Although I’ve seen some of the “Halloween” films, I haven’t seen them recently enough to remember them. So this watch/rewatch of the saga marks my first time thinking about them as a movie reviewer. Armed with categories suggested by “Halloween” superfan Michael (Olinger, not Myers), here’s my review of the fifth entry, “Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers” (1989).
For the first time, I found myself rooting for Michael (Don Shanks) – despite the fact that he kills his third dog of the saga in “Halloween 5.” It’s because the trio of teenagers – Tina (Wendy Kaplan), Mikey (Jonathan Chapin) and Spitz (Matthew Walker) – are so self-centered and annoying that I can’t wait for them to bite the dust. Rachel (Ellie Cornell) from “Halloween 4” would’ve been a likeable enough lead, but she’s killed off early on, something her “friends” fail to recognize.
From that point forward, “Halloween 5” – and even Michael himself — has an air of going through the motions. Although we can’t help but sympathize with Jamie (Danielle Harris, acting the hell out of a thankless role), who is so scared of her mass-murdering uncle that she has lost her voice, the proceedings are rote. In terms of set pieces, there’s a hay barn, some woods, and a “Myers house” that isn’t the real Myers house. Because these settings don’t stand out, I almost admire the early scenes in broad daylight because they are different for the horror genre.
Nine-year-old Jamie is the emotional core. She is psychically linked to Myers, and she’s aware of his actions and location. Harris again shows she is an excellent child actor, but it’s a shame she isn’t allowed to demonstrate range beyond sheer terror.
As Dr. Loomis (Donald Pleasence) prepares a trap in the old Myers house, he opens a vent and a rat leaps out along with a burst of sound in a well-played jump scare.
Michael takes out Mikey with a garden rake after scratching his precious muscle car. It’s not a particularly amazing kill scene, but it’s satisfying that this most annoying “teenager” – who can’t even muster the energy to treat his own friends and girlfriend decently — is dispatched. I put quotes around “teenager” because the actor appears to be about 30.
Tina thinks Michael – wearing a big-nosed old-man mask – is her boyfriend, Mikey, for a hilariously long time as they drive around town. I don’t necessarily blame her; who could’ve known Michael Myers, sans training, is such a competent driver?
THAT SEEMS FAMILIAR
Michael takes off his mask and sheds a tear, demonstrating humanity, much as Darth Vader “becomes” the human Anakin Skywalker when unmasked in “Return of the Jedi.”
In another parallel to that film, this movie’s subtitle (it doesn’t appear in the title card, but it’s on the home-video cover) is “The Revenge of Michael Myers.” George Lucas decided Jedi don’t seek revenge, and thus Luke merely “returns.” Likewise, I wonder if Michael is truly seeking revenge against anyone (after all, he started this whole thing himself), or if he’s simply doing what he does.
THAT DOESN’T AGE WELL
A horror movie with a shortage of likeable leads almost never has repeat-viewing value. Whether those people are killed or survive, if we don’t like them, the film feels like a formulaic exercise in stalking and killing. Yes, we root for Jamie, but that’s undermined by the fact that there’s no way a mainstream movie is going to have a cute little kid get slaughtered.
MOST SURPRISING ELEMENT
As noted in my review of “Halloween 4,” I thought Jamie was evil like her uncle when she stabs her stepmom in the closing scene, and figured maybe this follow-up would be a slasher answer to “Apt Pupil” or something like that. But Jamie was being controlled by Michael. But in “Halloween 5” itself, Michael can’t control her. All of this rewriting of the rules makes for an unsatisfying surprise.
HOW OVER-THE-TOP IS DONALD PLEASENCE?
He’s chewing scenery for breakfast, lunch and dinner; people in the next theater over could hear him masticating. That said, it’s not an ill-conceived performance. Loomis has become unhinged by chasing Michael all these years, something that’s most notable when he gets right in the face of a traumatized children’s hospital patient and demands that she tell him how to find Michael.
It still includes hair, as per “Halloween 4,” but the neck flaps are more prominent and the facial expression has a slight note of Eastern philosophical wisdom.
NEW REVELATIONS ABOUT MICHAEL
Michael seems physically weaker now, and he also is working that psychic connection with Jamie, so perhaps it drains him … and maybe I’ve already put more thought into this than the screenwriters. Throughout, I was unclear if he intends to kill Jamie or if he’s drawn to her because she’s the last of his family. (Here’s an interesting piece of trivia: Although the rest of his family is dead, Michael hasn’t killed any of them since his sister at the beginning of “Halloween.” His parents die off-screen, as does Laurie.)
The big revelation in “Halloween 5” is the smidgen of humanity shown by Michael when he takes off his mask and sheds a tear. When Jamie tries to tenderly wipe it away, he reverts to a state of animalistic rage. Nonetheless, the moment – along with his reduced strength — makes us question Loomis’ long-standing theory that Michael is an inhuman incarnation of evil.
“Halloween 5” suggests that Michael was acting through Jamie in order to stab Jamie’s foster mom in “Halloween 4.” But then he loses that power. Jamie is aware of his actions, and sometimes vaguely mimics them, but he doesn’t control her. In fact, the connection mostly goes the other way: Jamie is often aware of Michael’s location, but he doesn’t know where she is.
The set designers forget what the Myers house looks like. While the new version is more elaborate, the original had become iconic, despite its plainness, so “Halloween 5” gains nothing in the switch except audience confusion.
As is common for this series, the writers get the kid’s parents out of the picture with a throwaway line – the Carruthers folks are at their cabin for the week. Their seeming disinterest in their daughter who resides in a children’s hospital is almost more disturbing than Michael’s actions.
“Halloween 5” also forgets Michael’s super-strength. Here, he relies on various weapons to kill people, he’s beaten up with a board by Loomis (who is gravely wounded, no less), and he needs a mysterious stranger in steel-toed boots to rescue him from captivity at the end.
WHAT WILL HAPPEN NEXT?
Harris only gets to play one note – terrified – in this movie, so it’d be nice to see her get to show more range in Jamie’s next encounter with her uncle. And what reason could the mysterious stranger have for nabbing Michael? Maybe he’s part of the Samhain cult, and we’ll get the details of where Michael derives his mystical powers from. Or maybe not, since his powers have faded to nothing by the end of this one. Maybe “Halloween 6” is about getting Michael back on his feet and doing what he loves again.
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