Horror aficionado, geek enthusiast, TV show trivia extraodinaire. I present to you: the one... the only... JEFF HAMMER!!! It was a no-brainer for me to ask Jeff Hammer if he would be interested in taking part in our Halloween Spooktacular. He's an amazing writer and you can find some of his writing over at The Resurrection of Zombie Podcast's website. His opinions are always so well put-together and incredibly thought-provoking, so it's my pleasure to present his review of Halloween H20: 20 Years Later here on Dreadful Reviews! - Channy Dreadful
Two years after the release of Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers, Jamie Lee Curtis decided it was time for an anniversary/ eunion film that would wrap up the Laurie Strode vs. Michael Myers story. I like to think that in reality Jamie just cared too much for this franchise to witness Michael hanging around Druid cults or men-in-black and saw the anniversary as an opportunity to make sure he never ended up in the hood, on a cruise ship or on a spaceship. However, given the fact that Moustapha Akkad turned down Carpenter's demand of $10 million to direct and Donald Pleasence had passed away, there's not much reunion left here. $10 million is a lot to ask in a film which only had a budget of $17 million, but Carpenter felt he deserved money that he hadn't made from the numerous sequels. The hefty price tag would have been worth it; I'd prefer to see Carpenter's end to the story he began. Instead, Friday the 13th Parts II and III director Steve Miner helmed Halloween H20: 20 Years Later.
We open October 28, 1998 with a pumpkin being carved by a random person in the most maniacal way I've ever witnessed and Mr. Sandman plays on a radio -- a callback to Halloween II. We are in Langdon, Illinois at the home of Marion Chambers (Nancy Stephens) who worked alongside Dr. Loomis. Her home has obviously been broken into, and we're treated to some nice tension building as she hears a sound coming from the corner of the house. This introduces us via jump scare to Marion's neighbor, Jimmy, who is played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt and is wearing a hockey mask and carrying a hockey stick. This is post-Scream and I'm perfectly fine with the nod to Jason, particularly since Miner is the director. Plus this is nearly Halloween and kids will try to scare people. After calling the police and checking out Marion's house, finding nothing, Jimmy and his friend Tony return to his home and Marion goes inside her own home. We see some of Dr. Loomis's work and watch as Marion discovers a Laurie Strode file has been stolen and slowly starts to realize Michael Myers has been there. We see in the background (in signature fashion) that he's still there. Marion realizes evil is still near as well and heads next door again, only to find the boys have been killed. As the police arrive at Marion's home she watches them as her neck is slit. So close, yet so far away. This feels very reminiscent to Scream when Casey watches as her parents enter their home as her neck is slit. The cops then notice the neighbor's home has also been broken into but fails to notice the car pulling out of its driveway. I mean... Whatever, this is a horror movie. This opening works for me in a big way. I love the inclusion of Mr. Sandman, I love JGL and Nancy Stephen's return -- the only returning cast other than Jamie Lee -- and I think it builds tension well. Sometimes nothing happens when we expect it to, and sometimes something does. Iit keeps you guessing.
We are reintroduced to Laurie Strode after a nightmare. I despise this trope as much as any now, but I'll give it a pass in 1998. We learn she now has a son, John (Josh Hartnett) and has a phobia about Halloween. This drives her to drink quite a lot, although not to drunkenness, and also causes her to be hyper-protective of her son which creates issues between them. She also sees The Shape in practically every reflective surface imaginable and occasionally mistakes people for her brother. Since Halloween is merely days away and she is convinced her brother will come back, she won't allow John to go on a class trip to Yosemite. I should have already mentioned that Laurie has assumed the name Keri Tate and is the headmistress of Hillcrest Academy, a private school where her son attends. John tends to sneak off school premises by getting in good with security guard Ronny (LL Cool J) who dreams of writing erotic novels. John gets busted off-campus and has an argument with his mother about her smothering nature. Laurie eventually decides that she will spend time with her suitor Will (Adam Arkin) and allow John to go on the Yosemite trip. Little does she know that he has already made plans with his girlfriend Molly (Michelle Williams) to stay behind with their sex-crazed friends Charlie and Sarah. It's plain to see where this is going. There's a scene I want to mention here that I find very cool, but a little problematic considering this film attempts to pick up twenty years after Part II, ignoring Parts IV through VI. In class taught by Laurie, Molly is discussing Mary Shelley's Frankenstein and making the point that Victor Frankenstein only confronts the monster after it has taken his entire family from him. The implication is that Laurie must stop Michael to protect her son. But for me this whole scenario is much better if Laurie has in fact given her daughter Jamie up for adoption after faking her own death, only to have Michael kill Jamie. This would make her far more similar to Victor Frankenstein in that she would be more complicit in his murders. Also if Jamie never existed, then wouldn't it make more sense for Laurie to want her son to be nowhere around during Halloween? For all she would know, Michael would only be coming for her. Wouldn’t it be better to get John out of harm's way? I know keeping Parts IV to VI canon would be a tough sell regardless, and there would be some timeline problems, so this is a minor issue.
Before Michael can get into the bodycount proper and so we have time to get to know the gang, he has to drive across country, and for good measure he steals a vehicle as a mother and her daughter stop to use a bathroom at a rest stop. Not particularly necessary. but another nice tense scene, no points lost from me.
Once Michael Myers arrives on campus we get standard horror fare: the expendable kids get hacked. Pretty cool use of a dumbwaiter though. At one point there's a chase involving John and Molly, at which point they are stuck just beyond knife's length of Michael who has the keys to the gate as they are locked out of the door just beyond the gate. Laurie opens the door just in time and we get the face off between Laurie and Michael with the door between. This entire sequence is well-done. Eventually we get the showdown we've been waiting for and it doesn't disappoint. Knives are thrown, tables are flipped, axes are wielded. Once Michael has seemingly been defeated, Ronny, who we thought was dead, stops Laurie from brutalizing the body further which we and Laurie, apparently, knows is a mistake. Laurie, armed with a policeman's gun and the axe from earlier steals an ambulance once Michael's body has been loaded into it. As she expects, Michael rises out of the body bag and she slams on the brakes flinging him through the window before running him over and eventually pinning him against a tree after the ambulance rolls down a hill. Laurie confronts Michael and after momentarily considering taking Michael's hand she lets loose with the axe severing Michael's head from his neck.
Overall, I consider this a very successful entry into the Halloween franchise. I love every decision made in the beginning. The bodycount kids and most of what happens at the school prior to Michael showing up is pretty blasé but serviceable. I think the final battles, and the eventual ending, is a particularly fitting end to the Laurie Strode/Michael Myers saga. Good triumphs over evil. Michael Myers is dead, barring the retcon to beat all retcons...
Jeff is the co-founder of Movie Stream Cast and the now-retired Zombie Reckoning Podcast. He was the first and occasional co-host of The Resurrection of Zombie 7 Podcast. You can find him occasionally tweeting about movies and television @JeffAllenHammer