‘Halloween H20’ Is An Underappreciated Horror Gem
Photo: Lionsgate

‘Halloween H20’ Is An Underappreciated Horror Gem

When Jamie Lee Curtis returned as Laurie Strode in 2018's Halloween,  a direct sequel to John Carpenter's classic 1978 original, ditching all of the baggage that the franchise had accumulated over the years, horror fans were ecstatic. The Halloween franchise, however, had already done something very similar 20 years earlier with Halloween H20: 20 Years Later.

Goofy title notwithstanding, the H20 movie brought Curtis back in the role that made her famous, and pitted her Laurie Strode against Michael Myers 20 years after the events of the first film. The biggest difference between Halloween 20 Years Later and Halloween (2018) is that H20 acknowledges the first sequel, which positions Michael as Laurie's brother, while Halloween (2018) ignores the unpopular reveal and positions itself as an immediate successor to the original film.

In spite of some missteps - such as the fact that Michael Myers's H20 masks are all wildly off - Halloween H20 is a better movie than many people probably remember, and it deserves a reappraisal in the wake of the 2018 followup and its sequels Halloween Kills and Halloween Ends.

  • Jamie Lee Curtis Came Back To Give Fans Someone To Root For

    Jamie Lee Curtis Came Back To Give Fans Someone To Root For
    Photo: Lionsgate

    Twenty years before she reprised the role of Laurie Strode in Halloween (2018), Jamie Lee Curtis stepped back into the role that made her famous for the first time since the first Halloween sequel in 1981. In the years between 1981's Halloween II and H20, the franchise had become mired in unclear plots and lacked a sense of continuity to tie everything together.

    Curtis restored the Halloween canon and gave fans someone to root for by reprising the role of Laurie - bookending a series that had strayed quite a ways over the two decades since its original release.

  • There Are No Psychic Powers, Cults, Or Overt Supernatural Elements

    There Are No Psychic Powers, Cults, Or Overt Supernatural Elements
    Photo: Lionsgate

    Most fans agree that the 2018 version of Halloween does the right thing by jettisoning most of the mythology that had built up around the series. H20 does something similar, though it doesn't call as much attention to it. While H20 keeps the reveal from the second film that Laurie is Michael's sister, it erases any mention of the Cult of Thorn from The Curse of Michael Myers, druidic magic, psychic links to Michael's surviving family members, and so on.

    In fact, just about everything after 1981's Halloween II is left by the wayside, as characters repeatedly claim that it's been 20 years since Michael perished in Halloween II. The original film treatment for H20 by Scream scribe Kevin Williamson actually incorporated all of the intervening continuity in the form of a school report on the Halloween slayings, but this was ultimately not used in the final film.

  • 'H20' Acknowledges The Tired Trope Of The Resurrected Villain

    'H20' Acknowledges The Tired Trope Of The Resurrected Villain
    Photo: Lionsgate

    Just a couple of years before H20, Scream called attention to the tendency of seemingly vanquished villains to get up again in the climaxes of horror movies - a trend made popular by the original Halloween. H20 goes one step further and makes that resurrection a literal part of the plot.

    After she has defeated Michael, Curtis's Laurie Strode commandeers the medical examiner's van hauling his body, knowing that he's going to come back. When he goes flying out of the window, she waits calmly behind the wheel, urging him to "get up" before plowing into him again. As the consummate Final Girl, Laurie Strode uses her knowledge of Michael's playbook against him during this final confrontation, until she ultimately dispatches him in pretty undeniable fashion with a fire ax.

  • Laurie's Alcohol Dependence And PTSD Make Her Feel Real

    Laurie's Alcohol Dependence And PTSD Make Her Feel Real
    Photo: Lionsgate

    The 2018 reboot of Halloween delves deeply into the psychological toll that survival has taken on Laurie Strode. Long before that, the Laurie Strode of H20 is struggling with survivor's guilt, PTSD, and a drinking problem - all pretty realistic responses to being the only survivor and knowing that your brother is the one trying to slay you. H20's Laurie Strode has a lot more to deal with than the Laurie Strode of Halloween (2018).

    While she's a functioning drinker, she is also the headmistress of a posh private school, and she has gone through a litany of attempts to deal with her past, including "12 steps, self-help, group therapy, shrinks, [and] meditation."

    Although she may not be the hardened survivalist that we see in the 2018 version, H20's Laurie is no less fierce. Whether she's yelling at her son, annihilating Michael, or kicking out the glass in a fire ax case, Jamie Lee Curtis makes the Laurie Strode of H20 every bit as much of a warrior as her 2018 alter ego.

  • Janet Leigh Makes A Cameo Alongside Other References To 'Psycho'

    Janet Leigh Makes A Cameo Alongside Other References To 'Psycho'
    Photo: Lionsgate

    Janet Leigh, who played the ill-fated Marion Crane in Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho, is the real-life mother of Jamie Lee Curtis. Acting alongside her daughter in H20 was Leigh's first big-screen credit in almost 20 years. Her last appearance in a feature film was John Carpenter's The Fog in 1980 - where she also starred with Curtis, though the two didn't share much screen time.

    The H20 filmmakers seemingly decided to make the most of their windfall when it came to getting Leigh on board. The film is littered with almost as many nods to Psycho as it has references to previous installments in the Halloween franchise. When John's friends are complaining about his relationship with his mother, one of them says, "In 20 years you'll still be living with her, probably running some hotel in the middle of nowhere."

    Leigh's character in H20 is named Norma - the same name as Norman Bates's mother in Psycho - and in one of her only scenes, we see her standing in front of a 1950s car that is, in fact, the exact same car she drove in Psycho, down to the license plate. The music in this scene is also a snippet borrowed from the Psycho score.

  • Laurie And Michael's Final Battle Is Actually Final

    Laurie And Michael's Final Battle Is Actually Final
    Photo: Lionsgate

    Ignoring the forced retcon a few years later in the 2002 sequel Halloween: Resurrection, which suggests that Michael somehow swapped his body for a paramedic's before Laurie offed him with a fire ax, the final face-off between the infamous pair in H20 allows Laurie a well-deserved win. 

    Since there are no other sequels - though there are a couple of reboots - we can easily ignore Resurrection and assume that the satisfying climax of H20 is the end of the story for both Michael and Laurie. By the time H20 was released in the late '90s, the resurrected villain had become a tired trope, and the decision to make the final confrontation actually final with Laurie knocking Michael's head off was a refreshing take for the franchise.