Revisiting the Saga of the ‘Halloween H20’ Mask
In one of the franchises best entries, Michael's mask had never looked worse.
Halloween H20: 20 Years Later stalked its way into theaters on August 5th, 1998. Jamie Lee Curtis had triumphantly returned to reclaim the throne in a post-Scream horror landscape. Kevin Williamson was horror’s hot hand at the time. The story he came up with effectively began a new timeline that served as a direct sequel to Halloween II. The move paid off, landing Halloween H20 with one of the biggest box office takes in franchise history. Fans loved seeing Jamie Lee again. They weren’t as happy to see Michael Myers wearing multiple masks that never came close to honoring the original William Shatner hero mask.
Recreating that original mask of The Shape has somehow proved to be one of the hardest things for makeup artists to accomplish over the years. During the filming of Halloween and Halloween II, the original mask was never treated like the iconic piece of cinema history that it eventually became. Nick Castle used to keep it in his back pocket in between takes; Debra Hill, thinking she was protecting the mask, kept it under her bed until production started on Halloween II. Dick Warlock kept it after the sequel wrapped and eventually sold it to a collector in Ohio in the early ‘aughts.
For Halloween H20, the main goal was to hit the 20th-anniversary mark of the original regardless of how distracting Michael’s overall appearance was in the final cut. Carrying over the design from part six, The Curse of Michael Myers, FX legend John Carl Buechler used the same mask mold for H20. Originally, that mask continuity made sense until Dimension Films executives decided to ignore parts 4, 5, and 6 altogether.
Haddonfield was out as the main location and so was the mask from Curse. In early tests, Buechler’s masks looked so much better than what wound up in the finished film. Why does Michael’s mask always look better when it’s not on someone’s face? Nick Castle’s features just fit the original Kirk mask perfectly, almost like a second skin. Actor Chris Durand played Michael in H20 to the best of his abilities. It does beg the question, what would have happened if Castle had played Myers throughout the entire series?
Director Steve Miner (House, Friday the 13th Part II) reportedly wasn’t pleased with the Buechler mask. So he enlisted the help of KNB to design the second mask. (You have John Carl Buechler and the artists at KNB but you can’t get this right?) The KNB mask was the main mask used in principal photography and is universally maligned by fans. Fortunately for them, the internet wasn’t the trash fire it is today.
The opening kill of Nurse Marion in Halloween H20 is, apparently, the only time the mask from Halloween 6 was featured. So, that mask sets up what audiences expected Michael to look like throughout the film. The KNB mask was used during the main production until reshoots began. Then, Stan Winston designed a mask that began to dominate Michael’s appearance during close-ups. The KNB mask was kept in for longer shots, resulting in Michael looking quite different from one shot to the next. Rewatch Halloween H20 knowing this and it quickly becomes a major distraction. The mask in the theatrical version also looks completely different than the original trailer.
I don’t blame LL Cool J, Michelle Williams, or even Josh Hartnett for failing to notice just how ridiculous their anonymous boogeyman looks as he wanders the halls of Hillcrest Academy. But shouldn’t Laurie Strode a.k.a. Keri Tate say something?
Tragically, after missing a much-needed close-up of Michael when he attacks Charlie in the laundry room, it was decided that a CGI mask should be placed over the KNB mask. Why this was considered a better option than just leaving in the KNB mask is something of a mystery. There have been VFX attempts to fix the CGI mask that don’t really make that much of an improvement. Fixing those shots years later in post only magnifies the error. It should never have been “fixed in post” to begin with! Maybe one day they’ll replace the Buechler mask, the KNB mask, and the Winston mask with an all-CG mask in a future Producer’s Cut.
Inevitably, the human eye detects these kinds of glaring changes. We simply can’t reconcile multiple images of what is allegedly the same thing. Still, Halloween H20 stands as a return to form for the Halloween series that laid the groundwork for the new trilogy we’re all waiting to see come to an end this October. Unavoidably though, the constant inconsistencies from shot to shot in this film undermine the menace and legend of Michael Myers. It’s the very opposite of movie magic.
As a Michael Myers stan, can you watch Halloween H20 without growing increasingly frustrated by the four-mask conundrum? Let us know over on Twitter at @DreadCentral!