These Slasher sequels are supposed to be simple. Trot out a brace of clay pigeons, watch them all die one by one, tack on some stupid cliffhanger, and you’re all good to go. It seems impossible to screw that up, but by God, Mustapha Akkad found a way. Several, in fact.
The first, Halloween 4, was a complete waste of its own potential, meant to compete with the other Big Names in this sub-genre by copying all their worst eccentricities. By 1989, the Friday the 13th and Nightmare on Elm Street films had long-since surpassed the original Halloween in the popular imagination. They (rightly or not…mostly not) were synonymous with American horror movies of the late-80s, leaving their mutual progenitor in the box office dust.
Akkad couldn’t allow that. Nor could he allow Halloween 5 to pick up where the last left off. Sure, The Revenge begins with a re-staging of The Return‘s final moments, but that somehow makes it worse. Unlike the mouth-breathing audiences Akkad obviously targeted, I actually remember the end of Halloween 4. I hoped it signaled a spark of creativity finally flaring up within this franchise. Nice of Halloween 5 to crush that right out of the gate.
Turns out, not only did Michael Myers survive his death by redneck firing squad and mineshaft dynamiting, he managed to drag his bullet-ridden bum into the nearby Haddonfield River rapids. Michael washes up at the home of an old hermit, analogous to Crazy Ralph from the first two Friday films. Unlike Crazy Ralph, he has a parrot and no knowledge of the local mass murders. If he had that, or two braincells to rub together, he would hike to the nearest phone, call the cops, and the movie would be over right here.
Instead, Crazy Ralph Mark IV does the usual “hear-strange-noise-look-outside-oh-shit-the-killer-crept-up-behind-you” bit. If Michael’d strangled him down, the movie could’ve saved itself a plot hole. Instead, Michael falls…um…let’s say “inert”…before he can get the job done, because the makers of Halloween 5 prized jump scares over story structure. I hate backseat directing (that’s a lie – no I don’t) but it would’ve been nice if, the moment Michael keeled over, director Dominique Othenin-Girard cut to an old clock face with its hands frozen at midnight.
Doesn’t happen, but if Debra Hill ever got me a job directing a Halloween sequel, the first thing I’d do is ask everyone, “What the fuck’s up with Mike and Halloween? Why that night in particular? Jason Voorhees and Fred Krueger are out working to improve the human gene pool 24/7/365. Why’s Michael such a slacker?”
And why does Crazy Ralph keep Michael around? Why does he lay Michael out on a slab in his Hermit shack? For a whole year? Well, in the original script, this old hermit was supposed to be a sorcerer. Some jumped-up stump water magician, resurrecting Michael for…some manner of Revenge, I’d assume. I’ll also assume Michael eventually killed him. Regardless, we jump to “All Hallows Even, One Year Later” and see Michael return to life all by his lonesome. We also get an ominous shot of this
before Michael grabs his mask and thanks Not Crazy Ralph for his hospitality with murder. Cut to the Haddonfield Children’s Clinic, where young Jamie Lloyd (Danielle Harris) is having nightmare visions of said murder. Unfortunately, the trauma of Halloween 4‘s left Jamie unable to speak. No matter who you’re rooting for in this flick – whether it be the killer or the little girl he’s chasing – you’re rooting for a silent protagonist. Joy to the world, eh?
Seems Jamie and Michael have a psychic connection now because she touched his hand at the end of the last movie. Remember? Yeah…that’s Halloween 5‘s other miss-step. Its producers couldn’t not follow up on Halloween 4. Disagreements over how began almost as soon as 4 hit theaters. The original writer, Shem Bitterman, had the idea any rational person would after watching the end of 4: continue the series with Jamie as The Killer. Or at least the Robin to Michael’s Batman, the Speedy to his Green Arrow, the Wally West to his Barry Allen. Donald Pleasence agreed, and if you think you know better than star of classics like Pumaman, you, sir or madam, are obviously wrong.
Akkad and Dimension Films, unwilling to make a film about a thirteen-year-old psycho killer, nixed that idea and hired Michael Jacobs to pen a straight-up sequel, with all the sequelitis that implies. I’d make some crack about them being scared of innovation…but I’ve just looked up Jacobs’ resume, and you couldn’t pick a less-appropriate writer if you tried. Someone must’ve thought he could bring new life and (I can’t even type this with a straight face) respectability to this franchise.
