When David Gordon Green’s hugely successful Halloween reboot hit theaters in 2018, much was made about the fact the film ignored every sequel since John Carpenter’s original 1978 classic movie, and reset the franchise timeline. And the results spoke for themselves–a worldwide gross of $255 million, the rapid greenlighting of two sequels, and the revitalization of a horror franchise that had sat dormant for nearly a decade.
However, for some fans, there was a definite sense of déjà vu. Hadn’t we been here before, 20 years earlier, with 1998’s Halloween H20: Twenty Years Later? After a decade of increasingly bad sequels, H20 took the series back to its scary roots, and while the movie did acknowledge 1981’s Halloween II as part of its timeline–and therefore the reveal of Laurie Strode as Michael Myers’ sister–it discounted Halloween 4, 5, and 6 entirely (Halloween III: Season of the Witch being an unconnected standalone). Jamie Lee Curtis returned as Laurie, and it was a critical and commercial success.
Unfortunately, all that hard work was completely undone but the terrible Halloween: Resurrection four years later, and by Rob Zombie’s extremely divisive remakes. Viewed today, H20 feels like a movie of its era–the young cast of upcoming stars (Michelle Williams, Josh Harnett, Joseph Gordon Levitt), a popular rapper (LL Cool J), and self-referential post-Scream screenplay. And while director Steve Miner was an experienced filmmaker, he doesn’t bring the same visual flair that Green did in the 2018 movie.
But where it counts, H20 holds up. It’s entertaining, funny, and tense. The movie features a great performance from Curtis and helped give the franchise a second, albeit temporary, lease of life. The movie was reissued in 2014 on Blu-ray that featured a new commentary from Miner and Curtis, so we’ve listened to that and looked back over the variety of behind-the-scene material produced at the time to find some the best, most surprising, and fascinating references, Easter Eggs, and things you didn’t know about the film. And once you’ve read that, check out our guide to the original Halloween.
1. Scream writer Kevin Williamson was involved, but uncredited
Screenwriter Kevin Williamson, who helped revitalize American horror in the ’90s with the Scream series, was initially hired to write H20, having worked with Miner on the hit TV show Dawson’s Creek. Williamson developed an early treatment, which was then adapted into a full screenplay written by Robert Zappia and Matt Greenberg.
Williamson also returned for uncredited rewrites. In the commentary, Miner talks about Curtis calling him at night, worried that the script wasn’t good enough, and credits Williamson with making it much better. For his own part, Williamson is very modest about his contributions. “I did some writing on it,” he said at the time. “You can probably pick out my moments if you know my work. I took my friend to see it last night and he said, ‘You did that scene, didn’t you? And that was your line!'”
2. That’s not Donald Pleasence’s voice
During the credit scene, we hear the voice of Dr Loomis, giving the same speech he gave to Sheriff Brackett in the original movie about meeting Michael as a boy. However, this isn’t Donald Pleasance’s voice. Pleasance died in 1995, and instead of reusing the audio from the first film, voice actor Tom Kane performed it.
3. Nurse Marion was in the original movies
The character of Nurse Marion Chambers has crossed the Halloween timelines. She was played by Nancy Stephens in the original movie and returned for the first sequel, 1981’s Halloween II. She came back for H20, which established that she and Loomis had become partners in the following years. Unfortunately, she doesn’t make it past the opening scene and is nastily dispatched by Michael. However, fans will be glad to know that Stephens will reprise her role as Nurse Marion in next year’s Halloween Kills, which takes place in the alternate timeline that discounts everything since the first movie.
4. This hockey mask was a Friday the 13th reference
While Halloween: H20 isn’t quite as self-referential as Williamson’s Scream movies, this was still very much the era of meta-horror. A young Joseph Gordon-Levitt appears in the opening scene, wearing a hockey mask that looks very much like one worn by Jason in the Friday the 13th movies. Miner previously directed Friday the 13th Part III, where the hockey mask is first introduced.
5. Michael’s mask keeps changing
There are strange and confusing continuity issues to do with Michael’s mask throughout the movie. Several weeks into production, Miner was told by the studio he had to change the masks that he’d be shooting with, which was a very minimal design, with larger eyeholes, built by effects company KNB, to make it look more scary. While a new mask was being designed by the Stan Winston Company, Miner shot the movie’s opening scene using a mask based on the previous movie, 1995’s The Curse of Michael Myers. Once the new Winston mask was finished, close-ups of the KNB mask were reshot, although the first one remains visible in some long shots.
