The Halloween H20 episode of WTF Happened to This Horror Movie? was Written by Eric Walkuski, Narrated and Edited by Tyler Nichols, Produced by Andrew Hatfield and John Fallon, and Executive Produced by Berge Garabedian.
As we all know, the first half of the 90s could often be a scary time for the horror genre. There were a few standouts (Silence Of The Lambs, New Nightmare and Candyman) but the slasher overdose of the 80s left the general public jaded. It was up to the hardcore fans to find the gems. Even horror’s superstars weren’t pulling in the public anymore, some of them seriously slumming it in movies that were practically made to be sent direct-to-video (Jason Goes to Hell, Hellraiser 4, Child’s Play 3).
The unkillable Michael Myers was not immune to this phenomena. In 1995, after hibernating for six years, The Shape made a not so triumphant return to the big screen with the sixth Halloween film, The Curse of Michael Myers, a movie with plenty of behind-the-scenes drama of its own. It did not do well at the box office. It only grossed $15 million domestically. And it was largely ignored by the same fans that had supported Michael Myers and Haddonfield’s ever-dwindling residents. The poor performance of Halloween6 meant that Michael would return one day but he may be heading direct-to-video. This is perhaps the only way to truly kill the boogeyman. But instead of being tossed into the bargain bins, the next Halloween would ultimately shake up the franchise in a big way – at least temporarily – thanks to the return of one very important figure from the franchise’s past. It’s Halloween, no matter what the calendar says. So grab some candy and watch WTF happened to Halloween – H20 Twenty Years Later! Home video was a valuable market for horror movies, as it ever is, and Dimension Films, the home of
Halloween at the time, was having some success in that arena. For a while, it looked like a direct sequel to Halloween 6 was going to be the way to go, but that notion fell through early on once things got interesting for the project.Enter a young TV writer named Robert Zappia, whose filmography at that point included gigs on TV shows like Home Improvement and
L.A. Firefighters… You’re excused if you don’t remember L.A. Firefighters… Zappia had written a sci-fi spec script called Population Zero that caught the attention of Richard Potter, an executive at Dimension. Potter told Zappia during a face-toface meeting that Dimension had an unfinished assignment: Halloween 70. Zappia, being a major fan of the franchise, jumped at the chance to write a new entry, and soon found himself tackling his first studio feature.Zappia was ultimately told to ignore the many loose ends and strange plot twists of Halloween 6 and start fresh, a reboot of sorts. Zappia’s concept had Michael Myers stalking a girls-only boarding school, while a copycat murderer helped police track him down. Sort of
Halloween meets Silence of the Lambs if you will. It was to be called Halloween: The Two Faces of Evil, and it quickly had the support of producers Bob and Harvey Weinstein along with longtime franchise producer Moustopha Akkad and his son, Malek.But things would change rather quickly for the seventh Halloween. Bob Weinstein is said to have come up with the idea to bring back Jamie Lee Curtis as Laurie Strode, the ultimate final girl. However, Curtis later claimed that she approached the studio to ask to be brought back. Regardless, with the 20th anniversary of the original
Halloween right around the corner, having Curtis reprise her role was irresistible to all involved. Curtis said she played the role out of loyalty to her horror community, who had been so supportive early in her career. Robert Zappia received a call from Bob Weinstein informing him that his first draft of Halloween Two Faces of Evil had been very well received, but would not be made. Zappia, with Curtis on board, was told to scrap most of his script except for the boarding-school idea and find a creative way to include Laurie. The budget would be upped significantly, and the new idea was to release the film theatrically, with the hope being the combination of Curtis’ return and the twentieth anniversary angle would be a big deal for moviegoers.Once she was fully on board, Jamie Lee didn’t like the idea of doing the film without the two people who made the original: John Carpenter and his co-writer and producer, Debra Hill. The trio approached Bob Weinstein with the idea of all of them coming back to work on the new Halloween
, but Carpenter had a major stipulation: he wanted to be paid somewhere in the neighborhood of $10 million to direct the film, the thinking being he’d finally be getting the hefty payday he never received for his work on the other Halloween films. Obviously, the studio balked, and Carpenter and Hill walked away.