An actor, writer, producer and director of both stage and screen, Jacobs made his name on Broadway in the late ’70s with Cheaters, riding that success to the top of his own production company…which he named after himself, of course. (Some of us just use in-jokes, Mike. Nepotistic bastard.) By 1989, you’d have know him as the producer of Charles in Charge and My Two Dads. He’d survive any association with this movie and go on to produce Boy Meets World, Dinosaurs, the movie Quizz Show and…The Sinbad Show…?
Ah, well. They can’t all be winners.
The movie’s Swiss-French director, of course, had to put his own stamp on the script. Reminds me of something Frank Miller once said after he left the RoboCop sequels. Something to the effect of, “The script is a fire hydrant with a line of dogs waiting around the block for their chance to piss all over it.” Everything in this film feels like its pulling in its own direction. That’s what happens when you start shooting before the script’s finished.
The tonal schizophrenia starts right off, with Dr. Loomis seemingly teleporting to Jamie’s bedside in the midst of her psychic seizure. We never find out what Loomis has spent the last year doing, so I’ll assume he’s become a Haddonfield children’s clinic fixture. This is monumentally creepy for a number of reasons that’ll become apparent very soon.
The next day, we see small glimmer of hope in Ellie Cornell, reprising her role as Rachel. Unfortunately, Cornell didn’t have time to go through whatever crash courses improved Lisa Wilcox’s acting so mightily between Nightmare on Elm Street 4 and 5. So our former Final Girl is no more engaging than a year ago. And what a year it must’ve been. Rachel’s the happiest goddamn trauma survivor in the history of the sub-genre. Michael Myers crushed her boyfriends head and decorated a house with her friend’s bodies. Yet, here she is, on the one-year anniversary of all that, and her parents are insisting she join them on a Halloween Night road trip out of town. That would mean abandoning Jamie at the clinic. So Rachel’s staying home alone. On Halloween Night. The worst possible night anyone could choose to stay in Haddonfield, Illinois.
Why does anyone still live in this town at all, anyway? As soon as Rachel reintroduces herself, someone throws a brick with a note tied to it through Jamie’s hospital window. Personally, I’d love to lob a few “The evil child must die!” bricks through the windows of some suburban houses, but what kind of asshole does that to a goddamn children’s clinic? How the hell did they know which window to aim for in the first place? Clinics don’t generally give that stuff out.
And how come this town hasn’t banned Halloween yet? As if I weren’t pissed enough, Rachel’s new best friend, Tina, is just as annoying and Odious as all the other Tinas I’ve encountered on my journeys through 80s Slasher movies. Except for Tina Shepherd, of course. I loves me some Tina Shepherd.) This Tina is a purposefully immature bubble-head who, of course, was nowhere to be found in Halloween 4. She has lines like, “I’m never sensible if I can help it!” that reminded my colleague, Firemaker (who was kind enough to endure this film with me) of Peter Pan.
It’s as if the writers set their minds to creating an anti-Rachel, a living embodiment of every teenage girl cliche they could find. They succeeded, continuing a general downward slide in overall Final Girl quality. Sure, Laurie Strode was no great shakes, but at least she had something on her mind besides sex and drugs. She was rounded enough to contain all the extremes that litter most Slasher casts. Tina doesn’t even have the drugs to fall back on. Thankfully, I do, because her voice is like aural acid. As if I’m hearing a human being speak through one of those Evil Hearing Aids from Freddy’s Dead.
Thankfully, we leave Tina for now, so we can follow Rachel home to her gigantic house. It’s sheer size and emptiness allows Michael to sneak in while Rachel’s having her Obligatory Shower Scene. It’s here I notice someone (named Alan Howarth) did a wonderful job pissing all over John Carpenter’s original Halloween theme, dressing the iconic, minimalist piano piece in a swaddle of syrupy synth pop.
So Jamie has a psychic flash of Michael lurking about Rachel’s house. Loomis, hovering about for just such an occasion, calls Rachel up. He tells her to check on her dog, Max. Max’s gone. The back door’s open. Rachel tells Loomis about this. Loomis tells her to vacate the premises. Wonder of wonders, she actually does.
That’s right folks: a horror movie protagonists behaved like a rational human being for once. Yet, no matter how many times I play that scene back, the universe refuses to collapse. I keep hearing people say, “If characters in horror stories acted rationally, there’d be no story.” But there goes Rachel, fast as her towel can carry her. You go, girl. This is my favorite part of Halloween 5 for obvious reasons…aside from the whole “girl in a towel running around in broad daylight” thing. If that can’t improve your movie, you might as well scrap production.
