You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Halloween: H20 Twenty Years Later – Echo of a Scream, ‘H20’ Holds Water

Laurie Strode/

Laurie Strode/

Keri Tate ….. Jamie Lee Curtis

Will ….. Adam Arkin

John ….. Josh Hartnett

Molly ….. Michelle Williams

Charlie ….. Adam Hann-Byrd

Sarah ….. Jodi Lyn O’Keefe

Norma ….. Janet Leigh

Ronny ….. LL Cool J

Jimmy ….. Joseph Gordon Levitt

Marion ….. Nancy Stephens

Tony ….. Branden Williams

Michael ….. Chris Durand

Aside from the “Scream” pics that kickstarted it, the latest horror wave is starting to look no less routine — if glossier — than all those ’80s teen slash-’em-ups that had previously run this genre aground. Fortunately, “Halloween: H20” — reactivating a franchise responsible for all the above — proves an exception. While plot mechanics aren’t wildly imaginative, pic nonetheless delivers requisite jolts in an above-average package, while providing Jamie Lee Curtis sufficient character meat to justify revisiting her career-making (and, for a time, career-limiting) debut role. Expect solid if medium-legged B.O. performance, followed by a dynamic video shelf life.

Feature cuts — ahem — to the chase right away with a lengthy prologue in which nurse Marion (Nancy Stephens), the former assistant to first pic’s Donald Pleasance psychologist character, arrives to find her suburban Indiana home broken into. Two neighborhood boys (including “Third Rock From the Sun” regular Joseph Gordon-Levitt, whose character is out of the picture before his special billing appears onscreen) offer to make sure the intruder’s gone, though police have already been called. Needless to say, things turn out badly for all concerned.

Subsequent opening credits pan the now-late medico’s office, revealing myriad newspaper clips related to Michael Myers’ killing spree 20 years ago — including one alleging that latter’s beleaguered sis Laurie Strode (Curtis) died in a later auto accident. Patient files have been ransacked, and the nurse’s car is stolen.

Surprise! Laurie isn’t dead … yet … and is in for more grief. She faked the fatality to “go into hiding” (Michael’s ashes never having been found after film No. 2’s hospital bonfire); using a different name, she’s now live-in headmistress at a gated, upscale SoCal boarding school, with teenage son John (Josh Hartnett) duly enrolled. Guess who’s coming cross-country to visit.

The majority of staff and students are on a camping trip, leaving the few stay-behinds isolated. Plus, natch, it’s Halloween. Initially barred from the Yosemite outing by overprotective mom, John gets permission once he’s already planned a “romantic dinner” with three classmates — girlfriend Molly (Michelle Williams, from teleserial “Dawson’s Creek”), Charlie (Adam Hann-Byrd) and Sarah (Jodi Lyn O’Keefe). He opts to stick around for latter event without telling Mom. Meanwhile, she’s having her own not-so-romantic night with school-counselor and secret amour Will (Adam Arkin); this date turns a tad somber when holiday-rattled Laurie decides to confess her catastrophic past history.

Some hide-and-seek games at the school gate get Michael (Chris Durand performs the mute, masked role this time) past security guard Ronny (LL Cool J). Soon “The Shape” is slashing his way through California youth en route to his already-suspicious, then panicked little sis.

Director Steve Miner presses the false-scare button a few too many times early on, and once the nonstop running-screaming-snuffing action takes over after 50 minutes or so, script (by Robert Zappia and Matt Greenberg) doesn’t evince any special invention. Admittedly, there is only so much variety you can wring out of an unstoppable killing machine — he’s down, he’s up, he’s dead, he’s not. Still, the scares are there. Sibling-duel climax does effectively push conceptual envelope in making Laurie as obsessively focused on offing her homicidal brother as vice versa.

Despite the now-required addition of sexy TV-recognizable adolescents, pic belongs to Curtis, and care has been taken to make her character one credible, battle-scarred survivor. Laurie here is a caustic divorcee, an overdisciplinary administrator, a “functional alcoholic” and caring but oppressive parent whose understandable paranoia no pill can ease. (One of script’s best ideas is having her constantly experience delusional Michael sightings — so when the real thing shows up, she thinks at first it’s just another “episode.”) Star juggles the job’s multiple facets — psychologically damaged victim, nearly unlikable control freak, self-mocking wit, avenging action superhero — in fine fashion.

Other roles are more rotely written but well-turned; rapper-turned-thesp LL Cool J gets most of the decent comic relief (via recurrent phone conversations with his argumentative girlfriend) in a pic that, thankfully, eschews campy in-joking for straight-up suspense. Curtis’ mom, Janet Leigh, has a cameo as the school secretary. (No, she doesn’t take a shower.)

Tech package in economically paced prod is first-rate, with Miner (who started out directing the second and third “Friday the 13ths”) using shadowy, tracking Panavision images that evoke rather than blatantly imitate the mood in John Carpenter’s 1978 original. John Ottman’s score rings orchestral variations on that helmer’s eerie self-penned theme.

