John Carpenter and Debra Hill couldn’t kill Michael Myers. The fans wouldn’t let them. That didn’t stop Jamie Lee Curtis from taking a shot at it, though.
Thus, we have Halloween H20, the return of Laurie Strode to the franchise twenty years after she’d first asked Dr. Loomis about the bogeyman back in 1978. With Donald Pleasence sadly gone, Curtis was the franchise’s last remaining legacy cast member, and thanks to the post-Scream resurgence in popularity for all things slasher she was suddenly open to one last go of it in the seemingly endless fight against Michael Myers. In the process, she played some small part in christening the young careers of future stars like Michelle Williams, Josh Hartnett, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt.
1. Jamie Lee Curtis came back to kill Michael for good, but it eventually turned into a mere “paycheck” gig
Jamie Lee Curtis is the one who initiated her own involvement in H20, telling HalloweenMovies.com, “I thought, hmmm, wouldn’t it be interesting if we made an anniversary movie, see what happened to Laurie Strode. That’s how it began.” She took a lunch with John Carpenter and Debra Hill to invite their involvement, but their schedules and interest level just didn’t align with her’s. However, director Steve Miner knew Curtis from their film Virus, and he was working with Kevin Williamson on the Dawson’s Creek pilot at the time. Based off the heavily Halloween-influenced Scream, Miner figured Curtis and Williamson should meet, and the two of them came up with exactly the anniversary movie she was hoping for.
Their concept of a scenario in which a clearly traumatized Laurie finally stops running and stands up to Michael was the powerful return AND end Jamie wanted. H20 was to be her thank you to the fans for giving her the career she’d enjoyed to that point, but it was also her attempt to give her character and the entire damn franchise some much-needed closure, telling Inside Story, “I said, ‘Let’s make a movie where [Laurie] makes a moment’s choice. I’m willing to fight for my life because to live another minute in fear is no life and I’d rather die. AND let’s freakin’ end it.’”
It didn’t stick, though. Michael was back in a sequel 4 years later.
As such, while recently hyping the forthcoming Blumhouse Halloween requel (part-sequel, part-reboot) Curtis admitted H20 didn’t turn out the way she hoped: ““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.”
2. The original script was set at an all-girl prep school, involved a copycat killer helping the cops track Michael and was designed to go straight-to-video
There both is and isn’t an H20 without Jamie Lee Curtis. She’s the reason the film became what it did, but there was probably going to be a Halloween 7 with or without her. As Robert Zappia revealed in Anchor Bay’s “Blood is Thicker than Water – The Making of H20,” prior to Curtis’ involvement he’d already been contracted by Dimension Films and Moustapha Akkad to pen the script for a direct-to-video Halloween 6 sequel. When it was decided to simply ignore 6’s convoluted ending, he was freed to create his own concept of Michael stalking an all-girl prep school where one of the students would somehow be related to him. Moreover, he threw in a slight Silence of the Lambs element of a copycat killer helping the police catch Michael. The working title: Halloween: Two Faces of Evil.
Curtis’ sudden involvement was a curveball, but it didn’t force Zappia to drop his script completely. He was told by Dimension’s Bob Weinstein to integrate Laurie into his pre-existing concept about the prep school, which was eventually changed from all girl to coed, and he had to also incorporate all the ideas Curtis and Williamson had come up with independent of him.
3. That’s the voice of Spongebob doing his best Donald Pleasence impression over the opening credits
The impression begins at the 1-minute, 20-second mark of the above video. That’s Tom Kenny, famous voice of Spongebob Squarepants and countless other cartoon characters, doing his best to mimic Donald Pleasence’s classic reading of the infamous “the blackest eyes, the devil’s eyes” speech. It’s not a perfect impression, but it was enough to fool most audiences in 1998.
Not that such deceit was preferable. If they could have found an unmixed version of the speech from the original Halloween they would have used it, but all they ever found were versions which already had the music mixed in. It just didn’t work with the music they were going to use over the credits. So, the editor, Patrick Lussier, asked Kenny, a friend of his, to fill in. They managed to pair him with someone who knew Pleasence to gauge how close he was getting. It took 50 takes until Pleasence’s friend gave the “eh, that at least kind of sounds like him” thumbs up.
4. Charlie was going to be the killer
When Adam Hann-Byrd was first cast as Charlie he was going to be the killer. As he told HalloweenDailyNews.com, “[Charlie] was a copycat killer who was copying Michael Myers and wreaking havoc at the boarding school. Then of course in the end, the real Michael Myers comes and exacts revenge upon him.” So, kind of like Friday the 13th Part V if the real Jason had popped up to kill Roy in the end? That could have been cool.
This idea was dropped two or three weeks after Hann-Byrd was cast, at which point the producers called him with the update that he was still in the film but now he was just the horny best friend. That’s fun, too.
5. Josh Hartnett filmed this at the same time as The Faculty
Paul Rudd had a big year in 1995, starring in Clueless and Halloween 6, his first two movies. Josh Hartnett kept up the tradition in 1998 by making his film debut in H20 and then in The Faculty (the two being released 4 months apart). Both were big hits that year. It was only possible for him, though, because he filmed them at the same time. Timeline wise, H20 was technically the first one he started on. That’s why he’s given an “Introducing” credit at the beginning of it and not on The Faculty.