Too bad it can’t pull this movie out of the pit its rushed production schedule dug for it. Right after my favorite scene, we see my least favorite, as we meet two of the bumblingest bumbling cops in the history of Horror, introduced with a “wacky” succession of bumbling cop soundtrack noises. These two are meant to callback to two similar characters in Wes Craven’s (supposedly) classic Last House on the Left. But those of a certain age will be instantly reminded of Bulk & Skull, the Odious Comic Relief and eventual unsung heroes of Power Rangers. Either way, Officers Bulk and Skull are useless, mood-destroying additions who only exist to drive up the body count. Looks like the Incompetent Arm of the Law will be out in full force tonight. Citizens of Haddonfield: be scared.
Speaking of which, back at the clinic, Loomis is pulling a Jack Bower on Jamie.
“Why are you protecting him?”
Um…Doc? Jamie’s clearly not protecting anyone. A boy her age, named Billy (Jeffrey Landman) is obviously trying to protect her from the big scary man with the cane and the overcoat, but Loomis quickly hustles Billy away. He implores Jamie to write what she knows down on her little chalk board, but how the fuck is she supposed to know anything, Doc? You’re the adult here. And I’m more than a little concerned about your sanity. After all, Chris Carter won’t create the show Millennium for six more years. How’s Jamie supposed to know that she’s now gifted/cursed with the ability to See Into the Mind of A Killer?
Who cares? Time for Rachel to die. Mostly off-screen, since the actress protested her original death (having scissors forced down her throat) would’ve been a bit much. For whom? The audience? Puh-leeze. You see how childish conservatism crept back into our American horror films? They weren’t neutered by some act of God or sweeping peace of legislation. Instead, a thousand little instances of creative types wimping out (like this) collectively reduced them to the dead zone we know and hate today.
So the continuing final girl of a Slasher film shows up just long enough to collect her paycheck and die. Shocking. We’re left…God help us…with Tina and the rest of the New Meat. A quick jump scare introduces us to Sammy (Tamara Glynn), a Generic Girl Spice slightly less annoying than Tina, and even less characterized. Since she and Tina are young people in a horror film, they plan to attend an inevitable party tonight. Sammy, at least, plans to use Rachel’s now-empty house (and bed, even) for an inevitable post-party fuck fest. Sam plans to do “it’ with someone we’ll meet soon in Rachel’s bed and, unless she got permission first, that’s just rude.
If she did, Rachel’s a lot kinkier than The Return of Michael Myers would’ve indicated. Then again, a whole year has passed and people can get a lot more sexually interesting in that time. Too bad she’s dead and we’ll never find out. Can Michael hurry up and kill these two as well? They’re both simpering ninnies dressed in the same garish, eye-gouging clothes.
“They should ban Halloween in this town.”
Wait. What was that, Tina?
“They should ban Halloween in this town.”
Fuckin’ thank you! Thank you, Tina. Finally, someone in Haddonfield listens…just my luck it’d be the brunette Kelly Bundy. After wandering around (allowing Michael to stalk them a bit and call back to the original film) the two meet up with Tina’s Greaser boy-toy…who’s also named Mike (Jonathan Chapin). What a twist! Since that’s confusing as all hell, I’ll just call him Fonzie Spice for the short time we’ll have to talk about him. He already has more jacket, shades and car than any teenager could reasonably support. Good thing he’s thirty.
Back at the clinic, the film wastes our time with a pointless chase sequence. Screw you sideways, movie. Back in her room, Jamie endures more trauma from Loomis. Apparently, Michael dug up a nine-year-old girl’s coffin from the Haddonfield cemetery. “What do you think he intends to do with that? You’re nine years old.” Would someone please tell me why this clinic’s resident Nurse Ratchet hasn’t tossed his creepy old ass to the curb?
At this point, exactly thirty minutes into the film, a mysterious Man in Black (played by the the same actor portraying Michael, Don Shanks) steps off a bus somewhere in Haddonfield and kicks a dog to prove he’s evil. He’ll be lurking in the background all that follows, ironically filling the role Michael Myers once inhabited, ten years prior.
This sums up the problem with Halloween 5 and the later Halloween films in general. Over the course of this series, Myers went from escaped mental patient to bogeyman to immortal pseudo-zombie. Which is he? These films can’t make up their minds, and things would only get worse from here. This means Michael’s whatever a particular scene needs him to be. So there’s no tension, because I don’t care, because I don’t even know who Michael is anymore.
