Despite only making a few million more than Halloween III: The Season of the Witch (1982), Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers (1988) was considered a big enough hit at the box office to ensure the Myers character would continue to be trotted out in these films for decades to come. This also resulted in the next installment, Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers (1989), being fast-tracked for release just under a year later. Swiss director Dominique Othenin-Girard was chosen by series overseer Mustapha Akkad to helm the film after the team from The Return of Michael Myers turned down the offer. Girard also contributed to the screenplay, which was primarily written by Michael Jacobs, and was incomplete as production started. That’s always a good sign.
That should be enough information to suss out some of Halloween 5’s issues; it was a rush job. Where Halloween 4 is the most boring Halloween up to this point, Halloween 5 is the most head-scratching. Generally hated by the fan base, it’s often accused of abandoning the principles laid out by its predecessors. However, the fact that it subverted the general expectations of where fans thought the story was going might factor into this disdain as well.
The story picks up one year after the events of the previous entry (anybody noticing a trend?). Jamie Lloyd had seemingly turned evil and attacked her foster mother in the same manner that young Michael Myers did when he murdered his sister all of those years before. Mrs. Carruthers survived the attack, which resulted in Jamie being committed to a children’s clinic in Haddonfield. While under treatment, she often displays egregious behavior as a result of the psychological trauma endured from the previous film, which has rendered her effectively mute and causes her to have nightmares and panic attacks. She receives regular visits from her foster sister, the returning Rachel, along with a new addition to the cast, Tina.
Also closely standing by is Dr. Loomis, who is once again played by Donald Pleasance and who has apparently lost his mind. His mistrust of Jamie after last year’s attack is apparent, and his motivations have changed from public servant to becoming strictly personal. Michael, meanwhile, has miraculously survived the Haddonfield firing line along with falling into a mine shaft which was also exploded with dynamite. He floats down a creek to a shack owned by a lonely hermit, who cares for Michael as he sleeps in his supernatural coma. Is anybody scratching their heads yet?
Michael wakes up on October 30th (anybody noticing a trend?) and immediately kills the guy. This is all seen by Jamie who shares an apparent telepathic link with her uncle that tells her when and where he will strike next. The character of Michael Myers is this time played by brute stuntman Don Shanks, which gives the audience the largest-sized Michael yet. He is once again not very “Shape-like” but does bring back the trickster persona from the original, which is a welcome return. Unfortunately, Halloween 5 still drops the ball in the mask department. KNB studio’s design may be unique, but it still pales to the original Shatner-esque design and is comparable in quality to Halloween 4’s mask.
It seems the fan base had expected Halloween 5 to pick up the story with Jamie being the killer now, or even perhaps a sidekick/opponent for Michael in what might have been a proto-Freddy vs. Jason style showdown. Despite not following that scenario, Halloween 5 does indeed address Jamie’s violent actions from the end of the last film. For the first time in the series, and certainly not the last, the reasons for Michael’s “Boogeyman” status are addressed. There appears to be a rage that exists within him and can only be subsided by killing his family members. The desire to do so appears to be uncontrollable, and this is what Jamie is battling against. Loomis has figured all of this out and keeps a watchful eye on Jamie for multiple reasons: 1. To make sure she doesn’t give in to these murderous desires; and 2. To find Michael due to their telepathic link. Her childhood innocence is a non-issue for him as he does not hold back when confronting her, which is evident when he screams the following quote in Jamie’s face:
“You’ve got to help me, Jamie. You’ve got to help me find him. We both know he’s alive, but you know where he is! Why? Why are you protecting him? What about your stepmother, Jamie? You love her, don’t you? He made you stab her. You can’t hide from him. He’ll always get to you Jamie. Jamie, Jamie, you listen. Today in the cemetery, somebody dug up a coffin. It was the coffin of a nine-year-old girl. What do you think he is going to do with that? Huh!? You’re nine-years-old, aren’t you Jamie?” – Dr. Loomis
Rachel isn’t even important enough to be considered an afterthought in this movie. The only purpose for the character’s inclusion at all was to fill the slasher genre’s nudity quota and to provide shock value by dying early. Tina takes her place in the “older sister” role for Jamie and is a mixed bag as a character. She is written to be annoying, and she excels in that aspect. Her best moments are related to her interactions with the Jamie and Dr. Loomis plot, in which she calls out Loomis for his creepy behavior and refuses to take his warnings of doom seriously. Jamie worries for her as well, but Tina continuously blows her off to go with her friends. It’s become apparent that Rachel and Tina should have been combined into one character called Rachel.
