Reviewing a Cult Franchise – Halloween H20: 20 Years Later (1998)

After ‘Halloween VI’, the fate of the entire Halloween franchise was put into question. Then again, that could be said for every major horror franchise at that point. The only moderately successful horror ‘sequel’ at that point was ‘Wes Craven’s: A New Nightmare (1994)’, a fresh spin on the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise from the immensely talented and dearly missed, Wes Craven. Although it was the lowest grossing worldwide of all the Nightmare on Elm Street series, it was the one that gained the most positive reviews in the early 90’s. But we’re not here to talk about Nightmare on Elm Street (not yet anyway), we’re here to talk about ‘Halloween H20’ so I’m going to talk about a completely different film all together.

I mentioned in the last review that one of the possible factors as to why ‘Halloween VI’ didn’t do so well (apart from it being crap) was that the endless sequels that were being pumped out through the 80’s had dribbled into the 90’s and people were kind of bored with nothing interesting to go and see apart from the next installment of a popular series that was made by someone who doesn’t know what the fuck is going on… or another imitator. For all intents and purposes, the horror genre was dead.

That was until the December of 1996 when ‘Scream’ was released upon an unsuspecting audience. Written by the brilliant Kevin Williamson, directed by Wes Craven and distributed by Dimension Films, ‘Scream’ exceeded all expectations by getting the horror fans back on board with its self referential humour, interesting characters and a truly terrifying villain. It put a new spin on the modern day slasher film and what with Mr Williamson being a fan of the Halloween franchise, his favourite movie got several mentions and homages.

The idea to do a seventh Halloween movie came from the star of the original movie, Jamie Lee Curtis. She was made aware that it was close to the 20th anniversary of the release of the first Halloween movie and her concept for the movie was regrouping with Laurie Strode to see how she’s getting on 20 years after she was nearly hacked to death by her brother. As time went on and a script came together, this is the full plot overview.

20 years after Laurie Strode escaped Michael, She’s living in rural California with her 17 year old son, John (Josh Hartnett). She’s the headmistress of a posh school in the hills and is having an affair with one of her teachers, Will Brennan (Adam Arkin). But behind her job, her life as a mother and her lover, she is constantly haunted by that fateful night in 1978 in her dreams and has turned to drink in order to cope. But her problems have only just started. Michael’s in town and he’s up for a family reunion.

Uh oh.

The first thing to say is that ‘Halloween H20’ takes a very bold move by completely denying everything that happened from ‘Hallowen II’ onwards. All of that, it never happened. This is Halloween III as it should have been, albeit 16 years late. But having said that, ‘H20’ does it’s best to keep as much continuity as it can.

For example, Nancy Stephens reprises her role from ‘Halloween I & II’ as Marion Wittington/Chambers for the opening scene. Michael has trashed her house to find a file in her house as to Laurie’s whereabouts. Marion is then killed along with her teenage neighbours. Marion is revealed to have been taking care of Dr Loomis until he died. When the police enter Dr Loomis’ room, they see that his wall is plastered with newspaper clippings, pictures and information which just goes to show that Dr Loomis knew that Michael was still out there.

Another nice cameo is from Jamie’s mother, Janet Leigh. She’s Laurie’s secretary and even drives the same car that her character did in ‘Psycho (1960)’, Also, when Ms Leigh’s character is going to her car, the same musical sting from ‘Psycho’ is played.

Once again, this movie made an effort to go back to basics. There are fewer characters than in previous films and once again, are able to be developed a little bit more. Although some of the kids do where their character traits on their sleeves.

When Michael’s not around, the plot revolves around Laurie and her degrading relationship with her son. John wants more independence to go on a school trip but Laurie forbids it. It seems that although Michael hasn’t shown up in 20 years, Laurie still believes that he is out there and looking for her.

Speaking of Michael, those with a keen eye will notice that more than one mask was used during the making ‘H20’. At least four were used during the production including a CGI mask that was used when some footage could not be re-shot. A fair bit of recycling went on also. A scene from ‘Halloween IV’ that could not be shot made it into ‘H20’. The scene where Laurie is hiding underneath the school tables and Michael starts flipping the tables was originally meant to be in ‘Halloween IV’ with little Jamie underneath the table.

I have to say that the final act is very empowering in this movie. At the moment when her son is attacked and stabbed in the leg by Michael Myers, Laurie gets him and his girlfriend, Molly (Michelle Williams) to safety. She tells them to go and call the police. When the people she loves are safe, Laurie grabs an axe and goes back into the school to sort shit out. It’s a massive turn for her character. It’s basically her saying, ‘I’ve spent my whole life running and I won’t do it anymore. I will fight to be free, or I’ll die trying because a life lived in fear, is no life at all.’ It’s kinda kick-ass.

Also the very ending is pretty fucking final. Laurie is very aware that Michael is hard to put down. She drives him away and crashes the private ambulance that’s taking his body away. With Michael trapped and helpless, he reaches out a hand. Laurie’s not buying any of it. She immediately cuts his head off with the axe just as sirens blare in the background.

With a budget of $17 Million, ‘Halloween H20: 20 Years Later’ took in a magnificent $85 Million worldwide, making it the highest grossing Halloween film of the original franchise.

In conclusion, ‘Halloween H20: 20 Years Later’ is the closest to the original that the series has ever gotten and will ever get. But where can the series go from here, Michael’s dead. Well… it turns out that there was a tiny clause in the original contract that no one knew about.

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