Halloween: H20 debuted on the silver screen in 1998, 20 years after the original Halloween (1978), with a very talented and very 90s cast. It’s been roughly 20 years since the film, so I figured it would be a great time to rewatch it. Serial killer, Michael Myers (Chris Durand, Scream 2) returns to hunt down his prey in this film starring Scream Queen, Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis, Scream Queens), Josh Hartnett (Sin City), Michelle Williams (The Greatest Showman), and Adam Arkin (How to Get Away with Murder). We also get cameos by L.L. Cool J (NCIS: LA), Joseph Gordon-Levitt (Snowden), John Carpenter (Halloween) and Janet Leigh (Psycho), horror icon and Jamie Lee Curtis’ late mother. This seventh installment of the Halloween (Carpenter) franchise has innovative kills, nonstop suspense, and a cozy 90’s slasher charm. Directed by Steve Miner (Switched at Birth), based on characters by John Carpenter (Halloween), and adapted from a Kevin Williamson (Scream) story, this is one 90’s slasher you just shouldn’t miss. The film opens with the soft lullaby/horror soundtrack staple, “Mr. Sandman” sung by The Chordettes we know so well from previous films. As the soft “bum, bum, bum” lyrics from the song play across a strike of thunder, a large kitchen knife slices through a pumpkin. Foreshadowing the future murders Michael will commit with his famous kitchen knife, a young mother continues stabbing at a pumpkin to her children’s delight. All over the neighborhood of Langdon, Illinois, blonde, white families prepare for Halloween. The date is October 29, 1998, and a chain-smoking nurse, Marion (Nancy Stephens, Halloween) walks to her house to find her front door bashed in. As Marion crunches shards of glass, I don’t feel that bad for her imminent murder. It’s 1998 and she still smokes cigarettes and has a glass front door? Since stupidity itself breaks the rules of horror, we know this nurse is fucking dead. Marion looks around her neighbor’s house when a guy in a hockey mask jumps out at her. Luckily, it’s just her adorable teen neighbor, Jimmy (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) not Jason Voorhees (Friday the 13th). Although Jimmy is cautioned to wait for the police before inspecting the house, he cracks his best Ace Ventura (Jim Carrey) and says, “now where’s the fun in that?” Armed with nothing more than a hockey stick, Jimmy pokes around the house, taunting the killer, “been suspended five times this year already, for gettin’ a little crazy with the stick!” Eerie you’re gonna die music accompanies Jimmy as he wanders around the house and eventually leaves with some stolen booze. Nurse Chain-smoker returns to her house, despite having survived the first two Halloweens, she seems to think this is a good idea. She shines a light on a framed picture of former patient, Dr. Sam Loomis (Donald Pleasence), Michael Myers’ old psychologist. She finds that a file labeled “Laurie Strode” is missing its contents. It becomes evident that this is not your average smash and grab. Michael Myers is back. Marion runs into Jimmy’s house to find his corpse rocking in an armchair, a classic case of death-by-hockey-skate. It’s unclear how Jimmy was really killed since a hockey skate to the face would shatter the skull, not present such a cleanly sliced face. Michael appears at the open door, towering over Marion in his classic white mask and blue onesie. Marion runs as Michael unsheathes a kitchen knife and walks slowly after her. The cops finally arrive and bumble around muttering, “it’s a prank” as Marion screams, “in here!” While the cops wander around, we watch Michael slit the nurse’s throat. Dark, red blood oozes from the wound and she dies instantly, her corpse falling to the floor. A retro car drives away, seemingly driven by Michael Myers as detectives arrive on the scene. The detectives give us a rehash of the past twenty years of Halloween movies, reminding us that Laurie Strode is one badass Final Girl. Laurie Strode is such a unique Final Girl because she is one of the few Final Girl mothers in horror existence. Most Final Girls like Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell, Scream) and Nancy Thompson (Heather Langenkamp, A Nightmare on Elm St.) lived by Barbie’s two rules: no kids, no husband. While Nancy didn’t survive long enough to have kids and Sidney chose not to, neither Final Girl became a mother. The 1998 Laurie Strode is a refreshing take on the Final Girl because she is an