Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (September 24, 2023)
After two flop sequels in the late 1980s, the Halloween franchise went dead again for six years. When it returned via 1995’s The Curse of Michael Myers, audiences continued to avoid it, as it made a bad-even-for-1995 $15 million.
Like its lead villain, though, the Halloween series wouldn’t stay dead, and that led to 1998’s Halloween H20. The title referred to the 20th anniversary of the original movie and also brought the return of Jamie Lee Curtis as Laurie Strode, the hero of the 1978 film.
This became good enough to inspire an actual hit. H20 snagged a more than adequate $55 million in the US, a figure that made it one of the most successful of the Halloween flicks.
Strangely, the studio waited another four years for a sequel, but that’ll be the subject of another review. Though prior movies indicated that Laurie died, H20 reveals that she faked her demise so she could hide from her past.
Now known as “Keri Tate”, Laurie acts as the dean of a private school in Northern California. Despite her best efforts, Laurie’s history haunts her, which means she experiences alcohol abuse issues.
Laurie still fears the return of Michael, and that contributes to a rift with teen son John (Josh Hartnett). The truth comes out when Michael (Chris Durand) learns of Laurie’s whereabouts and comes after her.
Between Curse in 1995 and H20 in 1998, one important event impacted the horror universe: the release of 1996’s hit film Scream. After all those bad Friday the 13th, Halloween and Nightmare on Elm Street sequels, the genre sputtered, as no new franchises captured the public attention.
Scream revived horror and updated it for the ironic 90s. This brought a long list of wannabe films that used the same self-referential template.
That means H20 reflects the series’ past in a way not previously embraced. In addition to Laurie, we get the return of other long-gone characters and winks like the use of “Mr. Sandman”, a tune that featured prominently in 1981’s Halloween II.
Curiously, I get the impression H20 pretends that Halloween 4, Halloween 5 and Curse of Michael Myers didn’t exist. H20 seems to work from the notion that Laurie never had the daughter seen in those films, so H20 feels like an extension of Halloween II without recognition of other stories.
Which might not be the worst decision, given how bad those three films were. Unfortunately, H20 does nothing to better them.
To be clear, H20 strongly reflects the ironic/self-referential tone of Scream. It brings back minor cast from some earlier films and winks at us via the use of Curtis’s mother Janet Leigh in a small role.
Heck, H20 even nods toward Leigh’s famous part in Psycho in a few ways. I’ll leave those unmentioned here, but the movie likes its Easter eggs.
Those would be fine if the film felt like it had anything new to say. Unfortunately, H20 comes across as just more of the same old, same old. Despite the return of Laurie, H20 mostly offers yet another story of horny teens who get threatened/killed by Michael.
Despite the movie’s potential for psychodrama ala issues connected to Laurie, it doesn’t explore them well. The movie essentially lacks a plot and just uses story points as an excuse for more slaughter.
Like Curse, H20 does offer intrigue due to its then-unknown castmembers. In Curse, we got a pre-fame Paul Rudd, while H20 gives us early work from Hartnett, Michelle Williams, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt.
That might be enough for some viewers, as it’s often fun to see famous actors in their formative years. No other pleasures result from this trite, predictable tale, however.