Halloween 5 Review
“I prayed that he would burn in Hell. But in my heart, I knew that Hell would not have him.”
And so to Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers … which is where the rot really set in. And decided to stay.
The Halloween franchise was successfully rebooted and boiler-suited when Dwight H. Little allowed Michael Myers to Return to Haddonfield in Part 4. The Shape was back, and even if he had been blown-away in a hail of bullets and his body dumped deep down in a well … there was no way that he was going to stay down there. In fact, commencing with a recap of the frantic finale that dropped Mickey down the rabbit-hole, new director Dominique Othenin-Girard has the original posse of cops, State Troopers and grizzled rednecks making double-damn-certain that they’ve put an end to his reign of terror, by tossing sticks of dynamite down after him.
But Michael is more resilient than John McClane and manages to crawl from the crevice like a Captain Kirk-faced spider and tumble into a convenient river that will whisk him away to the safety of a weird old hermit’s shack. Taken in by the old yokel in a scene that may well be some sort of nod to the blind man looking after the Monster in James Whale’s The Bride of Frankenstein, our boy is looked after for exactly year, during which time he lies there in a virtual coma, no doubt savouring dark dreams of cutting-up that minx of a niece who managed to elude him on his last mission of mutilation. But come Halloween, that infernal alarm clock goes off and he’s up and stalking again … even slaying the kindly old feller who cared for him. Now that’s gratitude for you!
But he’s still got a job to do. He must kill little Jamie (a returning Danielle Harris), who has become mute as a result of the traumatic attacks she endured previously, and has wound-up incarcerated in a special care centre because of her ghastly experiences of Michael’s depravity. It has also become apparent that the girl has attained a rather unwanted telepathic link to her big bad uncle, which means that whenever he offs somebody she sees the deed too … meaning yet more misery for a poor little waif who really deserves a break. Harris was wonderful in the previous film and, if anything, she is better here … far better than the film deserves, in actual fact.
Friendly nurses and a returning Ellie Cornell as her doting step-sister, Rachel Carruthers, are one thing … but she’s also got the Halloween series’ equivalent to Captain Ahab looking out for her in the gnarly old, goatee-bearded, pizza-faced form of the lattice-burned Dr. Sam Loomis, the most sinister guardian angel a girl could wish for. Animosity still runs rife in Haddonfield and, although not bullied by other kids this time, there are factions in town who don’t trust a relative of Michael Myers. The Evil Child Must Die says the scribbled note on a rock thrown through her bedroom window. And with Uncle Mickey now getting back to his murderous ways, Loomis starts babbling about his former patient being back and not being human, and getting an itchy trigger-finger all over again.
But just who is the mysterious Man in Black who shows up in Haddonfield … and what is his interest in The Shape?
Don Shanks now plays Michael, taking the bloody baton from George P. Wilbur, who has stuck around to performs a few stunts on the picture. The mask is different again, but better than the fourth incarnation, I think. Fitting loose around the neck and shoulders, it has a strange look with its ends sort of popping up like a flapping collar. It reminds me of the latex appliance around Ian Holm’s head as he gurgles liquid plastic through a smug grin as the decapitated android, Ash, in Alien. Somehow, and maybe this is just me, Michael looks more windswept this time out, a touch more flamboyant. Nothing beats the first two masks, of course, and the slimmer, more graceful poise that Nick Castle and Dick Warlock imbued their respective incarnations with. Although the one-arm descent from an overhead beam H20 from Chris Durand was a terrific slice of supernatural agility. But the mask was utter tosh, unfortunately. Although he gets to speed down the river rapids – looking curiously inert throughout it all – this Michael does a fair bit more driving during this spree. He’s even using a car as a weapon. Whoever taught him to drive in Smith’s Grove all those years ago must have been Max Rockatansky’s instructor.
Like Friday the 13th Part II, the heroine of the earlier escapade is killed-off early on to make room for some fresh meat. And this is basically a vignette that shows that Michael, like Jason is just taking care of unfinished business (although we never really find out if the early-doors murderer in F13 PT II actually is Mr. Vorhees, perhaps out on a city-break, or some other psycho). In this case, it is Rachel’s friend Tina (Wendy Kaplan) who assumes the traditional role of heroine of the piece. Having said this, however, she doesn’t actually do a great deal of bogeyman-bashing or Jamie-saving. Despite spending a fair bit of time with Michael, albeit unwittingly during a warped car drive with our boy sporting a mask of a different kind altogether, her confrontations are quite poor, and we feel zilcheroo for her, at the end of the day. The sequence when Michael bears down on her in a car is actually hysterical, given the daft costume that she is wearing, and the foolish po-faced manner in which it has been presented. You get the feeling that the makers actually intended to subvert the norm by not having Tina as the typically plucky and improvisational saviour ... but this just makes all the time we've spent in her company all the more aggravating and unwarranted.
