Directed by Dominique Othenin-Girard
Distributed by Anchor Bay Entertainment
Having successfully re-introduced Michael Myers after a four-year hiatus, Moustapha Akkad was keen to keep October’s favorite boogeyman in the spotlight. So Halloween 5 reared its white mask just one year after Michael’s return. The results may not have been as successful overall, but The Revenge of Michael Myers (a subtitle that never appears in the movie) managed a nihilistic tone, a merciless final act and solid suspense setpieces throughout.
Picking up right where Halloween 4 ended, Part 5 admittedly doesn’t get off on the right foot. The opening scene is as ludicrous as they come, with a local hermit stumbling across the badly wounded Michael, readily accepting him into his care. Michael lapses into another one of his patented comas, patiently waiting for next October to arrive. It’s a ridiculous concept all around: Who is this hermit? Why does he thumb his nose at health care in favor of nursing a man suffering from multiple bullet wounds? Shouldn’t he have heard about that mass murderer at some point in his life, or is rural Illinois that isolated?
But once Michael springs back into action, the movie picks up the pace big time. It explores the traumatic effects that the events of Halloween 4 left on Jamie Lloyd (the returning Danielle Harris), who has gone mute since her encounter with The Shape. But she’s also fashioned to him by some kind of emotional link that allows her to feel his presence when he’s near. Dr. Loomis (Donald Pleasence, never better) sees this as an omen of his inevitable return and begs Jamie to help him find Michael and stop him for good.
What really works about Halloween 5 is that it’s largely unpredictable. The slasher subgenre often takes a lot of scrutiny for its inevitability; most of the time it’s too easy to pinpoint the final survivors as soon as they appear on screen. But Part 5 circumvents this by mercilessly offing a major character before the main story gets under way. By doing so it raises the stakes from the previous outing, taking away our little heroine’s “safety net” in the process. Without her “protector”, how is she going to survive this time?
Director Dominique Othenin-Girard isn’t afraid to put his twelve-year-old star through the paces, either. Whether she’s nearly getting run down by a car, stabbed by her uncle, used as bait to draw him out, or stumbling across the corpse of a loved one (in a fantastically emotional scene), Halloween 5 is a ferocious, downbeat experience that leaves you exhausted in its wake.
Othenin-Girard demonstrates an able hand with suspense – painting this sequel with plenty of tension. Early on, a girl climbs into a car with the person she thinks is her boyfriend, when in reality it’s Michael in a different mask. The scene is milked perfectly. Later on, there’s a barn sequence that takes a ”wait for it” approach, letting the viewer know these ill-fated partygoers are fodder, but without tipping its hand to how it’s going to happen. This uncertainty makes this a great, fun bit. Then there’s the car chase and subsequent pursuit through the Myers house (which is now a Gothic mansion thanks to Utah locales) with Jamie barely managing to avoid her uncle’s blade. There’s no shortage of assured moments here, making it a shame that Othenin-Girard didn’t carve out a career in the horror genre (I’m choosing to forget all about Omen IV: The Awakening).
There are some missteps along the way: The comic relief cops don’t work at all, resulting in an unfortunate addition to the movie. Thankfully, they’re sparsely used and have almost no bearing on the overall experience. A bigger problem is the now-infamous “Thorn” plotline which is introduced here, despite being kept purposely vague. The end result gives Halloween 5 something of an overly-serialized structure that cheapens the experience in some ways: Make sure you come back next year to find out who the man in black is, everyone! It’s obvious the filmmakers had no idea, deciding instead to inject an idea that the next group of filmmakers would have to address. Beyond that, it adds an unneeded air of mystery to a story that would’ve been better served by a tighter narrative.
As before, Danielle Harris is excellent. Halloween 5 looks to have been an extremely demanding shoot for her, and the amount of emotion she displays throughout continues to impress after all these years. A sorely underrated presence is Wendy Kaplan’s Tina. I’ve always loved this character, and I’m shocked when a majority of fans write her off as “annoying”. She’s a teenager in the film and, as such, acts like one. There’s a degree of obnoxiousness in her earlier scenes that’s perfectly believable. But the character of Tina changes with the tone of the film, and she takes to defending Jamie from Michael’s attacks even when it’s completely hopeless. It’s a part that actually turns the horny teen slasher cliché on its ear. Here’s a character who should’ve died early own (she wants to party and get laid, after all), and yet she rises to the role of protector when it’s most needed. And Kaplan has a line of desperation during the cornfield chase that is so perfectly delivered, frantic and exhausted, that it gets me every time.
Donald Pleasence delivers my favorite Loomis performance here: crazier than we’ve ever seen. Halloween 5 is when the Michael/Loomis foil reaches its inevitable conclusion (I prefer to think of his role in Part 6 as something of an epilogue), and the Moby Dick/Ahab allusion works incredibly well. This is Loomis at the end of his rope, and while it’s uncomfortable to watch our longtime hero dangle a little girl in front of our resident boogeyman like a carrot, it helps to cement their dysfunctional and symbiotic relationship. As Michael kills, Loomis needs to stop him. That’s all there is, and one gets the sense this would’ve continued for years to come (age of Mr. Pleasence notwithstanding).
Anchor Bay Entertainment brings Halloween 5 to Blu-ray in a terrific high definition transfer. This looks better than Halloween 4 (because of the way it was filmed, most likely) with crisp colors and excellent detail. Skin tones are natural, and black levels are deep and inky.
The Dolby TrueHD soundtrack is also a considerable step up from Halloween 4, with dynamic sound FX and immersive music. Dialogue is always clean and well-separated, but surround channels are used to great effect.
The only new special feature on this Blu-ray release is an audio commentary by Michael Myers himself, Don Shanks (the box incorrectly lists this as Dominique Othenin-Girard, whoops!). It’s a jovial conversation with HalloweenMovies.com’s Justin Beahm that features a ton of great trivia from Shanks’ perspective. Great stuff!
There’s also a port of the Othenin-Girard commentary track (mislabeled as Don Shanks on the box) from the previous release, where he’s joined by actors Danielle Harris and Jeffrey Landham. I listened to this when it was first released and enjoyed it very much. There’s also a slightly longer iteration of the behind-the-scenes footage that was on the previous release. Rounding out this set is a vintage making-of and a TV spot.
I’m not sure how many of you remember this, but when Halloween 5 was coming out, there was a 900 number you could call and play a phone game to “help save Michael’s next victim”. The scenario was basically a girl trapped in a house, and you’d press 1 for her to run upstairs or 2 to go into the garage, etc. I’d give just about anything for that bizarre promotional feature to be resurrected and placed on a future release. Let’s just say I got in very bad trouble with my parents for as many times as I called it.
For my money, Halloween 5 is an unjustly maligned sequel. Yes, I prefer it to all sequels save for Halloween 4 – it’s just so damn dark that it’s hard not to love what they were going for here (warts and all). It arrives on Blu-ray with strong PQ/AQ and some supplements that fans should enjoy. Recommended.
4 out of 5
3 out of 5