intelligent, successful, working mother. Laurie Strode has come a long way from high school goodie-goodie in the 1978 original. Going by the name, Keri Tate, Laurie is now a highly respected English teacher and the Headmistress of a posh private boarding school in Northern California. Pixie-haired Laurie has also landed the hot Guidance Counselor, Will, played by dollar store George Clooney, Adam Arkin. Independent, hardworking Laurie also plays the role of single mother, doing her best to raise her 17-year-old son, John (Josh Hartnett). It is admirable that Laurie can manage being a mother, teacher, dean, girlfriend, and overall badass considering the great physical and emotional trauma she has suffered. Her son, John only sees his mother as the functioning alcoholic with severe PTSD that he must take care of. John doesn’t even believe Michael is still alive and intelligently states how his mother’s trauma is affecting his development. While Kevin Williamson didn’t have time to write this screenplay, he did write the story on which this screenplay is based. Because of that, we get that Williamson dry wit and humor we know from his infamous works, the Scream franchise, Dawson’s Creek (1998), and The Vampire Diaries (2009). Williamson was busy during 1998 working on Dawson’s Creek and The Faculty, another slasher starring Josh Hartnett. Although Williamson is only credited in H20 as an executive producer, his presence is felt with the witty dialogue and various horror allusions. (Williamson wrote a great deal of the content, but the other screenwriter did not want to share the writing credit. This cost the H20 promotion team a lot, since they could no longer present the film as coming from “the creator of Scream.) Since it’s been 20 years since H20 and 40 years since the original, let’s recap the story of the Halloween franchise. Laurie’s brother, Michael first committed murder at the age of six when he killed their sister, Judith in Haddonfield, Illinois, Halloween night, 1963. Michael was institutionalized at Smith’s Grove Sanitarium under the care of psychologist Sam Loomis. While it is stated several times that Dr. Loomis is a psychiatrist, he engages in therapy sessions with Michael and knows very little about pharmacology, making him a psychologist. In the original Halloween, Michael breaks out of the sanitarium on October 30, 1978. Dr. Loomis rushes back to Haddonfield to warn everyone about the serial killer on the loose. Despite Dr. Loomis’ help throughout the Halloween franchise, Michael continues to kill teenagers, hoping to finally kill his only remaining sibling, Laurie Strode. While Halloween Resurrection (2002) is considered the final part of the franchise, I think H20 as the final Halloween. Resurrection is little more than an exercise in white guilt, where director, Rick Rosenthal (Halloween II, 1981), throws Busta Rhymes, Tyra Banks, and Sean Patrick Thomas together for no fucking reason. And because of the way H20 ends, there is no way Michael Myers could possibly survive. Resurrection filmmakers attempted to justify Michael’s living status in Resurrection by saying it wasn’t really him at the end of H20. Bullshit. Jump to Halloween day, 1998, and we meet single mother, Laurie Strode, screaming through a nightmare of her brother trying to kill her. Laurie initially developed PTSD at age two when her brother, Michael killed her sister. Fast forward after twenty years of Michael attempting to kill Laurie, and she is one fucked up individual. PTSD symptoms are well-known, hypervigilance, nightmares, panic attacks, confusion, anger, and a high risk of substance abuse, and Laurie has them all. Since PTSD has no known cure (although ecstasy sure does fucking help), the litany of pharmaceuticals combined with bottles of white wine does little to assuage Laurie’s completely rational fear that someone is going to kill her. Something I’ve always loved about horror is its accurate portrayal of mental illness. So rarely do conditions like PTSD, depression, or anxiety get portrayed correctly in television and film. Yet PTSD which is inherent to most slasher-survivors is often heavily researched and very well-portrayed in horror. Think I Spit on Your Grave (1978), Scream (1996), The Vampire Diaries (2009), Urban Legend (1998). These works portrayed characters with PTSD as real people with real symptoms. All too often PTSD is conflated with military service when it mostly affects civilians who have suffered great trauma. Because Laurie Strode has