In 1998, 20 years after making her film debut in the independent film Halloween (1978), Jamie Lee Curtis returned to the franchise. The film disavowed all of the sequels after Halloween II (1981), making it a requel. It forged ahead with a new story about Laurie Strode and her teenage son living in hiding from Michael Myers. Here’s a handy chart for anyone struggling to understand continuity in the Halloween universe:
The film begins with Dr. Loomis’s nurse, Marion Chambers-Whittington (Nancy Stephens), returning to her ransacked home. It becomes obvious that Michael Myers burgled the place to find information on the whereabouts of his sister, Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis). In the opening scene, we also get to see a young Joseph Gordon-Levitt as nurse Marion’s ill-fated neighbor.
The audience then learns that to escape Michael, Laurie has changed her name to Keri Tate. She is now the headmistress of a private boarding school in California and lives as a functioning alcoholic with her 17-year-old son John (Josh Hartnett). John struggles to deal with his mother, who is still tormented by memories of Michael Myers and what he did to her 20 years ago on Halloween night.
Looking for a weekend of freedom, John pretends to go on the school trip to Yosemite but secretly stays behind at the school to spend time with his girlfriend Molly (Michelle Williams) and their friends Charlie (Adam Hann-Byrd) and Sarah (Jodi Lyn O’Keefe). At the friend’s Halloween party, Michael Myers makes an appearance. The only people left on campus are the four student friends along with Keri Tate/Laurie Strode, the school guidance counselor (Adam Arkin), and the security guard (LL Cool J).
- Jamie Lee Curtis wanted John Carpenter and Debra Hill to return to direct Halloween: H20. Carpenter agreed in exchange for $10 million and a three-picture deal with Dimension Films, but executive producers Bob and Harvey Weinstein declined, and Steve Miner was hired to direct instead. The drama here was decades-old, as one reason Carpenter wanted a lucrative deal was that producer/financier Moustapha Akkad had made the bulk of the revenue off of Halloween (1978), and Carpenter (rightly) felt that he was owed some of that money.
2. Coming off of the meteoric success of Scream (1996), the story for Halloween: H20 was dreamed up by writer Kevin Williamson with the working title Halloween 7: The Revenge of Laurie Strode. He later provided rewrites of character dialogue and consulted on other aspects of the film, but the script was written by Robert Zappia and Matt Greenberg.
3. This was Josh Hartnett’s feature film debut. He shot concurrently with The Faculty (1998). Hartnett was worried about doing “Halloween 7,” but once Jamie Lee Curtis signed on, he was confident it would be a good movie.
4. Originally, the continuity in the Halloween universe was going to be explained by one of the students giving an oral report on Michael Myers and retconning the Halloween story through flashbacks.
5. Although the speech we hear Dr. Loomis give at the end of the first act is the same one from Halloween (1978), a soundalike voice actor (Tom Kane) was hired to read the lines.
6. Jamie Lee Curtis REALLY wanted to kill Michael Myers. However, Moustapha Akkad had it written into the writers’ contracts that they were not legally allowed to kill off the series villain. Curtis was considering quitting the movie until Kevin Williamson came up with an ending that satisfied both Curtis and Akkad. This compromise was the final scene in which Curtis beheads “Michael,” who has deftly swapped places with a paramedic. The footage of the swap was shot along with the movie but not shown until Halloween: Resurrection (2002).
H20 started out with best intentions, but it ended up being a money gig. The film had some good things in it. It talked about alcoholism and trauma, but I ended up really doing it for the paycheck.Jamie Lee Curtis, What Went Wrong With Halloween H20, According To Jamie Lee Curtis
7. Longtime Halloween franchise staple Donald Pleasence, who played Dr. Samuel Loomis, died in 1995. A tribute was added for him in the credits, but his name was misspelled as “Pleasance.”
9. Jamie Lee Curtis’s mother Janet Leigh appeared as her secretary in the film. There are several in-jokes surrounding her appearance, such as her expressing that she has “maternal” feelings for Curtis’s character. Leigh, famous for her role in Psycho (1960), also drives the same model car from the Hitchcock film, and the Psycho theme can be heard as she walks toward it.
10. Leigh also repeats an iconic line from the original Halloween: “It’s Halloween. I guess everyone’s entitled to one good scare.”
11. It was Leigh’s first film role in 18 years.
12. P.J. Soles (Lynda from the original) was approached to fill the role of Curtis’s secretary but was unsure whether she wanted to return, and Leigh was hired instead.
13. Michelle Williams accepted the role of Molly having never seen a Halloween film.
14. The character of Charlie (Adam Hann-Byrd) was originally written as a copycat killer who was the progeny of Michael Myers and a nurse he raped while institutionalized. When his role was drastically changed, Miner told him he would now be playing the “horny best friend,” and Hann-Byrd responded, “I’ve always wanted to play a horny best friend.”
15. LL Cool J was a big fan of the Halloween franchise, having seen the first film with his mom when he was nine.
16. Director Steve Miner and writer Kevin Williamson met on the set of Dawson’s Creek.
17. Jamie Lee Curtis wanted actor Mike Meyers to have a cameo as a joke, but he wasn’t interested.
18. The commentary says that Jamie Lee Curtis and Michelle Williams became good friends while filming. Curtis says Williams is “very intelligent” and gave her a first-edition book as a wrap present.
19. Molly and Sarah are watching Scream 2 in their dorm room. This is interesting because Halloween is shown prominently in Scream and because the actor who played The Shape, Chris Durand, also played Ghostface in some Scream 2 scenes.
20. Josh Hartnett hated the all-American aesthetic the costume department wanted for his character. He wore a beanie between takes and cut his own hair to retain some of his own style. On the commentary, Curtis says, “I respected him for it. It was annoying, but I respected him for it.”
21. LL Cool J ad-libbed the line where he tells John to “Comb your hair!”
22. The film opens with the song “Mr. Sandman” by The Chordettes, which played in the beginning of Halloween II.
23. Jamie Lee Curtis actually hates horror movies, and seeing Michael Myers on set still freaked her out. To ease her fear she called Chris Durand, who played The Shape, “Shapey.”
24. Keri Tate/Laurie Strode tells John and Molly to run away from the school and “go down the street to the Beckers….” This line is a homage to her line from Halloween (“go down to the Mackenzies”), which was also used in Scream by Casey Becker’s parents. The neighbors are changed from the Mackenzies to the Beckers in honor of Casey.
25. Michael’s mask in H20 is famously hated by fans. This is in part because of the sloppy continuity—in some scenes, Michael is wearing two different masks. Some scenes were reshot with the mask the director decided to go with, others were retouched with CGI, and others were left alone despite the continuity error. In total, four different masks are seen in the film.
26. Adam Hann-Byrd says Jamie Lee Curtis told him, “Steve and I were brainstorming for over three hours last night about how best to kill you. We came up with this idea to stick your hand down a garbage disposal. I wanted to just chop it right off and give you this nasty, mangled stump, but Steve thought it would be more suspenseful not to.”
27. Halloween: H20 is the only Halloween film that doesn’t take place in Haddonfield at all.