Regardless of the duo’s departure, Jamie Lee had taken a very active role at this point in the production, and though she never received a producer credit it’s clear she was one of the main people behind-the-scenes getting the film on its feet. She wanted to make sure that the script dealt with the trauma Laurie endured after her encounter with Michael. She also wanted to show how the past 20 years had changed her character, making her a paranoid, alcoholic, who had fled Haddonfield. Her ideas were met with some resistance from the series’ producers, who were afraid Curtis was bringing the film into too dark and psychological of a territory for a Halloween film, but this aspect of the character was very important to Curtis, so she persisted and got her way.Another crucial move by the actress was the hiring of Steve Miner to direct. Miner directed Curtis a few years earlier in the fantasy film Forever You
. He was her first choice for Halloween after Carpenter’s departure. The fact that Miner had directed a couple of Friday the 13th
sequels, as well as House and Warlock, proved he knew a thing or two about the genre as well. The script is worth a second look. At this point, the all-girls school setting was changed to being a co-ed private school so that Laurie’s son John, a main character, could attend – although the production briefly flirted with the idea of the son being the only boy in the otherwise female-dominated school… What a school-year that would be for the young man…Anyway, the idea of the copycat killer was still in play and eventually revealed to be the character of Charlie Devereux, John’s best buddy and roommate. Adam Hann-Bird played a heavily rewritten version in H20, who initially thought he had signed up to play the killer. Hann-Bird learned that the script had been significantly altered two weeks before the filming began. He was now playing the stereotypical best friend. In the original script, Charlie The Copycat Killer is confronted by the real Michael Myers who kills the young psycho. Intriguingly, a different take on this idea would be explored, to much controversy, in David Gordon Green’s Halloween Ends with good old Corey Cunningham playing the role of troubled copycat killer.But the script would get a major makeover by one Kevin Williamson, who at that time had become the biggest name in horror thanks to his scripts for Scream and Scream 2. Naturally, it was Dimension chief Bob Weinstein who encouraged Williamson to board
thanks to their shared love of the original Halloween, not to mention the major success of the Scream movies. Williamson was reluctant to join the project at first because he felt burned out from his sudden fame, but after meeting Jamie Lee Curtis, he decided to jump on board. Williamson worked closely with Curtis and Steve Miner and even stayed on set to act as script doctor during the production. Ultimately, he didn’t get a credit on the finished screenplay because according to the WGA he didn’t contribute quite enough, but he eventually received an executive producer credit as a thank you from the Weinsteins.
Filming would take place in California on a somewhat tight schedule, with production commencing in February of 1998 with an eye toward releasing the film that summer. Josh Hartnett was an unknown actor at the time, but he would play Laurie Strode’s stressed-out son John. Hartnett was cast in the role after he auditioned for a Dimension project called The faculty and the casting directors recommended that he be cast in H20. Hartnett, like his character, did not easily conform to the expectations of others on set. Hartnett’s notoriously bad hair was his own fault. He hated that his character would be portrayed as just another heartthrob and so he deliberately messed it up, even cutting it awkwardly himself. When cameras weren’t rolling, he’d wear a beanie just to make it look worse, so if you’ve ever been fascinated and appalled by John’s messy ‘do, you have Hartnett to thank.Returning to the franchise alongside Curtis was Nancy Stephens, who played nurse Marion Chambers in Halloween and Halloween II. The opening scene with the character was one the last things to remain from Robert Zappia’s first draft. However, at one point it was changed so that the character would be Dr. Sam Loomis’ daughter. At the end of the day, the filmmakers thought bringing back Nurse Chambers would connect the film even more directly to its predecessors.Naturally, you probably know playing Laurie’s dedicated secretary was none other than Janet Leigh, Jamie Lee’s mother, in an homage to both their relationship and Leigh’s own history with the horror genre. Her brief role is littered with references to the legendary
