been easier to accept if the film turned out well, which for me and many others it sure didn’t. Overall Halloween H20: Twenty Years Later was a nice return to form for the series and was great having Jamie Lee Curtis return and it also helped make up to some degree the loss of Donald Pleasence. It’s a little annoying that Halloween 4-6 were ignored, but as stated there was little choice due to the formula getting overly complicated and more importantly would just have far too many questions. H20 was an overall entertaining film that should please most fans of the series.