Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers (United States, 1989)

October 17, 2018
A movie review by James Berardinelli
Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers Poster

Spoilers aplenty! You have been warned.

The ending of Halloween 4, one of the stronger sequels in the long-running horror franchise, promised something special for Halloween 5. Alas, the filmmakers, concerned about losing audiences if the familiar masked face of Michael Myers wasn’t front-and-center, abandoned what the previous film implied. In its place, viewers are saddled with a generic slasher flick, a predictably high body count, and a story that relies more on gore than suspense for its substance. To be sure, this wasn’t unusual for an ‘80s horror film but it is disappointing to see a Halloween movie fall so far. It’s scant comfort to realize that worse indignities were yet to come – three of the subsequent Michael Myers films were as bad as or worse that Halloween 5. How’s that for setting the bar low?

Halloween 4 concluded with the promise of a game-changing shift in the direction of the franchise. Young Jamie Lloyd (Danielle Harris), “infected” by the touch of her apparently-dying uncle, Michael Myers (Donald L. Shanks), returns home to recover from her ordeal. In a scene shot to echo the opening of the first movie, Jamie puts on a mask and stabs her foster mother. Then, knife dripping blood, she stands at the top of the stairs while Dr. Sam Loomis (Donald Pleasence), recognizing what has happened, screams in horror. Whatever the intentions of director Dwight Little and screenwriter Alan B. McElroy, they were ignored when it came time to make Halloween 5. Much to the 1989’s sequel’s detriment, Little was replaced by Dominique Othenin-Girard and McElroy by the trio of Othenin-Girard, Shem Bitterman, and Michael Jacobs. The resulting gore-fest was sub-par even by slasher film standards of the day.

The first thing the new creative team accomplished was to undo the ending of Halloween 4. Instead of Jamie replacing Michael, she’s simply described as having a psychic connection with him. Since removing the serial killer with the white-face William Shatner mask was inconceivable to the filmmakers, they contrived a way for Michael to survive once again. Poor Jamie spends the first half of the film mute and, when she’s finally allowed to speak, all she does is scream and whimper. Considering the kind of trauma she’s put through, that’s understandable.

One of the high points of Halloween 4 is the relationship between Jamie and her older foster sister, Rachel (Ellie Cornell). Their interaction, fueled by the chemistry between the actors, gives the third Michael Myers film a solid emotional core. Halloween 5 decides (for reasons known only to the filmmakers) to kill off Rachel early in the proceedings. In the role of Jamie’s protector, she is replaced by Tina (Wendy Kaplan), Rachel’s best friend. Meanwhile, hovering around the periphery like a demented hobgoblin, is doddering old Dr. Loomis, who is arguably as deranged as Michael by now.

A word about Loomis… I suppose one could construct an argument that the good doctor’s obsession, combined with the various physical and mental experiences he has gone through, might have taken him off the deep end. But this is a slasher film. We’re not interested in introducing doses of real-world psychology. Loomis the Avenging Angel is one of the best things about the earlier films. His one-liners in Hallloween II are classics. Loomis the cackling lunatic not only isn’t fun, he’s just sad. And when he stupidly puts himself too close to Michael’s knife, it’s character assassination at its worst. Loomis appears to die at the end of this movie. While that would have been an ugly way to end the character’s life, it would have been preferable to the indignity of bringing him back for Halloween 6. (Pleasence died soon after filming that movie and, as an unintentional insult, it was dedicated to him.)

The plot follows a standard horror/slasher formula. Michael stalks and kills Rachel. Michael stalks Jamie. Jamie runs away, looking for Tina. All the teens of Haddonfield, including Tina, gather at a Halloween party. Michael arrives and begins thinning the population, starting (of course) with a couple who are  having sex in a barn. Jamie finds Tina. Michael finds them both. Loomis shows up. Michael kills Tina. Loomis takes Jamie for bait. In the end, Loomis shoots Michael with a bunch of tranquilizer darts before keeling over. Michael is taken into custody before being freed by the mysterious Man in Black.

Ah, the Man in Black. One of the most idiotic plot devices in the history of slasher movies. The purpose behind this mysterious stranger was to invigorate the franchise and open new possibilities for future installments. The Man in Black (who was played by Donald Shanks, doing double duty) remains shadowy and unformed in Halloween 5. His “truth” is unveiled in Halloween 6 and is just as silly and anticlimactic as everything else in that movie. His inclusion in Halloween 5 is an indication of how pedestrian Michael has become. The series’ signature villain has never recovered from the unveiling of his back story. The Shape (as he was called in the first movie) was a menacing, vaguely supernatural force of evil. Michael Myers is just an unkillable psychopath in a mask. (The mask is removed twice during Halloween 5 and we catch a glimpse of Michael’s face. It’s as disappointing as one might expect.)

The original Halloween was filmed in Southern California during the spring yet director John Carpenter went to great pains to make it feel like October 31 Illinois. That meant, among other things, importing plastic colored leaves and sprinkling them around liberally. Despite a much larger budget than the one Carpenter had to work with, Halloween 5 doesn’t bother trying. The trees are all fully green, there’s not a leaf on the ground, and nothing feels like October. Additionally, the Myers house used in this film bears no resemblance (inside or out) to the one in the original Halloween. This lack of attention to detail is evident throughout the entire film.  At least composer Alan Howarth had the good sense to make liberal use of the Carpenter Halloween theme alongside his own work.

Halloween 5 is the movie that pushed the Halloween franchise into the generic slasher film category. To that point, there had at least been a few elements to differentiate it but, by installment #5, any uniqueness was gone. The slasher template – gore, boobs, screams, mind-boggling stupidity, teen sex, and more gore – was fully implemented. Michael Myers had become indistinguishable from any other faceless killer. Halloween 5 was by no means the worst of the Halloween entries but, for what it meant to the series, it was the most disappointing.

Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers (United States, 1989)

Director: Dominique Othenin-Girard
Cast: Donald Pleasence, Danielle Harris, Ellie Cornell, Wendy Kaplan, Beau Starr, Tamara, Donald L. Shanks
Home Release Date: 2018-10-17
Screenplay: Michael Jacobs & Dominique Othenin-Girard and Shem Bitterman
Cinematography: Robert Draper
Music: Alan Howarth, John Carpenter
U.S. Distributor: Galaxy International Releasing
Run Time: 1:36
U.S. Release Date: 1989-10-13
MPAA Rating: "R" (Bloody violence, gore, profanity, sexual content, profanity, nudity)
Genre: Horror
Subtitles: none
Theatrical Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1