Will Brennan: Who hasn't? Michael Myers. It's like 20 years ago?
Will: And the girl that...what happened to the sister, she died, right?
Laurie: No, she faked her death... and now, she's the headmistress of a very posh, secluded private school in Northern California — hoping and praying every year...that her brother won't find her.
Ignoring the continuity of the last three films of the Halloween franchise, Halloween H20: Twenty Years Later picks up the story of Final Girl Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis). After faking her death to live in peace following the horrific events during the Halloween night of 1978, Laurie had changed her name to Keri Tate, had a son, and became a headmistress for a high school far away from Haddonfield, Illinois.
Michael Myers, however, has finally tracked Laurie down, and after two decades of waiting, he comes back into her life — and enters the lives of a number of students, including Laurie's son — in order to kill her once and for all...
While it offered a solid conclusion to the story of Laurie Strode, that didn't stop the suits from making a sequel.
In a rather amusing footnote: the film was directed by Steve Miner, who also directed the second and third Friday the 13th movies—making him the only filmmaker ever to direct installments in more than one of the "big three" Slasher Movie franchises (Halloween, Friday the 13th, and A Nightmare on Elm Street).
Halloween H20: Twenty Years Later contains examples of the following tropes:
- Action Girl: Laurie has had enough of Michael's bullshit.
- Action Survivor: John, Molly, and Ronnie, who each try to fight off Michael and end up surviving.
- Accidental Murder: Will, who is in a panic about Michael, shoots someone wearing a hoodie he presumes to be Michael when in fact it is Ronnie. He is pretty shaken up about it. Apparently Ronnie survives and the bullet only grazed him, but why he would be knocked unconscious in a pool of blood with a mere graze is not explained, making the twist feel pretty contrived.
- Actor Allusion: Norma, the character played by Janet Leigh, gets in a car that is similar to one she drove in Psycho, with a piece of the film's score playing in the background. She also tells Laurie that the shower is clogged - a reference to her character's famous death in the film. The character was originally intended as an Actor Allusion to P. J. Soles - as she was named after Soles's character from Carrie (1976), but was played by Leigh after Soles failed to give them an answer, meaning that her name being similar to Psycho's antagonist Norman Bates was a coincidence. Likewise, Norma's motherly attitude towards Laurie was intended as this, to serve as a nod to the fact that mother and daughter were starring alongside each other. And in another sense, Nurse Marion returning from the first two films; the character was named after Janet's from Psycho.
- Advertised Extra: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, whose character dies in the opening scene.
- The Alcoholic: Laurie has become this, though she's still functional. It's underlined by the lunch scene where, while Will is in the restroom, she orders another wine while there's a full glass on the table already, downs the first in a gulp, then drinks the second glass back down to where the first was when Will walked away so he doesn't notice anything strange.
- And Starring:
- There is an "introducing Josh Hartnett." He has done quite well for himself ever since.
- Janet Leigh is given a special billing for her cameo "Janet Leigh as Norma", although she's not the last billed.
- Joseph Gordon Levitt gets the "and as" to close off the credits.
- Arc Number: This film reveals the number seventeen to be this to the series. Michael murdered Judith and tried to kill Laurie when they were both seventeen, and he hasn't returned until now, when John is seventeen.
- Artistic License – Geography: Michael drives from Haddonfield, Illinois to Northern California within 1-2 days. Even if he'd driven nonstop—which he didn't, he had to stop because his car broke down and he needs to steal another. Impossible? Not entirely, there's about a 30-hour drive between Chicago and San Francisco. Myers starts his journey from Langdon on October 29th, around 7 p.m., so without stopping, he could arrive in California on the 31st, around 2 or 3 a.m, just in time to "celebrate" Halloween. Gas would definitely remain an issue, though.
- Back for the Dead: Marion Chambers, who featured as a minor character in the first movie and played a bigger role in the second, returns in the prologue. Michael breaks into her house looking for details on Laurie. Naturally she doesn't survive the encounter.
- Balls of Steel: Michael takes a knee to the groin, but barely reacts.
- Big Eater: Sarah. While preparing a massive amount of junk food for a Halloween party, she mentions she's got such an intense love of food that it's actually a goal of hers to get fat. Charlie agrees with her philosophy.
- Bittersweet 17: Laurie has a "Eureka!" Moment when she realises that Michael killed Judith at seventeen, tried to kill her at that age and likely is coming after John now that he's turned seventeen.
- Black Dude Dies First: Inverted. Ronnie the security guard is mistakenly shot by Will, but appears at the end having survived.
- Bloody Handprint: Laurie leaves a bloody handprint on the door of a closet, tricking Michael Myers into thinking she's hiding inside.
- Brick Joke: A minor gag early in the film is Ronnie reading cheesy romance stories he's written to his wife over the phone. In the climax, he can be seen on the phone with her excitedly saying he's going to write a romantic thriller.