“I shot him six times!”
Come on, Dr. Loomis, and the rest.
Donald Pleasance was still trying to inject pathos and guilt and raw obsession into the character of Michael’s half-deranged shrink, as well as provide some proper colour and dignity to the film meandering all around him, and, as usual, he is very good, although it could be argued that since he was totally under the impression that this was to be his franchise swansong he is determined to go out with a rant – which means that he runs of the risk of becoming a really crotchety old sod. He loved playing Loomis, but he refused to just rest on his laurels and allow the guy to simply appear as a walk-on bit-parter, as so many other actors of his age may have decreed of their contribution to such a retirement fund. To this end, he actually argued with Othenin-Girard over certain elements and dialogue, insisting that Loomis wouldn’t act this way, or wouldn’t say that. And, let’s face it, he knew better than anybody else what was going on in the crusading shrink’s head. His director wanted a “harder” and more serious Loomis, but Pleasance insisted that he should maintain that eccentric quirkiness that had been part of the character’s ongoing appeal since the first night that He came home. The gnome-like actor was right, of course.
He lamented that the potential of Return had not been fulfilled, which is presumably a reference to the Biblical connotations that Loomis is greeted with when given a ride by a freelance evangelical avenger. Nor was he fussed on the addition of the mysterious Man in Black, though this could be a reaction to the character he may have believed would become his replacement. Ironically enough, though still unsurprisingly, he would be back in the same trench-coat and goatee for Part 6: The Curse of Michael Myers, although he sadly passed away shortly after principal photography had been shot. His ghostly voiceover whispers a warning from the ether in H20, and itwould be one of the best things about the limp 1998 reboot with Jamie Lee Curtis making a comeback as Laurie Strode.
His masterplan is to exploit Jamie in order to lure his nemesis out of the shadows. He bolts on to the fact that she has this telepathic link to him, hoping that it will pinpoint the bogeyman … and then he even opts to use the little girl as bait during a showdown in the old Myers spook-house, equipped with a set of heavy chains that could probably hold King Kong down. Pleasance gives Loomis a credibly on-edge and pretty unhinged new slant on the dogged persona. Now that he knows of the psychic link that Jamie has with the Shape, he is hell-bent on getting her to use it. Scenes of him ranting at the clearly disturbed girl carry a real charge to them, because the two performers are so heavily invested in their roles. At times you just want to haul Loomis away from her, whilst simultaneously understanding his hard-line approach.
There is good and bad in Robert Draper’s moody cinematography – some awful fishbowl capture-and-swivel shots just look awkward - but his efforts happily combine with the synth score from a returning Alan Howarth to give the film the appropriate aura you expect from a Halloween picture. The visuals are brighter and more dynamic than in the previous entry, lit in quite a comic-book fashion. The old Myers house has changed again, but it is still an unhallowed place of evil. This time it really resembles one of Freddy’s haunted dream-palaces, and the queer lighting within it provides an appropriately wan and sickly ambience. Howarth’s score treads old ground with the ominous main John Carpenter theme regurgitated in yet another modified form – I don’t think it sounds as good this time around – and layers of evocative dark tones to envelop the drama. As usual he caters for the stinger effect with sizzling, shimmering clashes and nerve-shredding pulse-stabs. This isn’t one of his more memorable efforts, though. Much too perfunctory and workmanlike.
The problems with this entry are legion.
The telepathic link between Jamie and Michael is unutterably lame, and partially nicked from the previous year’s Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood, in which a Carrie-like teen called, um, Carrie, forms a similar psychic umbilical cord with Jason. Why include it? It is just an unnecessary new facet to help make a desultory story stand out a little bit from the rest of the assembly-line carve-up. The essence of it is to develop a layer of empathy between the two, something that we don’t actually need. There is the famous, and strangely vilified unmasking sequence when Jamie even wipes a tear from her confused Uncle’s face and, in the scheme of things, it works just fine even in spite of the horrendous things that’s she witnessed him doing and the repeated attempts that he has made on her life. It is an emotional détente, a stalemate between good and evil, reminiscent of the moment when Laurie stalled him by calling him by his name in the hospital before shooting him in both eyes. In fact, this moment would have been all the more effective without that psychic bond already existing. A real edge-of-seat exchange that pushes boundaries because it seems to imply that even this beast can be tamed by the very things he appears to despise and to lack within himself – compassion and innocence – and that the small girl (and, by extension, us) can show love for him, and offer him comfort.