experienced repeated trauma, her PTSD is quite severe, affecting her ability to be mother of the year or focused English teacher. Laurie does well in her various roles, but the pain behind her eyes is evident in her hypervigilant, yet distant Final Girl. Unlike most Final Girls, Laurie is faced with running a school, teaching English, and raising a very unruly Josh Hartnett, her son, John. The theme of survivor-as-mother repeats through this film as Laurie’s real life, late mother, Janet Leigh plays sweetheart secretary Norma (as in, Norman Bates of the most prolific mother-themed film, Psycho, 1960). There are also references to Psycho, the Oedipal Complex, and Frankenstein (1818) throughout the film. Frankenstein fits within the dysfunctional mother-child relationship as Shelley wrote the novel to deal with the loss of her two-week-old baby. Laurie’s role as Final Girl hellbent on survival conflicts with her mother role, who desperately wants her son to be a normal teenager. It’s heartbreaking to watch the psychological damage inflicted on her son, John, as Laurie drinks uncontrollably, and yells at her son when he shows any semblance of independence. John tells his mother, “your over-protection and paranoia is inhibiting my growth process … I need a little more open air. I’ve earned it.” To make matters worse, John has just turned 17, the age when Michael Myers tends to kill his victims. John wants nothing more than to go on a trip with his girlfriend, Molly (Michelle Williams) and friends Charlie (Adam Hann-Byrd, Jumanji) and Sarah (Jodi Lyn O’Keefe, Vampire Diaries). But Headmistress Laurie Strode has other plans for her son’s Halloween. As a Final Girl, Laurie’s number one priority is ensuring her survival along with her loved ones. If you’re reading this column for the first time, or just need a refresher, the concept of the Final Girl is as widespread as fake tits and serial killers in horror. Final Girls characteristically rescue themselves, kill who they must, and move on. Horror critic, Carol Clover explains the term in her text, Men Women and Chainsaws: Gender in the Modern Horror Film: The Final Girl (1) undergoes agonizing trials, and (2) … destroys the antagonist and saves herself. She is not a heroine … but a hero … one that destroys its adversaries … In our world fear itself is gendered feminine… yet with The Final Girl, triumphant self rescue is no longer strictly gendered masculine. The Final Girl is the ultimate feminist symbol–a badass chick who can rescue herself. This is an archetype not specific to horror–but I would argue it’s a pretty big trope. Two sub-genres of horror, slashers and rape-revenge films are both dedicated to Final Girls. The Halloween franchise falls under the horror subgenre of psychological horror as it deals with mental illness and the psychology behind serial killers. This is not to be confused with a psychological thriller where an old white guy runs around in the rain, absent any gruesome deaths or actual horror. Laurie is one of the most famous Final Girls and does what she can to save her son and everyone else Michael is after. But this is a teen slasher, so teens must die, despite Laurie’s efforts to protect them. Laurie begins to see serial killer, Michael Myers everywhere, in windows, her dreams, her waking life. Symptomatic of PTSD, neither Laurie nor the viewer can tell whether Michael is actually present. Not only has Laurie changed her name to Keri, she also faked her own death in attempts to escape Michael. Keri/Laurie now runs the prestigious Hillcrest Academy following the divorce of her abusive, chain-smoking, methadone-addict ex-husband. As a Final Girl, Laurie is constantly in a state of deep self-reflection while mired in a condition that forces her to act without thought. After more reflection, Laurie finally agrees to let John goes to Yosemite with his friends in the annual school camping trip. When John’s girlfriend Molly can’t afford to go on the trip, they decide to bail and throw their own Halloween party with friends, Charlie and Sarah. An abandoned school, stolen liquor, four teenagers, and a serial killer on the loose, what could go wrong? Luckily the school is being guarded by buff security agent, Ronny (L.L. Cool J). However, Ronny is more interested in writing erotic novels and talking to his wife than protecting students. Whether Ronny can truly protect people from the Michael Myers remains to be seen. But Ronny appears to be afraid of Laurie which does not bode