- Buxom Beauty Standard: Ronnie is narrating a story to his wife, and we hear him talking about a woman with "round, melon breasts."
- Michael lifting Will up with his knife after stabbing him is reminiscent of the infamous scalpel scene from Halloween II (1981).
- Molly spotting Michael lurking across the street from her classroom, precisely as Laurie did in the first film—and both during an English class, no less, before being called on to answer a question.
- The numerous Stealth Hi/Bye Michael pulls are also reminiscent of those in the first film.
- The song "Mister Sandman" is played over the film's opening, like it was over the beginning and end of the second film, and the song also shows up on the radio in Laurie's car.
- Laurie gets scraped with a knife through her shirt sleeve in the same way she did in the original. The scar from the original injury is even visible when we see Laurie having her nightmare early in the film.
- Molly has trouble with her keys while being chased, just as Laurie did in the first film.
- Laurie tells John and Molly to go down to the street to get help from someone, just as she did for Tommy and Lindsey in the first film.
- Camping a Crapper: Averted. A woman and her daughter go to a public bathroom and Michael Myers follows them in. After a tense scene in which the audience assumes he is going to kill them, he ends up stealing the woman's car keys and leaving instead.
- Canon Discontinuity: Played with. The Jamie Lloyd portions of the franchise aren't mentioned (though they would have been in the original treatment), but it's half hinted that they did happen and half hinted that they didn't. The photo montage at the start shows a bloody pair of scissors, as a nod to the fourth film. Laurie faking her death is playing off of her character's death as mentioned in the fifth film. However, it's also mentioned that Michael hasn't been heard of whatsoever since the events of the first and second films, which implies the events of 4 through 6 didn't happen.
- Car Fu: Laurie hijacks an ambulance van with Michael in it and runs it off a cliff in order to kill Michael once and for all. It just ends up pinning him against a tree.
- Character Development: Laurie Strode, who goes from a Damsel in Distress to a badass Action Girl in this movie. She provides the page image.
- Dead Star Walking: Joseph Gordon-Levitt is the first to die.
- Department of Redundancy Department: The subtitle, considering on how H20 already means that it has been twenty years from the first film's events.
- Disappeared Dad: John's estranged dad is an "abusive, chain-smoking, methadone addict."
- Dumbwaiter Ride: Charlie rides the dumbwaiter, and then after he's killed, Michael hides Charlie's body in it. When Sarah finds the body, she's forced to get inside it and try to ride it up with his body, but Myers tampers with the dumbwaiter's rope, further incapacitating her and then kills her.
- Evil Overlooker: The poster/cover has Michael Myers' Black Eyes of Evil looming over the frightened-looking protagonists.
"I think that Victor should have confronted the monster sooner. He's completely responsible for Elizabeth's death. He was so paralyzed by fear that he never did anything. It took death for the guy to get a clue." She goes on to say that Victor finally confronts the monster because he "had reached a point in his life where he had nothing left to lose. I mean, the monster saw to that by killing off everybody that he loved. It was about redemption. It was his fate."
- Laurie is teaching an English literature class on Mary Shelley's novel Frankenstein. Molly, one of the students, responds to a question about the book and fate with this:
- This leaves Laurie shaken and deep in thought, and it foreshadows the final scenes in the movie where she finally decides to stop running from Michael and confront her monster. After twenty years of living in fear and seeing her loved ones murdered, she has nothing more to lose. It's time to face her fears and end the nightmare.
- Groin Attack: Laurie knees Michael in the groin. It doesn't do anything except cause him to give her a nasty glare.
- The Hunter Becomes the Hunted: At the end, Laurie turns the tables on Michael and starts hunting him down with an axe.
- Improbable Infant Survival: We're given a Bait-and-Switch implying that Michael will murder a mother and her young daughter, but he just steals their car keys and leaves. None of the film's victims are younger than teenagers.
- Irony: Laurie initially refuses to let John go on the Yosemite camping trip, but she relents and gives him a permission slip at the last minute. He decides to stay at the school for a small party...and gets attacked by Michael Myers.
- Kleptomaniac Hero: Nurse Chambers's neighbor Jimmy does bravely venture into her house with a hockey stick when they think someone dangerous is there, but he also pauses to steal a little beer in the process.
- Mama Bear: In the original movie, Laurie had no qualms about attacking Michael in self-defense. In H20, she really lets him have it when he attacks her son.
- Nonchalant Dodge: Michael's response to Laurie's knife-throwing act.
- Off with His Head!: Laurie beheads Michael in the end.
- Oddball in the Series: Alternate continuity or not, this is the first—and only—film in the series to not take place in Haddonfield (the prologue notwithstanding). It also takes place over several days, whereas the other films take place over one.