Neither does Dr. Loomis, apparently. Having tired of torturing Jamie, he limps over to the old Myers homestead, because waiting around there worked so well in the first film. “Have you come home, Michael? I know what you want from her.” You mind letting us in on that, Doc? I’m kinda confused. Why is the Myers house now a Victorian mansion? Remember back in the 70s, when Haddonfield looked like a middle class neighborhood? Where’d all these old POS houses sprout from? You see what happens when a scene’s this pointless? My mind begins to wander. Here’s an expert from my notes:
34:11 – Spring Loaded Dead Possum. That’s something, right?
Indeed. As Loomis stalks through the halls, we see the Man in Black stalking him. What will come of this? Nothing. But at least we see the Man in Black has rune carved into his wrist – the same rune we saw decorating Micheal’s during his resurrection scene. (Dun-dun-DUN!) Don’t worry about that, though. It has no bearing on this film whatsoever. They saved it all for the sequel, so I guess I will too. Don’t blame me. Do what I do and blame Halloween 5. It’s all its fault. Because from here on out, the film stops making any sense at all.
We return to the New Meat, and I never thought I’d see the cast of a Slasher film out-acted by a dead possum, but here we are. Tina, Sammy and their boys gear up for the “Tower Farm Party” by stealing some beer out of Spitz’s Kevin Smithian work place. Mike gets just enough time to characterize himself as a car-worshiping, Greaser douchebag, before Michael sneaks up on him, kills him with a rake to the head, and steals his car. Ding-dong, the Greaser’s dead! Couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy. This would be my second favorite scene in the film. Watching assholes die is nice and all, but I’d rather watch a be-toweled Ellie Cornell.
Back at the clinic, I realize its kids are suffering a fate worse than any trick-or-treating ban: supervised, Halloween activities. Ugh!
Can you imagine how life sucks for these kids? They’re already in a clinic. Then the one night a year they get to go out and TP trees, egg houses or torture the neighborhood cats with impunity, what happens? Last year, a city-wide black out and the closest thing to martial law central Illinois seen since the Civil War. This year, their fucking parents are forcing them all into a fake pageant. Probably one of those stupid ones with no prize where “everybody wins” just for “participating.” Before they go on, Billy the Under-Actor gives Jamie a bracelet for “good luck.”Ha! How do you think that’s gonna work out, folks?
So Michael Myers dons the Halloween mask Tina bought for her Michael and picks Tina up outside the Clinic. Tina’s flagrant sexuality puts Michael in touch with his inner Escaped Mental Patient, meaning Mike doesn’t kill her outright…the way he’s killed everyone else he’s encountered at the first opportunity. Instead, he drives away, enduring far more of her grating voice that I could. This allows Jamie to warn Dr. Loomis (and the entire costume pageant) about Tina’s plight via another Frank Black Attack.
The problem? Jamie still can’t talk. So, with Billy translating, she communicates through what I labled “psychic connection charades.” And what is she talking about? A “big cookie woman.” That’s as accurate a description of Tina as I could come up with. It leads the police right to her, once they figure out “big cookie woman” refers to a local gas station advertisement.
Everyone meets back up at the clinic…so they can disperse again, because Tina still has that party to go to…and no one’s discovered her Mike’s corpse yet. Too bad. Jamie begs her to stay, but she insists that, “One day, you’ll meet someone and they’ll make you feel…it’s like your heart is made of neon.” Our Final Girl, ladies and gentlemen, leaving poor Jamie at the tender mercies of Sam Loomis. Who browbeats the Odious Comic Relief Cops into following Tina…leaving the clinic unguarded. This allows Jamie to escape, guided by Billy, who somehow knows where all the town teenagers are gathering.
To the Tower Barn Party, then. Hope you enjoyed that whole costume-contest-car-gas-station-clinic sequence. They could’ve staged the entire third act of this film at the clinic and thrown a reference to Halloween II in for good measure, which Michael stalking everyone through The World’s Most Deserted Hospital. Again. We’ve still got kill off the New Meat, even if I don’t care about them, so why drag all this out?
I care about Jamie, who obviously can’t beat Michael to the Barn. Tina, Sammy, Spitz and Officers Bulk and Skull are all second-stringers. It’s the Friday the 13th Part 2 problem all over again. A lot of people like that film, and I have no problem with its Final Girl sequence, but everything between that and the opening credits is a godawful chore to sit through. I know all these characters exist to die, and it’s not like the film bothered to set them up before we were halfway in. Apart from the Tina, who I wanted dead from the moment I met her, so no points there.
