Halloween H20: Twenty Years Later (1998) is directed by Steve Miner and follows original heroine Laurie Strode as she fights to protect herself and her son on Halloween night twenty years after he came home. Prior to this rewatch, I had some pretty fond memories of this movie. I remembered it being a fun and very slick 90s slasher flick. After this rewatch, I can confirm that that is definitely what it is. H20 is a great return to form for the franchise, as well as giving a great ending to Laurie Strode’s story.
The cast is great, bringing back Jamie Lee Curtis in the role that kicked off her career and made her a scream queen. She does great work in this, bringing back a familiar character with the added depth of motherhood. Curtis brings a ferocity and protectiveness to this role that is very effective. Josh Hartnett was really good as Laurie’s son, John. This was his first movie, which he shot at the same time as The Faculty. He brings charm and authenticity to the rebellious teen trope that John occupies. The cast also features Michelle Williams, LL Cool J, Jodi Lynn O’Keefe, Adam Hann-Byrd, and a fantastic final appearance by Nancy Stephens as Nurse Chambers. Chris Durand plays Michael Myers this time around, and he brings a sense of urgency to the character along with a very real fury. If you impede Michael in any way, it is not going to end well for you, and Durand plays up the usage of Michael’s eyes frequently.
Steve Miner is a veteran slasher director, as he directed Friday the 13th Part 2 and Part 3. His skill at setting up kills and cranking up the tension is on full display. His Director of Photography, Daryn Okada (Lake Placid, Phantasm II) sets up some really slick cinematography, bringing Halloween into the very 90s style of slasher. I say slick in the most complimentary way that I can. Sometimes a movie that is too slick feels overdirected or one that looks too much like a movie to get invested in. Okada just shoots a film that glides on by, and it is very visually appealing. He, by no way, is the best of the franchise, but the film still looks great.
I have heard many people reference H20 as Halloween meets Scream. I am not sure if I would completely agree with that, as it does not dive headlong into the kind of deconstructive dialogue or self aware characters that Scream does. It definitely makes more of an effort to make its characters more entertaining and funny. There is some great dialogue in this film, a lot of which is handed to LL Cool J, who does great work with what he is given. Do the writers, Robert Zappia and Matt Greenburg, subvert any of the genre cliches? At least where the teens are concerned, not really. They still do some dumb things: dropping keys on the ground and struggling to get them and the like. Where this film really changes is in the final twenty minutes, when Laurie Strode decides she’s done being a victim and is done running. This finale might be my favorite in the franchise, as it makes Laurie into a believable, intimidating badass.
The kills are fine. None are series best, but there are some pretty good ones. The best kill in the film, however, occurs at the end. It is a thing of grotesque beauty. The musical score of the film, this time led by James Ottman, is really great. Ottman is one of my favorite composers working in Hollywood. He brings a bigger, more epic score to the film which adds to the feeling that this is the finale of the franchise. In doing this, he sacrifices a lot of the atmosphere that previous series composer Alan Howarth brought to each film. I didn’t find the musical score to be all that threatening or looming, but it definitely works in the final twenty minutes. The music that is playing throughout the ultimate battle is fantastic and definitely lends an epic quality to the proceedings.
As for negatives, like I said earlier, the kills aren’t spectacular. The most annoying aspect of this movie however is its most public issue: the mask(s). There are three different physical masks in this film and they change from scene to scene. Every time they change, they take me out of the movie instantly because they appear so weird. To make matters worse, H20 also features an awful-looking CG mask. This might not sound like a big deal, but when you’re ripped out of the film in almost every scene, it becomes a sizable problem.
Overall, Halloween H20: Twenty Years Later (1998) is a great entry in the franchise. It features great performances, some great writing and characters, and one of the best finales in a slasher film. It’s hampered by some middling kills and some inconsistent character design for the villain. Even with that, I think this is one of the best slasher sequels of all time and one that shouldn’t be overlooked.