Contributor: Rick McGimpsey
Halloween H20 is the last good Halloween movie in the series. The franchise has this peculiar habit of fixing mistakes and taking the films in the right direction only to fuck it up again immediately afterward. Halloween H20 is just another example as the sequel Halloween: Resurrection will demonstrate. But, for now, let us focus on what is sadly the final film that treats the series with the reverence and dignity it deserves. Halloween H20 is not without its problems, but its imperfections are mild especially when compared to the movies that preceded it.
The story completely ignores the continuity of Halloweens 4, 5, and 6 and instead takes place 20 years after Halloween II pretending as if the events of those other sequels never happened. This is a good thing since if we were to believe that those films were canon we would be forced to view Laurie Strode as one colossal, heartless bitch. According to Halloween H20 Laurie had faked her own demise to hide from Michael Myers who survived the explosion in the Haddonfield hospital and had been missing ever since. If the other films were canon the only possible conclusion to make of this would be that she had abandoned her daughter Jamie and is either oblivious or apathetic to her death in 1995 and the birth of her grandson Steven. Thankfully that is not the case.
And skipping the sequels after Halloween II is a good idea for other reasons too. Now, the idiotic Cult of Thorn nonsense is behind us and we don’t have Jamie Lloyd adding any complications to the plot. While I miss Dr. Loomis it may be for the best that he had died in the explosion 20 years ago instead of turning into an overly obsessed maniac using children as bait and fighting off supernatural cults like he was Kolchak or something.
The film starts with a brief prologue where Michael Myers appears in Langdon, Illinois where the nurse who worked at Smith’s Grove Sanitarium in 1978 is now living. At her home he kills her and two teenagers (one of them played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt) and takes off with a file on Laurie Strode. With this he somehow deduces that Laurie is now living in California as a teacher at a private boarding school called Hillcrest Academy.
Her son, John, is a student here and he and his girlfriend Molly and their two friends Charlie and Sarah decide to have a Halloween party while the other students go away to an overnight field in Yosemite. Being underage they are forced to remain on campus in their dormitories. They try to keep this from bumming them out by planning a Halloween party in their dorm’s basement. Feeling strangled by his mother’s overprotectiveness John sneaks out of the campus by getting on the school security guard’s good side. This guard is played by LL Cool J and when he is not being a security guard he is working on a raunchy romance novel he is writing. This character is pretty goofy and he is the obvious comic relief of the film. However, unlike the two bumbling cops in Halloween 5, LL Cool J is not out of place and the humour he adds to the story doesn’t ruin the tone of the entire piece. I honestly wish there was more of him in this movie.
Unfortunately for John, he gets caught by his mother outside of the campus and she angrily sends him back.
Laurie, for all of John’s life, has been overprotective of him and her alcoholism has done no wonders for their straining relationship. She has a boyfriend named Will who is a psychiatrist and his career seems to have afforded him a great deal of patience in dealing with Laurie’s quirks especially when she finally reveals to him that she is the sister of mass murderer Michael Myers. He takes the news very well and it is never clear if he believes her or not.
By this time Michael Myers has made it to California and is lurking about Hillcrest. Driving an old truck from Illinois to California he stops at the gate during the night and sneaks out of the vehicle while leaving it running in neutral. He sneaks past the guard who approaches the vehicle to investigate and enters the campus.
At the Halloween party he kills Charlie and Sarah and begins stalking John and Molly. Fleeing from him they run into Laurie and Will who rescue them. They hide the two teens before deciding that killing Michael is the only way to survive.
Will sees the security guard and mistakes him for Michael. Will shoots the man and discovers his error only after the fact. Michael appears around the corner and stabs Will to death. Whether Michael killed him for simply being there or because he was an LL Cool J fan, the film doesn’t say.
In the ensuing fight Laurie gets the upper hand and stabs Michael Myers multiple times presumably killing him. LL Cool J shows up afterward having survived the shooting and he and Laurie call the police. While the coroner is taking away Michael’s body the security guard gets inspired by his experiences to write a romantic thriller. Yay, I guess.
However, Laurie does not believe Michael is truly dead and hijacks the coroner’s van. True to her suspicions Michael starts wriggling in the body bag and she slams the brakes causing Michael to fly out through the windshield. She runs him over with the van and pins him to a tree. Michael reaches out his arm toward Laurie and as he does this she takes an axe and lops off his head. With Michael Myers dead the only horrors to plague the world now are the soon to be published novels of LL Cool J.
While not a perfect film, by any means, Halloween H20 is certainly a marked improvement over the sequels we have been treated to earlier. That being said there are some illogical moments; for example, how did Michael know where to find Laurie if she had faked her own death? I really do not think the file on her from Smith’s Grove would shed any light on what her aliases were, where she was, or even whether she was alive at all. In fact, the whole prologue sequence is not even necessary. Barring Michael himself, no one in that scene is in the rest of the film and I think they could have written a better reason for Michael knowing how to find his sister.
There is also a very strange scene with actress Janet Leigh (the woman who got stabbed in the shower in Psycho) who has a brief bit of dialogue with Laurie. Janet’s character simply expresses some maternal feelings for Laurie before she leaves with a bit of music from Psycho subtly playing in the background. The in-joke, of course, is that Janet Leigh is the real life mother of Jamie Lee Curtis, but the scene would seem like a bizarre lingering bit of meaninglessness to a viewer who did not know that. Overall the moment is pointless and I wish they would have incorporated Leigh in a scene more connected to the film’s plot.
Those points, thankfully, are my only complaints about Halloween H20. It’s a fairly generic slasher film, but it presents a nice, dignified climax to the series. Michael is dead and Laurie’s nightmares are over. That is, of course, if you accept this as the series’s true conclusion. I certainly do. But, one more sequel was produced and I will be reviewing that one soon. However, for a casual fan of Michael Myers who just wants to see the best of the Halloween series this is my recommended stopping point.