For the record: Though being sold as a “classic,” long-dormant series’ return (script pretends Michael’s mayhem stopped with ’81’s “II,” also Curtis’ last related appearance), this is in fact “Halloween” chapter seven. The last was as recent as 1995 (“The Curse of Michael Myers”). While ’83’s eccentric “Season of the Witch” proved memorable simply for using the franchise name without any actual plot connection, one may be forgiven scant knowledge of mediocre entries four through six — nobody else remembers them, either. Current edition suggests at finale that Michael is truly, seriously, definitely you-know-what. But don’t place any bets against the likelihood of No. 8.

Halloween: H20 Twenty Years Later - Echo of a Scream, 'H20' Holds Water


Production: A Dimension Films release of a Nightfall production. Produced by Paul Freeman. Executive producer, Moutapha Akkad. Co-executive producers, Bob Weinstein, Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Williamson. Directed by Steve Miner. Screenplay, Robert Zappia, Matt Greenberg, story by Zappia, based on characters created by Debra Hill and John Carpenter.

Crew: Camera (color, Panavision widescreen), Daryn Okada; editor, Patrick Lusser; music, John Ottman; original musical theme, Carpenter; music supervisor, Ed Gerrard; production designer, John Willet; art director, Dawn Snyder; set designers, Thomas Reta, Dawn Swiderski; set decorator, Beau Petersen; costume designer, Deborah Everton; sound (Dolby digital/SDDS), Jim Tanenbaum; sound design, Steve Boeddeker; associate producer, Malek Akkad; casting, Ross Brown, Christine Sheaks. Reviewed at United Artists Galaxy, San Francisco, July 30, 1998. Running time: 85 MIN.

More Film

  • Robert Redford

    Robert Redford to Receive Honorary Cesar Award

    Legendary American actor and director Robert Redford is set to receive an honorary Cesar award, France’s equivalent of the Oscars, at the 44th annual César ceremony, which will take place on Feb. 22 in Paris. “An iconic actor, an exceptional director, a passionate producer, founder and president of Sundance, the most revered festival of independent [...]

  • Goteborg: Co-writer Hakan Lindhe on Viaplay’s

    Co-Writer Hakan Lindhe on Politics, Image in Viaplay’s ‘The Inner Circle’

    David Ehrling, Sweden’s Minister for Enterprise, who is tipped to be its next Prime Minister, spends a lot of the time in Sweden’s “The Inner Circle” not preparing his speeches, or in impassioned discussion of key political issues, but staring into the mirror, rain checking on his strong-jawed image. He spends much of his enterprise, [...]

  • 'Invisibles' Director Louis-Julien Petit On His

    'Invisibles' Director Louis-Julien Petit on his Socially-Minded Smash

    PARIS —  Far from a dumping ground, the months of January and February have become synonymous in France with the kinds of highly polished crowd-pleasing comedies that dominate the annual box-office. This year is no exception, only nestled among the likely blockbusters “Serial Bad Weddings 2” and “City Hunter” is Louis-Julien Petit’s socially minded dramedy [...]

  • "The Continent," directed by Chinese racer

    Alibaba Pictures Buys Into Chinese Director Han Han's Film Studio

    Alibaba Pictures confirmed that it has invested an undisclosed amount in Chinese celebrity blogger-turned-film director Han Han’s Shanghai Tingdong Film. Han’s upcoming “Pegasus” is one of the most anticipated films of the year in China. Alibaba Pictures, part of e-commerce giant Alibaba, is now the second-largest stakeholder in Tingdong. It has a 13.1% stake, according to Chinese [...]

  • Nicolas Philibert Talks Nursing Documentary 'Each

    Nicolas Philibert: 'A Director Driven To Make A Statement Cannot Make Cinema'

    PARIS  — For over two decades, French documentarian Nicolas Philibert has examined his country’s various public institutions with a watchmaker’s calm and anthropologist’s curiosity. In films like “To Be and To Have,” “La Maison de la Radio” and “Louvre City,” he’s taken his camera into schoolhouses, broadcast hubs and the world’s most famous museum. His [...]

  • 'Don't Come Back from the Moon'

    Film Review: 'Don't Come Back from the Moon'

    Cinematographer-turned-director Bruce Thierry Cheung offers an artful and affecting mix of harshly defined specifics and impressionistic storytelling in “Don’t Come Back from the Moon,” a cumulatively poignant drama about absent fathers and abandoned families in an economically devastated desert community. Structured more like a tone poem than a conventional narrative, it’s an elliptical memory play [...]

  • Carlos Almaraz Playing With Fire review

    Palm Springs Review: 'Carlos Almaraz: Playing With Fire'

    Though he passed away three decades ago, Carlos Almaraz’s reputation as a major American painter — which was just getting started when he died of AIDS in 1989 — promises to continue to gain traction with the years. Documentary tribute “Playing With Fire” by his fellow-artist widow Elsa Flores and Richard Montoya mostly transcends standard [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content