Just three years after the B-movie flailings of The Curse of Michael Myers, slasher movies were cool again thanks to box office sensations like Scream and I Know What You Did Last Summer. There’s a technical polish (and no doubt a budget increase) that elevates Halloween H20; it’s directed by horror veteran Steve Miner (Friday the 13th Part 2 and Part III) and boasts an incredible cast capped by Jamie Lee Curtis’s return as Laurie Strode. For the O.G. horror fans, there’s also Nancy Stephens as Dr. Loomis’ longtime nurse, Marion Chambers, who appears in the first two Halloween movies, and a cheery supporting turn by Curtis’ mother, Psycho star Janet Leigh. For fans of late-1990s pop culture, you also get LL Cool J, Adam Arkin, Josh Hartnett, Michelle Williams, Jodi Lyn O’Keefe, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt.
H20‘s story retcon wipes away the previous three films, though it does keep the detail that Laurie “died” in a car accident—a cover story so that she can conceal her identity as a survivor of the infamous Halloween massacre, as well as hide her location from you-know-who. Laurie’s PTSD is explored here in a completely different way than in the 2018 Halloween; she has violent nightmares and is tenuously holding it together with the help of a semi-secret booze problem and a cabinet stuffed full of prescription meds. But she’s also the well-liked headmaster of a boarding school and is mostly functional in her relationships, though her 17-year-old son (Hartnett) thinks she’s way too strict.
When Michael materializes—the movie never specifies, but apparently he’s just been on the loose for 20 years—his showdown with his long-lost sister is an appropriately epic mano-a-mano that takes up way more screen time than their brawl in 2018’s Halloween. And though there are more Halloween installments after H20, the movie ends on a sense of finality that feels extremely satisfying in the moment.