Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers (Dominique Othenin-Girard, 1989)
Having crawled away and survived getting all blown up at the end of the fourth installment, the boogeyman Michael Myers returns to Haddonfield yet again on Halloween, this time a year later, to continue his quest to destroy his niece Jamie (played again by Danielle Harris) and, of course, anyone else he comes across.
While Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers stuck to the basics and managed to be a nicely done, competent re-entry into the world of the rampaging Shape (after a seven year absence from the screen and Haddonfield, which the film turned into ten), this fifth installment (running with a subtitle about “Revenge” that has little to do with anything), while having a few things that manage to work, unfortunately doesn’t fare nearly as well.
To be fair, I’ve read the film was rushed into production after the success of “4”… and the ensuing troubles borne out of that are pretty clear to see. The opening prologue of Myers ending up in the shack of a hermit who he kills a year later with zero explanation about what their relationship even was is one of them. Then there’s the mysterious Man in Black who hides in the shadows and quietly stalks Myers (well, quiet until the ending that is) as the Shape carves his path of destruction; with the only connection we ever learn being the similar tattoo the Man and Shape have on their wrists, the introduction of this character feels less enigmatic and intriguing than it does an unfortunately unrealized throw-in element from nervous filmmakers unsure if they had enough in their story of a rampaging Michael to keep things interesting.
A big comedown is the filmmaking style itself. Where the previous director Dwight Little did an admirable job focusing on the creation of mood, Othenin-Girard is nowhere near as adept. During the action set-pieces, his constant dizzying over-use of dutch camera angles and zooming camera tricks, mixed with the contrived lighting effects and sounds, reveals more an unsure filmmaker doing every horror trick he can think of, rather than one with a clear vision.
Donald Pleasance is back as the iconic wild-eyed and barely-sane Dr. Loomis and at least this time he plays it a bit more physically ravaged from that explosive fire at the conclusion of Halloween II (that there was no way in hell he could have survived) than he did in the previous entry, but yet… he also seems a bit more tired, less energized in his ravings, as if the actor himself was growing a little weary of the repetition.
Harris is back as the now traumatized Jamie (whose terrifying experiences, in a nice little twist, have robbed her of the ability to speak) and while the film does deal with her suddenly murderous actions at the admirably grandiose ending of Return, the filmmakers manage to get around making her the new Shape, which was a wise decision. And, if in Return it was surprising how much scary material they put young Harris through, Revenge goes to even more unsettlingly harrowing lengths. With scenes like Michael plunging his knife repeatedly through a garbage chute at the helplessly shrieking girl, or of the young girl uncontrollably convulsing, with her eyes rolling up in her head, from the bloody telepathic visions shared with Myers (an entirely implausible element thrown in) while on his killing rampage, this is some dark disturbing stuff… while also providing some of the more effective moments in the film (though, couldn’t help but wonder how emotionally healthy it all was for Harris to play, or if I’d have let my kid play the part). The return of Sherriff Meeker, played by perfect rough-and-tumble character actor Beau Starr, still angry at losing his daughter to Myers in the previous installment, is a nice returning character, though with far less to do this time.
There are problems with the rest of the ensemble though. The cavalcade of young teens are far more annoying and unlikeable than from any of the previous entries, with the lead girl Tina, played by Wendy Kaplan, over-acting in all sorts of obnoxious, affected ways. The forced inclusion of two dimwitted cops thrown in for laughs that never come anywhere near close to landing (even with the insanely misguided soundtrack gag effects provided by the legendary Alan Howarth) is unforgivable, close to being up there with the terrible cop duo that almost managed to entirely ruin Wes Craven’s otherwise startlingly brutal and harrowing exploration into rape and revenge, Last House on the Left (1972).
Speaking of Howarth, even his usually masterful work here is slightly off, with it played oddly too understated, never bringing the gusto and drive a Halloween film needs (revealing that even this impeccably brilliant composer can, in fact, be mortal).
Amongst all of the above, however, the worst offense to me of Halloween 5 might just be the unaccountable replacing of the original iconic Shatner mask with a paler, slight lion-mane mask that has nowhere near the original’s shadowy presence (and what is with the black nylon covering the eyes?). Somebody clearly should have introduced Frenchman Othenin-Girard to that ol’ American phrase ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ before letting him make that decision.