Thus, this was possibly the entry’s most inspired device, but it is ruined by the silly set-up.
The other major element that goes badly wrong is the addition of the weird Man in Black (also played by Don Shanks), Michael’s super-cool protector, who appears as a duster-wearing, Stetson-topped gunslinger from … well … your guess is as good as mine. You can sense the potency of the writers as they reckon that they have created something really fresh and eerie and altogether out there …and in this quest for a deviation from the samey-tamey stalk ‘n’ slash that has dominated this and the previous movie too, they should actually be applauded. It is a wacky new concept that can’t fail to open up the mythos to all sorts of wild conjecture. Is this guy some trans-dimensional being? Is he a collector of maniacs? Is he the spirit of the Evil Old West come to badge a promising new deputy? Is he the Devil? Well, you’re never going to find out … in this film, at any rate. It does become clear, or clearer in The Curse of Michael Myers, but this angle wasn’t fully developed until production on that movie began ... and even then Miramax butchered the official release and removed some of the essential background to the Druidic “Thorn” curse that guides Michael’s hand and body.
These teasing, unfulfilled ideas and half-baked scenarios are what make Revenge the Prometheus of the Halloween saga. A big promise is made. And an even bigger letdown is the final result we get when the writers box themselves into a corny corner and make absolutely no attempt to dig their way out of it.
Beyond these already fundamental errors of judgement, there are the utterly naff sections dominated by Tina and her friends and their endlessly boring Halloween party. They play pranks on one another with Michael Myers masks – a trick that has been committed since Halloween II when Ben Tramer donned one before being unfortunately barbecued, and then with a novel twist in Part 4 when several jokers all wore one. But here it seems very old-hat, or old-mask, if you will.
We also get far too much time spent in a patently unscary barn – a sequence that just seems to chew up interminable screentime.
Teen knife-fodder is often as vital to a slasher-flick as Laurel is to Hardy, but where these parameters may be quite restrictive there is naturally much scope for entertainment within them. Not being a prude (which is actually a monumental understatement, folks), I am, nevertheless, someone who finds that the obligatory sex scene in a genre flick is often a calamitous contrivance that just acts a yawn-inducing lull in the story, especially when it allows the suspense to be thoroughly drained away in a gratuitous Time-Out of T & A before a couple of acting no-hopers are offed, coitus interruptus. Practically every slasher movie has this element and it is one of the genre conventions that, if included, should actually be celebrated. My argument with how it is handled in Halloween 5 is this – if you’re going to have such a scene, then for God’s sake, show us something exciting. Otherwise, what’s the point? The hanky-panky in the barn between two hormonal dough-heads is exceptionally poorly presented, and even rips-off The Prowler with its naked flesh/pitchfork interaction – although that ripped-off Friday the 13thwhich actually ripped-off Mario Bava’s Bay of Blood. But it is boring. We’ve seen it before and done much better. By all means, trot out the same shtick but give it a shot-in-the-arm and be a little bit more inventive … or, at least, be more revealing and don’t wimp-out when it comes to the juicy bits.
This naturally leads me over towards the other bone of contention ... and there's no meat on this bone, whatsoever.
The cardinal sin with the movie is the lack of gore, or appreciable violence. There is no shock accompanying any of the kills, either thematically or visually. There wouldn’t even need to be any splatter if there was any suspense generated and we actually gave a damn about anybody. But since there isn’t, and we don’t, the film jettisons any potential bite that could have elevated it from the doldrums of lame, protracted stalking and a tedious absence of actual slashing. All build-up, and no pay-off. Once again, as was the case for the previous movie, the pages of Fangoria were given-over to bloody images of the forthcoming Michael Myers massacre, and together with the fact that the great KNB team were going to be handling the special makeup FX (Evil Dead II, Re-Animator 2, Army of Darkness, House III) hack-fans were salivating at the mouth with the prospect of viscera vividly revealed. The Walking Dead’s Greg Nicotero – the N from KNB – even appears in a brief cameo. Carpenter didn’t need to fall back on gore for the first film, but then he was creating a masterpiece of terror, and totally understood the construction of an emotive fright-film. Those that followed in his wake needed virtually every gimmick they could get their hands on, with graphic evisceration being the best commodity at their disposal. But the movie gives us nothing. I know the MPAA had a go at it, but the film was also deliberately restrained even before it was submitted for a rating so as not to incur any further wrath. We can clearly see the frame jump that signifies where the missing close-up of a writhing, skull-pierced victim should be. A trio of garden implements – a hand-rake, a scythe and that old chestnut of a pitchfork – penetrate vulnerable flesh, but the shock-value is anaemic, rendering such potentially splendid slaughter redundant. Michael’s knife-work is similarly uninspired. If he can’t generate any tension or dread, Othenin-Girard should have pandered to the lowest common denominator – the template that brings most people to this particular vein of the genre in the first place. Sex and Gore. You don’t need either to produce a classic horror film. But if you are an incompetent director, working with a silly story, woeful editing and a dearth of suspenseful set-pieces, these two notoriously vital exploitation organs are going to make your mess of a sequel just that little bit better in the eyes of fans who have begrudgingly already lowered their expectations.
