Welcome to Commentary Commentary, where we sit and listen to filmmakers talk about their work, then share the most interesting parts. In this edition, Rob Hunter celebrates Halloween with the commentary for Halloween: H20!
Today is Halloween! So happy Halloween I guess, unless you’re reading this after October 31st in which case I hope you’re having a great day anyway. In honor of the holiday I decided to jump back into the Halloween franchise for a commentary track we haven’t covered yet — we’ve previously done Halloween (1978) and Halloween 6: The Curse of Michael Myers (1995).
There are commentary tracks for all of the films, but for now I chose Halloween: H20 (1998). The film sees Jamie Lee Curtis return to the franchise for the first time since 1981, and her argument towards the film’s existence and her role in it is the exact same one she would make twenty years later with Halloween (2018). Laurie Strode has been suffering for years from the trauma of that night, she’s picked up alcohol and guns as a defense, and she decides it’s time to bring the fight to Michael. The films are fairly different, but the themes and motivations are surprisingly the same.
Keep reading to see what I heard on the commentary track for…
Halloween: H20 (1998)
Commentators: Steve Miner (director), Jamie Lee Curtis (actor), Sean Clark (moderator)
1. When asked how the film came about Curtis begins by saying she called John Carpenter and Debra Hill, met them for lunch, and broached the idea of coming together again for a sequel celebrating the twentieth anniversary. Carpenter dropped out fairly quickly, Hill eventually followed suit, and Curtis was left to ride this ship alone. “My thought from the beginning was this poor girl has been terrorized for twenty years, she’s been on the run, her life has been ruined by the trauma she’s suffered, and let’s meet someone in that shape.” It’s the same mentality she would later bring to Halloween (2018).
2. It was in producer Moustapha Akkad’s contract, per Curtis, that Michael Myers couldn’t actually die. Curtis was firm on needing Laurie to believe she had killed Michael, so tying these two disparate strands together took some work.
3. Curtis and Miner first worked together on Forever Young (1992) which was J.J. Abrams’ first produced script. She approached the Friday the 13th: Part 2 (1981) director about tackling this film after Carpenter walked away from the project.
4. She is no fan of her film Virus (1999). “It’s the worst movie ever made,” she says, adding that she lobbied hard to have the director fired and replaced by Miner. He couldn’t do it, though, as he was working on Dawson’s Creek (1998-2003), which is where he met writer Kevin Williamson who was eventually brought in to work on this film’s script.
5. Nurse Marion is played by Nancy Stephens — a recurring character from Halloween (1978) and Halloween II (1981) who is returning again in the stupidly named Halloween Kills (2020). She’s married to Rick Rosenthal who directed the first sequel.
6. Michael is wearing the mask from Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers (1995) during his attack on Marion, but all of his later appearances feature a new mask sculpted for this film. They had shot the sequence while the studio went back and forth on which mask they preferred. Clark actually owns the mask in question now.
7. This is Josh Hartnett’s debut, and they recall having to choose between him and “Steve the director’s son.” They can’t actually recall his name, but Miner is adamant that he’s now a big star. I can only assume they’re referring to Timmy Spielberg.
8. “The result of terror is dysfunction,” says Curtis as the overriding theme of the film. It’s an idea that would be revisited for Rob Zombie’s Halloween II (2009) and Halloween (2018).
9. Clark asks if they gave any thought to who John’s (Hartnett) father was, but they say it doesn’t matter. Sounds like an admission that Dr. Loomis had a baby…
10. He comments that this was the second time Curtis appeared on screen with her mother Janet Leigh, but he’s corrected when she points out that they also co-starred on the same episode of The Love Boat back in 1978.
11. Curtis recalls lobbying for a brief scene where her character gets out of a car and does a double take as Mike Myers (Shrek, 2001) walks by, but the actor “shut us down.”
12. Miner recalls late night phone calls from Curtis worried and complaining about the state of the script. They credit Williamson’s uncredited contributions as making things far, far better.
13. Miner views this as a direct sequel to Carpenter’s original Halloween. That makes this the second of three direct sequels to that first film. He later adds that the film needed to end with Laurie killing her brother — a relationship that was first introduced in Halloween II (1981) — so who the hell knows what his deal is.
14. Curtis and Michelle Williams bonded over books, and the young actor gave Curtis a first-edition (the title is unnamed) when they wrapped. “She’s very intellectual.”
15. She recalls Hartnett being someone who wanted to be an actor but didn’t want the trappings of stardom. He would wear a knit beanie on set at all times, remove it to film a scene, and then immediately return it to his head as a way of retaining his personality. “I respected him for it. It was annoying, but I respected him for it.”
16. The school buses used to show how all of the school’s students are leaving for a break were picked up by the studio on the cheap and didn’t come with seats.
17. When Norma (Leigh) drives away from the school it’s in the same model/color car as she drove in Psycho (1960).
18. Michael is played by Chris Durand who also played the killer (part of the time) in Scream 2 (1997) which is playing on a TV in one of the student’s dorm room.
19. Curtis loves candy corn which we can all agree is gross.
20. Michael’s mask is digitally enhanced at 58:27, and “it looks odd.”
21. Curtis’ stunt double broke her foot during the scene where they’re driving the car and have to stop to open the gate. It’s bonkers, but apparently she slammed on the brakes and “the anti-lock brakes pushed back on her.”
22. As far as Curtis is concerned, the movie starts at 1:09:28 when Laurie sends the kids for help but stays behind to face off against Michael.
23. “Don’t drop the freaking knife!” yells Curtis as Laurie drops the freaking knife. “Ahh, I could punch her in the nose right now.” She adds that “they” made her drop the knife in the first movie and isn’t sure why she didn’t learn from her mistakes.
24. Curtis knew that Laurie would be killing an innocent man at the end of the film thinking it was Michael, but Laurie didn’t, and it was part of her deal in returning that there could be no hint of it in the film itself leaving audiences to instead believe that this was the end. It was Williamson who came up with the idea of Laurie cutting off a paramedic’s head unaware that Michael had swapped clothes with the poor shmuck at some point. Per the deal, she would return for a cameo in any follow-up, make it clear she had gone crazy, and then be killed.
Best in Context-Free Commentary
“Let’s get back together and kill the guy.”
“The trick to these movies is to make ’em wait.”
“Oh, my mom’s in this.”
“It was at the end of the day and I was pissed.”
“Oh she’s gonna die.”
“This is good Steve! I’m really liking this movie!”
“Adam Arkin is a knucklehead. His dad wouldn’t have shot the wrong guy.”
Curtis is a fun presence on the commentary track and offers some enjoyable quotes, but good gravy is she not interested at first in sharing. Clark’s left to chime in sporadically, and the handful of questions for her he does manage are replied to with short answers, but she eventually warms up to him. She interacts better with Miner as they recall aspects of the production, but she also interjects with her own thoughts regardless of what the others are talking about at the time. Still, it’s hard to argue with her enthusiasm for the character and film. It’s interesting mostly because her passionate arguments feel like the exact ones she and others made in the lead up to Halloween (2018). Regardless, it’s a fun listen.
Read more Commentary Commentary from the archives.