As actor Adam Hann-Byrd, who plays Charlie, later said, “There were plenty of days I was sitting in the makeup trailer and they’d come running in with a different version of the mask. That was constant. It was changing a lot throughout the shoot.” And that’s not mentioning the infamous CGI mask, which we’ll get to shortly.
6. This cop has a famous dad
One of the cops investigating Marion’s house is played by Matt Winston, son of the late VFX genius Stan Winston, whose company designed Michael’s “final” mask.
7. Josh Harnett was making two movies at once
Josh Harnett, who plays John, shot both H20 and Robert Rodriguez’s The Faculty at the same time. Both movies were Dimension productions, and he got the H20 role after Dimension boss Bob Weinstein was impressed by his Faculty audition. Harnett said later, “They saw a way to package me and make me sort of their young, new guy. So they said, ‘OK, you can do The Faculty if you do H20 as well.’ So I was shooting them both simultaneously.”
8. This scene caused a serious injury
Curtis’s stunt double, Donna Keegan, broke her foot in this scene, when the brakes in Laurie’s car slammed on to stop just in front of the gate. According to Curtis in the commentary, the “the anti-lock brakes pushed back on her,” breaking her foot very badly.
9. The buses had no seats
The buses in the school scenes were bought cheaply by the studio, and didn’t actually have any seats inside them. If you look closely, you’ll see all the kids are standing and leaning out the window in this scene, and no one is sitting down.
10. Jamie Lee Curtis’s famous mom has a role
Jamie Lee Curtis’s mother, the legendary Psycho star Janet Leigh, appears in H20 as Norma Watson, Laurie’s secretary at Hillcrest Academy. Her character’s name is a homage to PJ Soles, who co-starred in the original Halloween as Linda and also played a character named Norma Watson in Brian De Palma’s classic Carrie.
11. Janet Leigh’s car is a Psycho in-joke
The car that Norma drives is the same model and color (a 1957 Ford Sedan) as the one that Leigh, as Marion Crane, drives in Psycho. It even has the same registration plate–NFB 418. This was itself an in-joke from Psycho director Alfred Hitchcock, as NFB are the initials of the movie’s deranged killer Norman Bates (or more specifically Norman Francis Bates). In addition, you can hear the strains of Bernard Hermann’s Psycho score playing on the soundtrack of this scene in H20.
12. The filmmakers really loved their Psycho in-jokes
There’s yet another Psycho reference when Charlie says to John about the relationship with his very-protective mom Laurie: “20 years from now, you’re still gonna be living with her, probably running some weird motel, out in the middle of nowhere.”
13. That’s a terrible CG mask
As previously mentioned, there were several different mask designs used during H20’s production, but none are as bad as the notorious CG mask. It only appears once, when Michael confronts Charlie. Miner admits in the commentary “it looks odd,” which is putting it mildly.
14. The Michael actor also played Ghostface
Michael has been played by a variety of actors and stuntmen over the decades. In H20, he’s played by Chris Durand, who also appeared as Ghostface in Scream 2, which was written by Kevin Wiliamson and released a year earlier. Scream 2 can also be seen playing on a TV in a student’s room in H20.
15. The score is a complete mess
The original score was composed by John Ottman, who is best known for his work as both an editor and composer for Bryan Singer’s X-Men movies. But when the studio decided his score was not suitable for a scary slasher movie, Marco Beltrami was hired to help Ottman write some new music at very short notice. What we hear in the final movie is a weird mix of Ottman’s original score, the new Beltrami and Ottman tracks, and music taken from films such as Scream and Mimic.
16. There’s a double in-joke to Halloween and Scream
There’s another in-joke that calls back to both the original movie and to Scream. In Halloween, Laurie tells the kids she is babysitting to “go to the Mackenzies’ house” to get help when Michael starts attacking. Scream referenced this by having the dad of Drew Barrymore’s character, Casey Becker, tell his wife to “go down the street to the Mackenzies’ house” to call the cops. In turn, H20 has Laurie tell her son and girlfriend to go next door to find help at–you guessed it–the Becker’s house.
17. Halloween: Resurrection’s stupid twist had its roots in H20
Jamie Lee Curtis’s condition of returning for H20 was that Laurie would finally get to kill Michael. However, long-time Halloween producer Moustapha Akkad, who financed the original movie, had a contract that stated that Michael couldn’t die–presumably so he could keep returning for more lucrative Halloween movies. A compromise was reached when Williamson came up with the idea of the movie ending with Laurie killing a masked man she (and at that stage, the audience) believes to be Michael. However, the next movie, Halloween: Resurrection, reveals that this was in fact a paramedic that Michael has dressed up to look like him. Curtis agreed to this on the condition that Laurie herself could be quickly in Resurrection, to also resolve her story.