The rest of Tina’s screen time, and a good portion of the film’s at that, is focused on her and her friends as they celebrate Halloween in Haddonfield. These scenes constitute as filler and are some of the worst in the film; they lower the quality substantially due to how much time is spent on them. Halloween 5 is filled with bewildering moments, and many of them are related to this group of teens. The group is constantly dialed to 100, as if they are on cocaine most of the time. It doesn’t help that they are generally horribly written and only exist for the purpose of being murder fodder and eye candy.
There is a sequence that runs at least ten minutes where they constantly switch off impersonating Michael Myers to scare each other. This happens three times consecutively, and the movie plays these moments out as suspenseful. By the time Michael actually shows up there is no reason to care anymore, but there probably wasn’t any reason to begin with.
Other bewildering decisions involve a couple of goofball, bumbling cops, complete with slapstick sound effects. It’s an obvious homage to a similar set of characters from The Last House on the Left (1972), which is an odd choice considering how much flack that film received for including them. There is also the new mysterious character called “The Man in Black”, which is a person who wears a black duster along with cowboy styled boots and hat. The only purpose for this character’s existence is because the filmmakers knew the film was in trouble, and so they intentionally threw in a character who would not be explained until further installments. This is the “placebo effect” again and just shows the lack of confidence the people in charge were of their product.
Girard proves himself to be inconsistent regarding the direction of the film as well. The staging and framing jumps around in quality early on; he tends to favor close up and low angles and some of his choices make the actions on screen a little hard to follow. This does seem to improve as the film continues on, either that or his style has an adjustment period. Alan Howarth is back as the composer, continuing his role from Halloween 4, and he has improved his work from that film, but he still relies too much on older themes. He goes to the “Halloween Main Theme” all too often and lessens its overall impact; although the minimalist, slower interpretation is appropriate in specific moments.
The film gets back on track once Michael encounters Jamie again. This begins with an insane set-piece where he is trying to run her down in a car, and even watching now it’s hard to believe how close the vehicle actually got to Danielle Harris on uneven terrain. Jamie has to watch as Tina is murdered, sacrificing herself so Jamie can live. This is what finally convinces her to help Loomis and mostly brings back her humanity. It is from this moment on where the film actually starts feeling suspenseful, which was largely missing from Halloween 4, and Girard displays a little talent as he gets to stretch his directing muscles.
The stage gets set for a climactic showdown between Loomis, Jamie, and Michael and takes place at his childhood home, which has for some reason been reimagined into a kind of Gothic mansion. The interactions/moments between the characters here are the best parts of the movie, as well as the best acted, with highlights being the laundry chute attack, Michael confronting his humanity, and Loomis confronting Michael. The final moments of the film feel cheap and unsatisfying, but at the same time very ominous and depressing.
Halloween 5 is a film that tries to bring something new to the series and is hated for it. A good amount of that hate is valid thanks to a rushed script full of filler and silly choices that bring the film down. However, the whole is a little more than the sum of its parts and is an overall improvement over Halloween 4 thanks to having higher highs and actual moments of tension. Harris is wonderful as Jamie and stands toe-to-toe with an actor of Pleasance’s caliber, who actually gets to do something different this time around. Most fans may hate the film, but when judged as a stand-alone piece it has many moments of redemption. It’s just too bad an inconsistent execution holds the film back from being an actual fulfilling sequel. The intent was there, but not all the pieces.