A deep dive into one of the one of the best entries and the worst, and what could have been.
This week had me digging into the last two entries of Scream Factory’s 4k UHD set, this time checking out Halloween H20: 20 Years Later and Halloween Resurrection. With these two films I would witness not only the first reboot of the franchise and timeline, but its second death, thanks to what is easily the worst sequel to date (Sorry Ends haters). This had me wondering what went into not on this decision to reboot the series, but in a move that is very familiar today, make a sequel to the last canon film that the director felt like recognizing. Here, H20 connects directly to Halloween 2, but that was not always the case as for the sequel that had Jamie Lee Curtis coming in and saving the troubled franchise that was nearly destined for direct to video hell.
The original pitch by Curtis, who was looking to give back to her fans, was returning to her iconic role 20 years later with Laurie Strode in front of the camera with both Carpenter and Debra Hill behind it. This meeting took place about a year after the release of Curse, in 1996 right before the success of Scream, all while Dimension had already started developing a direct to video prequel of sorts that would never see the light of day. Carpenter requested a 10 million dollar fee for directing, to help compensate him for a decade of lost profits, along with a three picture deal at Dimension. The Weinsteins turned that down and lost both Hill and Carpenter with one fell swoop, but kept Curtis — and then Scream hit and that changed the entire slasher and horror landscape forever.
Fresh off his success, Scream scribe Kevin Williamson, was lured into helping out on the project as he readied for the pilot for Dawson’s Creek. Williamson met with Curtis, and the two workshopped a few ideas that would bring not only Laurie Strode back, but pit her against Michael Myers to rid the world of her evil brother once and for all. Oddly, this is a cycle she would repeat almost 20 years later again with David Gordon Green’s Halloween that hit in 2018, the only difference is that was a direct sequel to the first Halloween, while H20 did incorporate the mythology that Strode and Myers were siblings. As a possible director, Williamson submitted the director of the pilot of Dawson’s Creek Steve Miner who also had a history in horror with such titles as House, Friday the 13th Part 2 and Warlock to his credit.
Unlike the final film, in the original Williamson pitch kept the events of the first six Halloween films canon and had Strode lamenting on abandoning her daughter Jamie, while only taking her son who still featured in this film. This idea of Strode giving up Jamie showed up in several drafts of the script as well, however it never made it to the final draft. To further add insult to injury Danielle Harris lobbied for a cameo in H20, after her tumultuous relationship with 6, and sadly was denied and fully erased here from the Halloween timeline once and for all. The bulk of this new direction was definitely spearheaded by the Weinsteins, with Moustapha Akkad not happy with such a flawed take on Strode, which to be honest is a whole lot more positive than the take we get in Halloween (2018).
Halloween: H20 has Strode an alcoholic in hiding 20 years later after faking her death and changing her name to escape her legacy as the sister of Michael Myers. She’s the headmistress of the prestigious Hillcrest Academy, attended by her son (Josh Hartnett) who has just turned 17, the same age she was when she battled the Shape. This is the reasoning as to what draws Michael out of hiding as he stalks the empty school on Halloween night with Laurie Strode hell bent on saving her son and ridding the world of Michael once and for all. H20 isn’t a bad sequel, it just jettisons 20 years worth of plot and character development to give us something we’ve already seen play out with no real consequences, since we know Myers will be back no matter what. At the time it was more played like Curtis’ farewell to the franchise for the fans, but after the latest trilogy we know that wasn’t the case.
After clearing $55 Million at the box office, the talks of sequels were immediately tossed around. According to Taking Shape one of the best book series on the franchise, before the end of the production on H20, producers baked in a way to bring the shape back partially to appease Moustapha Akkad’s hope to churn out Halloween films to the end of time. This was much to the dismay of Curtis who hoped to have killed off Michael once and for all. This only required the removal of one line of dialogue, where originally scripted Myers was to call out to his sister’s name one last time before his beheading. Instead he was rendered mute and this bit was tucked away until the need to bring Myers back had risen.
Loosely based on a script by Larry Brand, which was kind of a knock off of The Blair Witch Project, followup Resurrection features a webcast at the Myer’s house, which was thought be to be fake, yet turn out to be real. The problem here is short of a 30 second cameo by Curtis all the connecting tissue to any of the films have been completely removed this time in favor of Myers going on a rampage in his childhood home, which was originally titled Halloween: MichaelMyers.com. This entry would also bring back the man responsible for one of the most divisive turns in the franchise, Halloween 2’s Rick Rosenthal. The strangest part of this film quite honestly is the inclusion of the one-line spewing wannabe kung-fu master producer played by Busta Rhymes whose performance alone throws this film into parody.
While awkward and amateurish teens are par for the course for horror films, it’s Rhymes who yells “Hey Mikey! Happy Fuckin’ Halloween!” and “Trick or Treat Motherfucker!” before kung fu kicking Myers, which ultimately delivered the final nail in the coffin, killing the franchise yet again. Shockingly enough, we have test audiences to blame for this, thanks to notes from these screenings not only was Rhymes role amped up allowing him to ad-lib some of these meme worthy gems, but he actually was allowed to survive the night due to his popularity with early viewers. It’s this take coupled with the story that was devoid of any real connection to the series that really put the series on the back burner.
One idea that was somewhat fascinating, was a pitch made as a last minute resuscitation, meant to hit a year after Resurrection that would capitalize on H20 titled Halloween: H25. This pitch was a very meta take that had Busta’s character front and center again, this time making a documentary on the events that led up to Resurrection to help give closure to the families of the victims — kind of like Wes Craven’s New Nightmare. According to police in the pitch Myers was cremated after the events of Resurrection, but we discover he is now held in a secret underground lab, much like Jason X. This has Myers escaping and descending on a theater showing the film, basically Scream 2. It wasn’t very original and that’s probably why it’s best the series was shelved until Rob Zombie would answer the call 5 years later in his reboot of the series that honestly still divides fans to this day.
So in this new “Halloween 4K Collection” box set we were treated to The Curse of Michael Myers, which for me is a favorite, coupled with two Halloween entries that are very much 90s horror films for better or for worse Halloween H20: 20 Years Later and Halloween Resurrection. It’s an interesting snapshot of the series with these two nineties entries because H20, thanks to Curtis’ return is looked upon as one of the best in the series and we have Resurrection, which is as bad as you probably remember. As a completist I have to own all of them, but rewatching them is also a fun exercise of how these franchises ebb and flow over time. Given Scream had become the bar at the time, these films just couldn’t compete with that meta and intelligent take, given the battles behind the scenes between Moustapha Akkad and the Weinsteins.
We finally got that longed-for, intelligent deconstruction with Halloween (2018), but that was long after Rob Zombie’s extremely divisive Halloween duology, which to be honest, I have never made it all the way through Part 2. Here’s hoping next year we get those films in 4K, so I have an excuse to dig into them again. Till next year!