That’s also why he has the same unkept bedhead in both movies, although that was less exhaustion and more a creative choice he made since he was sick of seeing teen movies where all the beautiful teenagers have perfect hair. H20’s hair and makeup department people fought him on this, but he kept defying them by putting a hat on after they’d fixed his air or, more simply, using his hand to mess up his hair right before a shot.
6. They got surprisingly far into production before realizing they hated the new Michael Myers mask they’d created
It’s not Halloween without another mask story. So, for H20 three weeks into shooting the “Casper mask,” so called because it was ghostly white and featureless, they’d been using was rejected by the Weinsteins. No one told the director, Steve Miner, though, which led to multiple arguments and left H20’s Michael, Chris Durand, stuck in the middle. Miner actually liked the “Casper mak,” but he was overruled and for that day of shooting, which actually involved the opening scene of the movie, Durand wore the Myers mask from Halloween 6.
After that, they had a new mask created, and spent nearly $3 million in reshoots to refilm any of the close-ups they’d already captured of the “Casper mask.” The result is Michael’s mask changes from the wide shots to the close-ups throughout the movie. In one instance, however, the set they’d used during the “Casper mask” portion of the production was no longer available meaning it wasn’t feasible to re-shoot the close-up of the mask. So, they instead animated a digital mask over Michael for that one particular shot.
7. Not only is that Janet Leigh, it’s also the same model of car from Psycho
Horror easter eggs abound in H20, from the brief appearance of a hockey mask (obvious Jason nod, made even richer since Steve Miner actually directed Friday the 13th 2 and 3) to restaging several classic sequences from the first Halloween just with Michelle Williams in Jamie Lee’s place to Scream 2 playing on a TV in the background. The loveliest of them all, though, is the moment of Janet Leigh (Curtis’ mom, of course) driving off in the same exact model of car she famously drove to her death at the Bates Motel in Psycho.
8. Jamie Lee Curtis’ stunt double broke her foot
While filming the scene where Laurie attempts to escape with Hartnett and Williams but has to stop at the gate, Donna Keegan, the stunt woman playing Laurie, slammed on the breaks, unaware that particular car’s brakes would kick back with extreme force if over-engaged. Unfortunately, that’s exactly what happened, instantly breaking her foot to the point of actually causing the bone to protrude out of her skin.
The pain was obviously immense, but she did her best to calmly call for help and not alarm Hartnett or Williams. During the ensuing wait for EMTs to come transport her to a hospital, Jamie Lee sat with the Donna on the ground, cradling her head in her lap the entire time. Curtis later distracted Keegen from the pain by debating which of the male medics attending to her foot was cutest.
9. They had five days to finish the score
When making a slasher movie, you innovate at your own peril. John Ottman, an editor/composer perhaps best known for his Bryan Singer collaborations The Usual Suspects and all of the X-Men movies, found that out on H20. He was under instructions from Steve Miner to create a score which mixed John Carpenter with something out of a Hitchcock movie, and his initial temp tracks pleased everyone. However, when he converted the temp tracks into full orchestral recordings the production team was simply confused. What he created felt like it belonged in a different movie, and Steve Miner was already too busy with his next movie, Lake Placid, to defend him.
Thus began a rushed process of replacing as much of Ottman’s original score as possible with new, more slasher-like compositions, some of which were written by Marco Beltrami, others by Ottman himself. Then Dimension moved up the release date a full month, which left them with just 5 days to finish the score. The result is an odd Frankenstein’s monster of a score which oscillates between Ottman’s original, Ottman/Beltrami’s replacement tracks and temp scores from Scream and Mimic. Just about the only scene which remained completely untouched is the opening. That big orchestral version of the iconic Carpenter theme is all Ottman, and a good indication of what the rest of the movie originally sounded like.
- BOX OFFICE: $55m domestic, $16m of which came in its opening weekend when it debuted at #3 behind Saving Private Ryan and Snake Eyes.
- BUDGET: $17m
- CONTEXT: The only horror movie to make more than H20 in 1998 was Blade ($70m), and you can quibble over whether or not that should really even be considered a horror movie. The rest of ‘98’s horror output consisted of titles like The Faculty ($40m), I Still Know What You Did Last Summer ($40m) and Urban Legends ($38m). So, Jamie Lee came back and showed the kids how it was done, managing, in the process, to sell more tickets than any other Halloween film in history. Except for the original, of course.
- INFLATION: At 2017 ticket prices, H20’s domestic total converts to $104m, which is Annabelle: Creation ($102m)/The Conjuring 2 (also $102m) territory for today’s horror movies.
Next time, I’ll seek to understand why Jamie Lee Curtis even bothered to come back for Halloween: Resurrection.
Sources: HalloweenMovies.com, Halloween: 25 Years of Terror, Anchor Bay’s “Blood is Thicker than Water-The Making of Halloween H20”, Halloween: The Inside Story
Any corrections or questions? Let me know in the comments.