- Oddly Named Sequel 2: Electric Boogaloo: No, the movie is not named after the chemical formula for water (H20 = Halloween 20 Years Later). Although, water has a PH of 7.0, and this is the seventh movie in the Halloween franchise.
- Oh, Crap!: From the audience's view. Michael tries to stab John and Molly through a closed gate with no success. Then he notices the keys on the ground, picks them up, and tries to unlock the gate. This shows that Michael may be a psychotic murderer, but he's far from being brainless...if his being able to hunt down Laurie's file and drive cross-country to locate her didn't already indicate that clearly enough.
- Precision F-Strike: After Laurie catches John off campus, she says, "What the fuck do you think you're doing?!" - which even he is uncomfortable with.
- Prolonged Prologue: The prologue goes for almost 20 minutes before the opening credits begin.
- Recut: There's a TV Cut that trims the violence and cuss words, but also has some alternate scenes. One added scene gives the counselor played by Adam Arkin some development by revealing that his mother cheated on his traveling salesman father, and he got blamed for knowing but doing nothing, about it.
- Refusal of the Call: A minor example, but Jimmy's neighbor Tony is very keen on staying outside and waiting for the police when Jimmy goes in to investigate.
- Retcon: Big ones.
- This film creates a new timeline where the events of 4 through Curse never happen, writing them out of the story.
- Even though the film purports to take place twenty years after Halloween and Halloween II, Michael shows zero signs of any of the severe injuries he sustained in those films. Both his eyes are perfectly intact despite his left being pierced by a hangar in the original film and both eyes being shot out with a revolver in the second. He also shows absolutely no signs of being a burn victim despite nearly burning to death in the second film.
- Sassy Black Woman: Ronnie's wife manages to embody this trope despite never appearing on screen and only featuring on the phone.
- Say My Name: Laurie after she starts hunting Michael:"MICHAAAAEEELLL! MICHAEL!"
- Series Continuity Error: Michael has no burn scars or eye injuries, which he would have incurred from the second and first films (which are in this movie's continuity timeline).note
- Series Fauxnale: Was written and intended to be the final chapter in Michael and Laurie's story and the ultimate end to the Halloween saga. Executive Meddling and the later sequel had different ideas.
- Sex Signals Death: Downplayed. Charlie and Sarah joke about having sex more than Molly and John and the former pair is killed while the latter pair survives. Will is also keener to do it with Laurie than she is, and he gets killed.
- One character is named Norma Watson after P.J. Soles' role in the first film adaptation of Carrie. Soles also played Lynda in the original Halloween.
- There is also a cameo by Janet Leigh, mother of Jamie Lee Curtis and star of Psycho, which is the Spiritual Ancestor to the original Halloween. Janet Leigh drives the car she drove in Psycho, and her scene is scored with the music from that film.
- One of the teens who Nurse Chambers encounters is wearing a hockey mask.
- Laurie says "drive down to the Beckers'," referencing Casey Becker from Scream (1996) whose parents referenced Laurie's line from Halloween, "drive down to the McKenzies'."
- Slashers Prefer Blondes: Inverted. The lone blonde in the group is one of the survivors.
- Soundtrack Dissonance: The credits feature "What's This Life For?" by Creed, a song featuring a section of lyrics repeating over and over that we all live under the Christian god ("We all live under the reign / Of one King")...very out of place in a slasher film. The song also features diegetically in the film while John and Molly listen to it on a boom box, but that actually makes sense since a lot of teens at the time listened to Creed. As a credits song to close out the film, however...not so much.
- Stalker Shrine: It is revealed that Dr. Loomis's office is a shrine to Michael Myers, with three decades worth of newspaper clippings about Myers taped all over the office walls. To add to the creepiness, he also has high school photos of Laurie (Michael's sister) stuck to the wall, too.
- Sudden Sequel Death Syndrome: Marion Whittington and Doctor Loomis. Actor Donald Pleasence passed away in 1995 while finishing Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers. At least Loomis's death was off-screen, unlike Marion's unfortunately.
- Throwing Your Sword Always Works: Averted. During the final confrontation with Michael Myers, Laurie throws several large kitchen knives at him. They all miss.
- Took a Level in Badass: Laurie has had enough of being stalked by Michael and takes the fight to him.
- Triumphant Reprise: A more triumphant-sounding version of the theme plays as Laurie decides to track Michael down.
- Villain Decay: Unfortunately, Michael's iconic and creepy breathing is missing in this film.
- Wrong Genre Savvy: Detective Fitzsimmons is quick to pick up on the likelihood of Michael's return while examining a crime scene (even noting how they Never Found the Body) and how Michael could go on another Halloween rampage, quickly alerting Haddonfield, expecting Michael to return to the scene of his past murders yet again. Too bad that this time, Michael is avoiding Haddonfield in favor of going on a Roaring Rampage of Revenge against Laurie, in a different town.