well for anyone under his defense. Just as we suspect, Michael slips past Ronny and cuts power to the school. While Counselor Will tries to get into Laurie’s pants, Laurie deflects his sexual advancements by finally coming clean about her real name. Will laughs at first then becomes horrified as he realizes she is telling the truth. Sexual anorexia is another characteristic of the Final Girl. Final Girls typically abstain from sex like Carrie, Sidney Prescott, Nancy, and so on. Sidney Prescott is the only Final Girl to date who actually had sex and survived. Because Scream creator Wes Craven died before he could make Scream 5, it’s unclear whether he would’ve killed off Sidney Prescott. Either way, Sidney is the only exception to this rule. Denying sex is not some feminist bullshit women do to get men in control, it’s symptomatic of PTSD. Since sex requires vulnerability, that would mean women like Carrie, Sidney, and Laurie would have to trust men. Because of repeated trauma, these women ignore the sexual advances of men as sex could trigger a PTSD flashback, panic attack, fit of rage, or all of the above. It is not uncommon for female survivors of trauma to avoid sex which makes them great Final Girls. Slashers are heavily rule-driven and one of the greatest rules is never, ever have sex. By abstaining from sex, it becomes clear that Laurie Strode is here to survive this Halloween too. Back on campus, Laurie is startled by busy-body secretary, Norma (Janet Leigh, Psycho). Norma says, “Everyone is entitled to one good scare,” which is what the sheriff said in the original 1978 Halloween. While Laurie and Ronny scour the campus for the killer, Sarah and Charlie prepare a feast for the group, joining John and Molly in an abandoned dorm. The couple exchange sexual innuendos and Charlie has already stolen booze so it’s clear they’re going to die. Soon. Just as expected, Charlie utters the deadly phrase, “I’ll be right back” then dies at the hands of Michael, who slits his throat with a bottle opener. As we know from slasher expert Randy Meeks of Scream: There are certain rules one must abide in order to successfully survive a horror movie, rule number one, you can never have sex … Big no-no! Big no-no! Rule number two, you can never drink or do drugs … It’s the sin factor. An extension of number one. And number three, never, ever, under any circumstances say, “I’ll be right back.” Because you won’t be back. And boom, Sarah finds the corpse of her boyfriend Charlie on the dumb-waiter, eyes glazed over like a dead fish. (After that, we don’t see much of the actor who played Charlie. However, the actor playing Sarah becomes a badass Final Girl of her own, later working with Kevin Williamson in The Vampire Diaries). Sarah jumps into the dumb-waiter with Charlie’s corpse, hoping to ride to safety. But Michael cuts the rope to the classy contraption, and it drops right on Sarah’s leg, breaking it. Wounded Sarah is no match for Michael, who stabs her to death as she pleads, “please, please.” John and Molly follow the trail of blood hoping their friends are playing a sick joke. Suddenly Michael appears and does his classic head tilt. John suddenly realizes that his mother may be crazy, but Michael is definitely not dead. What’s always so eerie about Michael’s mask is that it shows no emotion. The inability to read someone’s emotions is what drives people’s fear of clowns. Clowns’ expressions are painted on so that the human emotions beneath cannot be read. Fear of reading others’ emotions is left over from our days as cavepeople when we developed that fight or flight response. A lack of emotions also suggests Michael’s underlying sociopathy, his complete lack of remorse for his murders. Scream was revolutionary with its mask, as it is one of the few horror masks to actually show emotion. The Scream mask is innovative because its emotions mock the scream victims make before their death. Laurie’s son, John gets Molly to safety in the woods, when Michael pops out. John punches Michael several times in the face before he is overpowered by the brute force of the serial killer. Molly proves her worth as a possible Final Girl when she hits Michael over the head with a large rock, allowing the couple to escape from Michael. In one of the most suspenseful scenes in the film, Molly fumbles with keys to unlock a wrought iron gate. Hitchcockian time moves quickly, as Michael nears closer with every second. Trapped beneath the gate and Laurie’s front door, Michael