Psycho, right down to the car her character drives, which is the same one Marion Crane buys in the Hitchcock classic. Though it wasn’t the first time they were in the same movie, it was the first time mother and daughter had shared a scene together.Another brief cameo comes from Dr. Loomis himself, during the film’s opening credits. Tom Kane was hired to voice Michael’s speech because the production could not find the original audio. Kane recorded the voice-over with Donald’s best friend, who was able judge how closely Kane’s voice matched Donald’s. Kane recorded about 50 takes before he got it right. That’s the take that you hear in the final film. Dimension believed that LL Cool J would help boost ticket sales because of his star power. Dimension based their decision on market research, which showed that African American audiences were very interested in this type of film. The movie’s young cast was properly starstruck by LL’s presence, and the rapper took his job as actor quite seriously, to the point where he’d hang around on set even when his character wasn’t in the scene.Of course, there’s no Halloween
without Michael Myers – okay, Halloween III aside – and stuntman Chris Durand was cast to portray the pitiless killer. Durand was one of the stuntmen who played Ghostface in Dimension’s Scream 201, the year before. This makes him one of the very few people to have played two horror icons. It would undergo many changes in
H20. The Weinsteins ordered a new mask along with reshoots after they decided that the mask was not what they wanted. After KNB’s mask was tossed in the trash, the production went to another legend in the make-up biz, John Carl Buechler (pronounced BEEK-ler), best known as the director of Troll
Friday the 13th Part 7
in addition to his many credits as a make-up artist. Buechler created the mask used in the previous film Curse Of Michael Myers and he tried to recreate that look as much as he could. Strangely, the mask switch was done without Steve Miner’s knowledge. This is strange because you would think that the director would be informed about such things. Rumors say he wasn’t happy with the sudden change. Stan Winston was brought in to create another mask. Reshoots were done in order to get close-ups of this preferred mask, but when you watch the film you’ll see at least four different masks worn by Michael, including an awkward CGI one… With so many masks on set, you’d think they could have just slapped one of them on that guy…Another disagreement between producers and creatives would be the end of the film. Jamie Lee, Miner and the Weinsteins were determined that this would be the final film in the trilogy. The idea was to kill Michael and give Laurie peace to move on. Kevin Williamson, the creator of the franchise, was not happy with the idea. He didn’t want to kill off his golden goose permanently. Apparently it was Kevin Williamson who came up with the idea of having Michael pull the old switcheroo with the paramedic off-screen, that way when an eventual sequel was made they had a reason – ridiculous as it was – to resurrect Michael.Jamie Lee wasn’t pleased with this caveat – she did not want to cheat the audience, and when she signed up to do the film it was with the understanding that Laurie would kill Michael, the end. She told the producers they would have to pay her a large sum of money to get her to appear in the next film and kill her within the first 10 minutes. They did. She admitted thinking it’s a good movie but not a great one; but more than anything, she was happy to have gotten a nice paycheck out of it and put her stamp on it where she could… Of course, Curtis would revisit Laurie Strode a few more times starting in 2018, with a new trilogy of Halloween films that ignored all the other films save for the 1978 original.
Halloween H20 opened to the tune of $24 million over its first five days in August 1998, coming out just a little over three months after it wrapped production. It made $55 million in the U.S. on a budget of just $17 million. It didn’t impress critics, but it was a nice treat for fans who had longed to see Jamie Lee Curtis back in the series that began it all. For her and for the genre of slashers, it was a welcome return. Jamie Lee Curtis is the best part of many sequels that feature Laurie Strode. Below are a few of the previous episodes from WTF happened to This Horror Movie. To see more, head over to our JoBlo Horror Originals YouTube channel – and subscribe while you’re there!https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SpwFeBKXzJ0https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sX66BRNQQqk