Bad Movies We Love: Halloween H20

levittskullh20-630.jpgSince Joseph Gordon-Levitt is titillating you with cancer this week in 50/50 and Josh Hartnett is storming the art-house circuit with Bunraku, we have no choice but to revisit their joint alma mater, the hallowed halls of Halloween H20. It's not the best Halloween movie, and it's certainly not the worst, but as October dawns and the season of the witch descends, we're due for a fright -- and Halloween H20 delivers. It'll loosen the Activia from your trembling constitution.

Halloween H20 takes place 20 years after the original Halloween, with Jamie Lee Curtis resuming her role as Laurie Strode, the serial victim who entered witness protection years after Michael Myers slayed all the babysitters in her Haddonfield, Ill., neighborhood. (God rest their Soles.) It's important to note that Halloween H20 ignores the events of the fourth, fifth and sixth films -- but only if you care about irredeemable bad movies. We're not in that market.

Truth be told, Halloween H20 is one of the best films I've ever included in this feature. We're talking 2-and-a-half-star credibility, here! The plot is predictable to a fault, but the killing scenes are jarring and surprising, visceral and clever. Jamie Lee's prickliness and smart haircut dominate the movie, but Hartnett is a respectable puppy as her son, an unassuming Michelle Williams is fine as his girlfriend, and even LL Cool J is good as -- wait for it -- a doomed security guard. Throw in Adam Arkin as Curtis's unfazed paramour and you already have four times the valor of a one-note dorkfest like Teaching Mrs. Tingle. The damning thing is that a sixth Halloween followup is plain unnecessary, so it's hard to call H20 anything better than "surprisingly competent." Thus, it's forced to wear the Bad Movie albatross like its cousin I Know What You Did Last Summer.

H20's strong box office returns helped it to spawn a mindless sequel called Halloween Resurrection, but let's forget about that nonsense forever. We have five lovable moments to retrace, so equip your counting hand, please!


5. Psycho connections

Jamie Lee Curtis all but invented this project, so it's no surprise that her scream queen mother Janet Leigh appears in a supporting role. What is surprising is how deep the appreciation of Janet's roots go. As a secretary at the boarding school where Curtis teaches, Leigh's a gentle woman with a quaint old car. But not just any car. Do you see what I see? That's a replica of her getaway wheels in Psycho, the movie that launched a million Laurie Strodes and Michael Myerses in the decades to come. I love the authenticity. Maybe Anthony Perkins is hiding in the backseat, getting a blowy from Tab Hunter? Whatever drives you to greatness, Janet!

4. Little Joseph Gordon-Levitt gets "incepted" by an ice skate


The worlds of Joey Gordon-Levitt and death are intertwined delicately in 50/50, but Halloween H20 thinks that's stupid. Six minutes into the movie, Michael Myers owns the punky, hockey-playing JGL (who is wearing a Jason Voorhees mask when he first appears) by jamming an ice skate into his face like a debit card. A little unbelievable, yes, but can't you picture Gordon-Levitt's 3rd Rock from the Sun dad John Lithgow gasping incredulously at this? With an added squawk of "Gahh-ahh-AHH!" Gives me a little lift. Meanwhile, the image of JGL with a boot lodged in his face is downright unforgettable and Orwellian. And a little harsh! I guess Michael Myers hates multicamera sitcom stars: In the DVD extras, he slashes French Stewart's squinty eyes into two gushing slants.

3. Nothing can prepare you for the horror... of Josh Hartnett's musical tastes.

After Hartnett, Williams and their buddies sneak back into school for a naughty, after-hours Halloween double date (WTF), Michael Myers starts picking off their nameless friends one by one. In one ghastly sequence, Michael arranges for an entire dumbwaiter to fall on one victim's leg, shattering it. Eek! But it gets worse: We visit Hartnett and Williams back in the safe part of the school, and they're listening to Creed. WES CRAVEN, TRY AND TOP THIS. Jump to 11:50 for the dumbwaiter sequence and a taste of Scott Stapp's pain.

2. The acting is... great?

Here at Bad Movies We Love, I'm not used to the presence of thespians. I expect the likes of Madonna and Brigitte Nielsen, not anyone who explores emotions. Jamie Lee Curtis is convincing and convicted as the exasperated Laurie, and when she engages in combat with the tireless Michael, it's as much a bracing character study as it is a scary-ass showdown.

1. The way Jamie Lee Curtis says "bullshit"

This is a nonsense no. 1, but it's seriously what I remember most from this movie -- even more than JGL's grotsky Gretzky death. In a conversation with Arkin early in the movie, Curtis complains that her son is slipping away from her because he's enjoying awful teenage things like independence. She adds, "I think he's finally tired of my bullshit. What about you? Are you tired of my bullshit?" Except it's Jamie Lee Curtis, so it sounds like this: "What about you? Are you tired of my buuwuhlschitt?" I AM OBSESSED WITH THIS. Please scroll to 7:10, where -- in the slowest scene in the movie -- Jamie Lee deviates from her great performance and sounds for one nanosecond like both a moody preteen boy and Michael Clarke Duncan. Share it with your loved ones. Watch it once or 40 times! Watch it under the glow of a jack o' lantern! You may think I'm crazy! Whatever! I will never tire of Jamie Lee's bullshit!


  • J K says:

    I remember wanting to like this film so much that I endeavored to stifle my laughter when Jamie Lee was introduced waking up from a nightmare screaming in the most comical way imaginable. Many in my theatre did not extend the courtesy. It does have a lovely score, though, with the immortal theme orchestrated by the talented John Ottman.

  • Loriservo says:

    haha, I just rewatched this like, 2 days ago and I had forgotten how hilarious it was! Hadn't seen it since high school and got so much more out of it this time! And you are correct, Jamie Lee's "bullshit" was magnificent! lol

  • miles silverberg says:

    I remember being on vacation in a cabin in the middle of Vermont when this movie was playing -- mainly because my friends and I went into "town" to see a movie, and this was playing at the town's lone theater. I don't even like the horror genre that much, but I remember thinking this movie was a lot more competent than I expected it to be. But with Jamie Lee at the wheel and a surprisingly impressive supporting cast, it's harder to fail I guess.
    But I wouldn't recommend seeing a movie like this if you have to go back to a quiet, remote lakeside cabin in the woods afterward. Ooky-spay!

  • jonnyhlllywd says:

    PJ Soles rocks!
    Halloween, Carrie, Stripes, Rock N' Roll High School, Private Benjamin - she had an amazing run....

  • spent says:

    I have a soft spot for this film. I think is is a worthy successor to the HALLOWEEN II. It is by no means perfect (just observe the changing Michael Myers mask for evidence of that). But all the same, it was the only film in the Halloween franchise, other than II, that actually tried to keep the slow and plodding menace of John Carpenter's original. All in all, not a bad 90's slasher.
    Good choice.