stabs at the couple with his kitchen knife. In edge-of-your-seat suspense, the soundtrack comes in with “dun, dun … dun, dun” and it’s hard to breathe as we watch Michael taunt his victims. H20 is unique as a remake in that it does not have a contemporary soundtrack. While slasher remakes in the 1990’s and early 2000’s are known for their badass metal soundtracks filled with Iron Maiden, Disturbed, Manson, Nine Inch Nails, Linkin Park, and more, H20 relies on classic horror violin and piano. The combination of classical horror music and Hitchcock-level suspense makes this one of the most nail-biting slasher remakes ever made. I seriously feel like I’m going to have a heart attack every time I watch this film, it’s that good. If you’re not a horror fan, you might be thinking, you want to feel like you’re having a heart attack? Yes, yes, I fucking do. Research has shown that slasher films actually lower people’s stress and anxiety as it is a cathartic experience. Just as John screams, “Somebody open the fucking door!” Michael manages to get the gate open and is seconds away from slicing and dicing. Laurie appears in the door window and opens up to let John and Molly in safely. In a shot reminiscent of so many Halloween films, Laurie and Michael stare at each other through the window. Laurie brandishes a revolver, but Michael is gone. Back inside with Laurie and Will, John and Molly tell Laurie about their dead friends. Will isn’t much help and it’s clear he’s going to die soon too. It’s not Will isn’t masculine enough as slashers aren’t about gendered characters. With survivors, killers, and victims, gender becomes irrelevant as those roles are dictated by behavior. It’s just that Will doesn’t seem all that street-smart. He doesn’t even own a weapon. Still, Laurie is a badass Final Girl, so she doesn’t mind being the protector. The four survivors amble up the stairs in attempts to escape the killer. Laurie screams, “Do as I say!” which was spoken in the original films and puts her son and his girlfriend in a room and locks it. Will, who has apparently never fired a fucking gun, grabs Laurie’s gun and shoots at Michael. Well, actually Will shoots at who he thinks is Michael. But as any scared white guy with a gun tends to, Will actually shot Ronny, the only Black man around. Great work, Will, you fucking bitch. Laurie mourns the loss at Ronny who looks fairly dead. But a Final Girl never mourns too long and Laurie screams, “Will!” in attempts to warn her boyfriend but it’s too late. Michael guts Will like a fish and leaves his quivering body a foot above the ground, his knife holding it up. Laurie has no time to mourn the dime store George Clooney and runs away from Michael, hatching a plan to kill him as she goes. She cleverly smears blood on a closet door, her old hiding spot, which distracts him. Laurie grabs John and Molly from the storage closet and leads them out of the building. Just as Laurie gets the kids into the car she goes to start the engine. We’re in a slasher so the engine takes its time, but the three drive away just as Michael reaches the car. They reach the gates of the school and Laurie jumps out to open the gate. She’s about to get back into the car when her Final Girl senses tingle. She can’t just run from Michael for the rest of her life, she must kill this motherfucker once and for all. In a fit of rage only mothers have when protecting their children, Laurie screams at John to drive off without her. “Go down the street to the Becker’s,” Laurie yells, an allusion to the original Scream (1996). In Scream, opening scene victim, Casey Becker (Drew Barrymore), is survived by her parents, one of whom says, “Drive to the McKenzie’s” an allusion to the original Halloween (1978). Again, although Williamson isn’t credited as a writer, this H20 allusion to his slasher Scream shows his influence on the story. In the final showdown between the killer and Final Girl, Laurie grabs an ax and heads after Michael. Laurie stabs at Michael repeatedly but knife-fighting isn’t exactly her forte. She pushes Michael off the balcony and he crashes to the ground below. Laurie knows the horror rule to never, ever assume the killer is dead and goes after Michael. Just as she goes to stab him again, Ronny reappears alive and stops her saying, “he’s dead.” As Ronny calls his wife to brag about surviving the attacks, Laurie notices the coroner driving off with Michael’s body. Laurie’s not having this shit. Assuming Michael’s dead? Rookie