Written by: Michael Jacobs & Dominique Othenin-Girard, Shem Bitterman
Directed by: Dominique Othenin-Girard
Starring: Donald Pleasence, Danielle Harris, and Don Shanks
Reviewed by: Brett G.
"I prayed that he would burn in hell. But in my heart, I knew that hell would not have him."
After the success of 1988's Halloween 4, the franchise's veteran producer, Moustapha Akkad, immediately rushed a fifth film into production. Despite the fact that the 80s slasher craze was dying down, the Halloween franchise was beginning to rev up again, and Akkad wanted to capitalize on the film's name-sake during the October movie season. In theory, this was a good idea as long as the product behind it was strong. Having struck lightning the previous year with the quick production of the fourth film, I guess Akkad thought lightning could strike twice. However, for many, Halloween 5 went on to become one of the more reviled entries in the series and was poorly received at the box office, which lead to another long hiatus for Michael Myers, who wouldn't return until six years later in Halloween 6.
The film begins with a recap of the last few minutes of the previous film, where Michael was blown away into a mine shaft by a vigilante mob. They then decide to drop an explosive into the mine for good measure, which surely destroyed Myers forever, right? Wrong. It turns out that Michael simply crawled out and stumbled into a nearby river, which brings him to a shack inhabited by some old codger on the edge of town. The film then flashes ahead to Halloween Eve one year later, where, inexplicably, the crazy old guy has kept Myers for the entire year. Of course, Myers somehow knows it's his favorite time of year again, and he wakes up sporting some strange symbol on his wrist. He then shows his gratitude towards the old guy by promptly dispatching him and going on his merry way to Haddonfield, where his young niece from the previous film, Jamie Lloyd, is stuck in a child's clinic since she attempted to kill her foster mother in the previous film. Unfortunately for Jamie, she has also developed a telepathic link with her psychotic uncle, who will stop at nothing to kill his niece. Oh, and to top everything off, there's a mysterious "Man in Black" (who sports the same symbol on his wrist as Michael) roaming around Haddonfield. Spooky.
Alright, so, basically, Halloween 5 is pretty similar to the previous film in the sense that the plot essentially boils down to "uh oh, Michael's back, and we're in trouble." Like that film, there's plenty of Myers-fodder walking around waiting to be killed, and it really does feel like a Halloween film. However, unlike Part 4, something just seems to be a little off. There's an assortment of strange and bewildering aspects in this one. Among them are a pair of bumbling, idiot cops (complete with goofy music to boot), Michael acting uncharacteristically during a couple of sequences, and some of the most annoying characters to ever grace a Halloween film. Heck, even Loomis feels way off here, as he essentially spends most of his screen time terrorizing little kids. Among the newcomers of the cast is Tina, who inexplicably replaces Rachel has our main heroine. Now, Tina's not as annoying as many fans will lead you to believe, but she's not nearly as likeable as Rachel, a character that we've spent an entire film with.
Of course, by the time you reach the fifth entry in a slasher series, you're not quite expecting a masterpiece. Plus, I think the film does a few things right. For one, I've always enjoyed the party sequence in the middle of the film. For whatever reason, these scenes just feel exactly right for a Halloween film, as you've got jackass kids playing pranks, some good jump scares and suspense, a sex scene, and, Myers dispatching kids with farming implements. I also like the final showdown at the Myers (now Victorian-style) home, even if there are a few head-scratching scenes during that sequence. I won't spoil it completely for the uninitiated, but Myers and Jamie share a bit of a moment that is unlike anything we've seen from Myers up until that point. Some might argue that it was an attempt to develop the character into something more than a one note killing machine, but I've always felt Michael works better as an enigma.
There is, however, a bit of mystery infused in the film by the Man in Black, a character with no lines that apparently has a connection to Myers. Fans would have to wait six years to get a rather unsatisfying answer about this character, but here, he serves as a mysterious guy operating behind the scenes. He also figures into this film's ending, which is another one of the things I enjoy about Halloween 5, even if it is somewhat nonsensical. It's still a pretty creepy ending that perhaps deserved a more satisfying resolution (even though I enjoy part 6 more than most). I also think that Alan Howarth's score is one of the stronger elements of the film, and it's a shame he's been replaced for the last few Halloween films.
Like I said earlier, Halloween 5 is almost universally reviled among horror fans. In fact, 1989 as a whole just wasn't a good year for horror franchise fans, as that year also saw the release of A Nightmare on Elm Street 5 and Friday the 13th Part VIII, two films that typically find themselves at the bottom of the list for their respective franchises. As I've pointed out, there's a lot that Halloween 5 gets wrong and, in doing so, deserves its hate; however, at the end of the day, it gets just enough right to warrant a solid recommendation. One shouldn't discount the role of nostalgia in this whole thing, as it certainly blinds me to a degree. The fact that I watched this movie dozens of times as a kid makes it a sentimental favorite, and I just can't bring myself to trash it. Then again, I should also put out the disclaimer that I also enjoy the aforementioned Nightmare and Friday films, so maybe I just have a high tolerance for movies that are otherwise reviled. Plus, at the end of the day, The Revenge of Michael Myers feels like a Halloween flick. Even if the Loomis character is way off, it's still got Donald Pleasence, which makes it more watchable than the latest entries in the series. Plus, if you've ever wanted to see a distinguished actor like Pleasence utter the phrase "Cookie Woman" and manage to keep a straight face, this is your chance.
The film has been released twice on DVD by Anchor Bay. The first release came way back in 2000 and features an introduction by Ellie Cornell and Danielle Harris, along with a short behind-the-scenes feature and some on-set footage. Halloween fanatics will also want to know that this release also came in a Limited Edition Tin configuration, but it's long out of print these days. The latest release, the Divimax Edition, features an upgraded audio/video presentation, but the only new special feature is a commentary featuring director Girard, Cornell, and Harris. Between the two, the Divimax version is superior and more readily available, so that's the one to track down, which is something everyone should do at least once. Halloween 5 is certainly not a masterpiece, but it's not a bad way to spend an evening. Rent it!
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