Officers Bulk and Skull wind up playing Slapjack outside the Party, falling victim to a prank Tina, Sam and Spitz pull. The two girls run outside while Spitz, in a picture-perfect Michael Myers mask, chasing after them with a fake knife. The two cops draw guns on Spitz but, as Officer Skull says, “Fortunately we’re lousy cops.”
Suddenly, Sammy finds a kitten. She leads Tin and Spitz back to the barn, where they discover an entire box of barn kittens. Was this the only way anyone could think of to get our New Meat away from the boisterous party, next door? Was this just some idea they came up with on location? Is that why all the kittens act like they’re trying to escape this movie? Because I sympathize. Take me with you, barn kittens!
While Sam and her boytoy screw, Tina gallivants about, encountering a spring-loaded kitten. She picks it up, looks at the camera and says,
“What am I doing? I hate cats!”
…and I have to wonder, was that Tina speaking, or her actress?
For that matter, what am I doing? I hate late period Slasher sequels. I’m only going over this one because otherwise I’ll have to explain all this in my review of Halloween 6. So let’s skip to the good part, eh? The part I like to call “The End.”
Jamie eventually winds up back the old Myers place, used as Michael Myers bait by Our Designated Hero, Dr. Loomis. Michael, of course, tracks her down through their psychic bond (I guess) and for the second year in a row, thins the ranks of Haddonfield’s “finest” so he can set about his business uninterrupted. He also gives Loomis a few whacks before chasing Jamie into the attic…where she comes across the dead bodies of Rachel and Max the Dog. There’s the usual running and screaming, which Danielle Harris does a wonderful job with, but by this point, nothing could stop me from shouting “END!” at the TV.
Before it can end, we have to get the least-favorite fan moment of the entire series. Attempting to reach whatever core of humanity might still be floating around inside her uncle, Jamie convinces Michael to take off his trademark mask. Now, the unveiling of the Killer is older than the Slasher genre, and by 1989 we were used to seeing all manner of mutilated faces. Of all the Slashers, Michael Myers stood alone in that, when Laurie Strode ripped off his mask back in ’78, there was nothing special underneath. There, as here, he was just a normal looking dude. He was everyman as he was no man and was therefore an Archetype. A bogeyman. The perfect monster.
Except, by now, we’ve seen him shot multiple times (include once in each eye) and burnt to a crisp. Hence his rocking the Darkman look at the beginning of the last movie. Or am I the only one who remembers the end of Halloween II (the real one, mind, as opposed to Rob Zombie’s great big fake-out)? Michael shouldn’t have enough face left to cry, never mind shedding a single tear for…Jamie? His other victims? Himself?
I don’t know. After an over-long chase, Loomis arrives to spring his Myers trap. Our Hero, ladies and gentlemen: endangering children since 1962. How does this guy escape having his license revoked? Whatever. He winds up shooing Michael full of tranquilizers, trapping him in a steel net, and beating him into unconsciousness with a length of wood he finds lying around. Loomis even starts chanting, “Die! Die! Die!” over his one-time patient, doing a passable impression of Tommy Jarvis (as played by Core Feldman) from Friday the 13th: The “Final” Chapter.
Of course, Michael doesn’t die. Instead, he’s chained to the floor of the police station he turned into an abattoir last year. It seems alls well that ends well…until the Man in Black busts Michael out.
Forget the replaceable characters, the scatterbrained plot, the unforgivable amount of padding, and the creepy characterization of Dr. Loomis, as if Pleasense were still working off the “Jamie’s Evil” draft of the script. I could forgive all that if Halloween 5 had at least tried to tell a coherent story, and tell it in one film. Instead, it wastes half its running time setting up a sequel that took six years to make. I’m tempted to wait six months until I review Halloween 6, just to give myself a chance to cool down and you some sense of what those six years were like for we sad bastards who still called ourselves “fans” of this series.
On second thought, “forgive” is too strong a word, really. By replacing Rachel with Tina, this film destroyed what little chance it had to capitalize on the tension killing Rachel might’ve generated in the first place. The thought of Michael stalking his now-alone niece through the streets was the only good one the makers of Return and Revenge ever had. But they wasted it, taking safe bets, making safe movies, and dangling the promise of resolution before us like its a piece of bait.
Sorry, Halloween series. I’m not biting. You got boring and I got into Batman the year this stupid movie came out. The rest, as they say, is history. And the Curse of Michael Myers. Though these sequels (and, now, remakes) are his one and only real curse.
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