mistake. Laurie GTA’s the van from the coroner and drives off as her son watches in disbelief. Just as we suspected, Michael is alive and begins to unzip himself from the coroner’s bag as Laurie drives on. Keeping Michael in her sights through the rearview mirror, Laurie drives down windy, dark roads. Just as Michael approaches Laurie, she slams on the brakes, and Michael goes flying through the windshield of the van. Physics, bitch! Michael’s body remains motionless on the ground, but not for long. Michael gets up and Laurie hits the gas, slamming into Michael with the car. The two share a loving look as they both tumble down a large hill. Laurie is thrown from the car and survives because this is Laurie fucking Strode. But Michael just stands there, motionless, as the revolving van tumbles towards him. It lands with a crash, slamming right into Michael’s body (most likely) killing him. Again, never, ever assume the killer is dead. Laurie recovers her ax and ambles towards Michael, wounded and limping. In one of the most powerful scenes in the film, Laurie looks at her brother and says, “Michael,” as if she’s about to give him another chance. Michael is still alive and reaches out towards her, his emotionless mask now projecting feigned remorse instead of its usual sociopathic indifference. For a few moments, we’re unsure whether Laurie can truly kill her brother. Their bloody fingers touch for a few seconds. Then we remember who the fuck we’re dealing with as Laurie swings the ax, decapitating Michael, sending his head rolling down the hill. The original Halloween theme song comes in as Laurie fulfills her ultimate task as Final Girl, killing the killer. Laurie stands over Michael’s dead body, panting, as she comes to terms with what she’s done. Final Girls can turn off their humanity, at times not feeling remorse for the actions they take to survive. This also allows them to keep emotional distance from people, so Final Girls don’t feel as much pain when everyone around them dies. Final Girls are the embodiment of power in the face of physical and emotional violence. They are symbols of justice in a world where violence against women bears no consequence. Unlike real life, women in horror actually get revenge. Horror Geek Trivia (IMDB) John Carpenter was originally in the running to be the director for this film since Jamie Lee Curtis wanted to reunite the original cast and crew. Carpenter agreed to direct the movie, but his starting fee as director was $10 million. Moustapha Akkad denied Carpenter’s fee so Carpenter walked away. Norma once stands in front the car from Psycho (1960) with music playing from Psycho. Janet Leigh, who plays Norma, played Marion in Psycho. The license plate on the car is the second car Marion buys in Psycho, NFB 418, Norman Bates’ initials. On the television in the girls’ room a clip from Scream 2 (1997) is showing, reciprocating numerous Halloween (1978) references and clips in Scream (1996). The shortest Halloween movie in the series, with a run time of 86 minutes. Before he knew Jamie Lee Curtis was involved, Josh Hartnett wasn’t sure he wanted to audition. “Halloween 7? Is that going straight to video, or is that going straight to hell?” This film’s sequel Halloween: Resurrection (2002) is so reviled by fans of the Halloween franchise, some wish to ignore it as if it never existed, and view this as the series’ finale. The original working title for the film was Halloween 7: The Revenge of Laurie Strode. See larger image Halloween H20: 20 Years Later [Blu-ray] This smart and suspenseful thriller scares up a bone-chilling good time with original scream queen Jamie Lee Curtis (You Again) and a hot cast of hip young stars! Now the headmistress of a private school, Laurie Strode (Curtis) is still struggling with the horrifying, 20-year-old memories of the maniacal killer Michael Myers…when he suddenly reappears with a vengeance. Laurie’s rebellious son (Josh Hartnett, 30 Days of Night), his girlfriend (Michelle Williams, Shutter Island), and the school security guard (LL Cool J, TVs NCIS: Los Angeles) will become Michael’s newest victims unless Laurie can conquer her greatest fears and put evil in its place once and for all. The time has come again for you to experience the frightening fun of Halloweenthe motion picture series that totally redefined terror. New From: $37.99 USD In Stock Share this:TweetShare on TumblrLike this:Like Loading... Related Leave a Reply Cancel ReplyYou must be logged in to post a comment.