The Jason sequels all suffered terribly at the whims of the MPAA, yet they still managed to deliver much more brutality than this.
The use of a big scythe lends Michael a grim-reaper vogue but the failure to show us anything more than a whimsical splash of claret on the hay completely nullifies the execution. Hell, because of the lousy editing (as well as the use of new-footage combined with older, dropped material that Moustapha Akkad hadn’t approved of) he even appears to kill someone by smashing a pumpkin down on them! A pumpkin! Now, okay, maybe you could see this as a neat little satire on the iconic imagery of the seasonal setting … but, come on, a pumpkin! Oooh, scary. No, I’m being a bit too harsh, aren’t I? I mean, in the original fuller sequence, with an entirely different actor as the victim, it is actually a rock that is doing the business. Ah, no … wait a minute … it still looks a big orange pumpkin in this version! No, I can’t forgive it.I’m sorry.
He even goes through an elaborate sequence of Tina’s John Lennon-like boyfriend, Mikey (Jonathan Chapin), wiping down the body of his joy-mobile, with us following him all the way around and his camera getting perfectly well-reflected in the wing-mirror as he does so. Accidental things like this are perfectly acceptable when it is a fast scene with lots of other visual distractions going on, or when it is simply a one-take gig that probably couldn’t be repeated. But this is ridiculous and shoddy.
Othenin-Girard can’t stage any of his murder or stalking scenes with anything even coming close to tension. He also achieves the virtually unimaginable in rendering Michael as an unintimidating bore. We simply do not fear him in this. With Danielle Harris, who is silent throughout a good half of the film let’s not forget, giving the part her all and really getting put through the wringer, this lack of menace or personality is a woeful misstep when a pivotal scene relies on some emotional connection.
Admittedly, the scene when Jamie is trapped in a laundry-chute and Michael is cutting his way into her precarious sanctuary with his trusty butcher knife carries some much-needed potency, but this is also a case of too little, much too late.
Oh, and in this catalogue of ineptitude, we shouldn’t neglect to mention the comedy duo of Haddonfield cops who might as well have Dumb and Dumber stamped on their badges. Accompanied by a truly awful little clown-motif (thanks for that, Alan) whenever they appear, this becomes a jaw-droppingly stupid addition to a film that is already struggling to find, let alone maintain, a dark and brooding atmosphere of escalating dread. Seeing these two buffoons die could have provided something of a sting of bathos … but even this crowd-pleasing image is denied us.
Far too much goes wrong with this film, folks, and it just serves to reinforce the oft-held belief that sequelitis is a curse unto itself.
Halloween 4 was all about getting back to basics and providing a few jolts and scares with one of the greatest bogeymen of all time. Halloween 5, on the other hand, seemed as though it wanted to go to some brave and unusual places, but in the end it was just too afraid to go beyond a couple of tentative steps into the unknown. The repercussions of such narrative pussy-footing make for a shallow husk of a film that is insipid and bewildering at the same time.
The thing is … I’m a devotee of the series, disasters and all, so not having this insulting entry in my collection would be unthinkable. Fans can be as forgiving as they are long-suffering and although it sounds as though I detested watching Part 5 again, I did actually enjoy adding a few more kills to the Myers tally-sheet, and both Pleasance and Harris are wildly compulsive as Michael’s psychologically damaged adversaries and do keep you watching. Even with such lousy direction as this, you genuinely feel for Jamie, and daffy old Donald is just as demented as the maniacal Myers, the two becoming almost kin in their twinned obsessions.
As part of a Haddonfield Horrorthon, this entry and Rick Rosenthal's risible Halloween: Resurrection are definitely the ones to take a nap during.
Anchor Bay’s UK Blu release is region B coded.