Halloween H20: 20 Years Later (1998)

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Director:  Steve Miner
Studio:  Dimension Films
Starring:  Jamie Lee Curtis, Josh Hartnett
Tagline:  20 Years Ago, HE Changed the Face of Halloween.  Tonight, He’s Back!
MPAA Rating:  R
Genre:  slasher, stalker, psychopath, serial killer, masked murderer
Scare score:  B
Rating:  A-

Plot overview:  20 years after the events of the original film, we learn that Laurie Strode (Curtis) has faked her own death and is now living under the alias of Keri Tate, headmistress at a small private high school in Northern California.  Following the traumatic events of her younger years, she is a functioning alcoholic who lives in constant paranoia that she and her son John (Hartnett) still live in danger.  Her fears soon materialize when her brother Michael Meyers (Chris Durand) returns on Halloween night.

Okay, so the Halloween franchise gets a little tricky with this sequel, because it reneges all of the happenings of Halloween IV, Halloween V, and Halloween: The Curse of Michael Meyers.  In forgetting all about darling Jamie and the Curse of Thorn, this movie reintroduces former heroine Jamie Lee Curtis in the role of Laurie Strode, claiming that she faked her own death in order to escape from Michael.  We also get to take a break from the bleak landscape of Illinois as we move to the scenic and remote countryside of California (maybe the creative team at last realized it wasn’t worth faking autumn in its West Coast filming locations).

I’m so happy to have Jamie Lee Curtis back.  She does a wonderful job in this movie, especially because she finally realizes that she has to face the monster.  She has become fairly dynamic and believable, or as believable as one might think somebody dealing with her situation might be: drinking too much, trying and failing at numerous therapies, living in fear.  Laurie is no longer the innocent and weak young girl, but instead Keri is fed up and in control, as we see her go to extremes to stop Michael this time around.

It’s almost funny how many big names are in this movie; I love that in horror.  Rounding out the supporting cast we have the oversexed and annoying Adam Hann-Byrd playing the role of Charlie, John’s best friend; we also have the resilient and brave Molly (Michelle Williams), John’s girlfriend.  All cinema fans are treated to a cameo by Janet Leigh (notably of Psycho) – also notably Jamie Lee Curtis’ mom – playing the school secretary; we can get a small chuckle when she has a line telling Curtis that she can’t help but feel matronly.  In the very beginning of the film, we get to enjoy a fun appearance by a young Joseph Gordon-Levitt as he portrays a tough boy who helps look into the break in at his neighbor’s house.  Some comic relief is added to the plot through the school security guard Ronny, portrayed by LL Cool J.  Yes, I just mentioned LL Cool J in The Horror Blog, I know.  Lastly we have Josh Hartnett in his debut film.  Hartnett does a really convincing job as Curtis’ angsty and fed up teenage son who is looking for space and wanting to live a normal life.  Later in the film we see the desperate side of the young man as he escapes, injured, from his uncle.  There is some pretty good acting going on here.

Halloween fans are also treated to a cameo of Nancy Stephens as she continues her role from the first two films of Nurse Marion Chambers, friend and ex-caretaking of the late Dr. Loomis.  This is a major plot connecter as well, because by using the same character (and actress), it makes sense how some of Laurie Strode’s classified files might have been passed along – even if new fans (or old ones) didn’t realize she was the same person.

Aside from being another film about Curtis, this movie also heavily revolves around a group of four teenagers at the Hillcrest Academy.  This makes the film much more familiar to horror movie goers at the time who were all-too-used to teen slashers.  I like this core-four, if you well, headed by Hartnett.  They provide for a more or less likable and relatable group of characters (for younger viewers), as well as some enjoyable action during chase and kill scenes.


Michael is also more creative and dynamic in this film.  He’s back after 20 years to find his sister, and it seems as though nothing will stop him.  We see a more gentle side earlier on in the film when he leaves a mother and daughter unharmed, only robbing their car.  On the other hand, he finds a way to kill to innocent and unrelated neighborhood boys.  While he stays largely true to his kitchen knife in this movie, we are also treated to some more creative deaths or injuries.  Michael’s mask is decent in this movie, but I still find a problem with the large size of the eye holes.  Otherwise, while his movement isn’t the same as the first film, I do enjoy this interpretation.

Even more terrific than the murders in this movie is the suspense.  We are treated to some really spectacular suspense scenes that should leave all viewers with a decent personality on the edges of their seats.  Two that stand out are when Charlie drops the bottle opener into a garbage disposal in a sink – and of course he reaches in after it, unaware that Michael is behind him.  Later, as John and Molly are running from Michael, they get trapped in between a locked front door and a closed exterior gate.  As they squeeze against the door, they are mere inches out of Michael’s arm span and wielded knife.  It’s thrilling.

Final critique:  So far in the marathon, I would put Halloween H20 in my top 3 or 4 films from the series, just because it is fun and refreshing after we’ve been dealing with more forced or absent plots since the original film.  This movie is like a clean slate, and while it unfortunately erases the plot of Jamie’s existence is films IV, V, and VI, I’m happy to happy Jamie Lee Curtis back.  Though the marathon progresses, many people choose to view H20 as the final film in the true Halloween series, should you choose to wish Laurie finally defeats Michael.  All in all, it is an interesting movie that is both easy to watch and fun to get scared by.  It isn’t too scary, but the deaths and especially chase scenes are pretty excellent.  Recommended to anybody, but those who scare too easily might find themselves uncomfortable as always.