Friday, October 9, 2015

Census Bloodbath: The Boogie Woogie Boogeyman

Year: 1989
Director: Dominique Othenin-Girard
Cast: Donald Pleasence, Danielle Harris, Ellie Cornell |
Run Time: 1 hour 36 minutes
MPAA Rating: R

And so we come back, as always, to 1989. That year is like a black hole, taking every franchise we know and love and crushing it into oblivion. Many slashers entered that dark void and very few returned. The ones that did were in bad shape. Freddy Krueger was shipped off to a 3D suckfest that turned him into a blithering cartoon character. Jason Voorhees was abandoned on New Line’s doorstep, converted into a body-hopping demon worm, and shuttled off into space. And Michael Myers… Well, we’ll just have to see, won’t we?

Many films worked in tandem to murder the illustrious slasher genre in cold blood during that hallowed year. Some were putrid, obscene messes. Some were quite fun, but didn’t have the moxy to make a splash at the box office. Most were a chore to sit through. But perhaps none so effectively derailed a franchise as Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers. This was a film so ludicrously inept that it buried a series that had already withstood the assault of the Michael Myers - Laurie Strode sibling connection and a Michael-less entry about evil Stonehenge masks.

We’re talking heavy artillery here.

Halloween 5 starts promisingly enough. A direct continuation of Halloween 4 (with some light retconning to spinelessly reverse that dark ending), we follow Jamie Lloyd (Danielle Harris), the young niece of Michael Myers (Don Shanks of Sweet 16) who has been institutionalized following their encounter last year. More or less direct continuity, a returning lead, actual recognition of Jamie’s trauma… What could go wrong? The answer is everything. Immediately.

Michael Myers, having recuperated in the hut of a mountain man one evening that lasted an entire year according to the editor, returns to Haddonfield to continue his relentless pursuit of Jamie. But THIS TIME THEY’RE READY, so proclaims the poster. This is a blatant misrepresentation of the actual plot, unless you count the fact that Jamie seems to have some sort of useless psychic connection to Michael that gives her seizures whenever he kills. It’s not the most efficient defense mechanism in the world, and it only ever helps to save Tina (Wendy Foxworth), who is the single most annoying human being in the known universe, so I say she’s better off without it.

And of course Dr. Loomis (Donald Pleasance) is back, because what would a Halloween flick be without some purple monologuing and an old man tormenting a little girl with tales of hellspawn and baby coffins? There’s a slightly larger teen presence than usual here, so let’s also take a short break to Meet the Meat.

There’s Rachel (Ellie Cornell), Jamie’s adopted sister who takes all that lovely character development from Part 4 and tenderly tosses it in the shredder before being tragically reduced to the role of Girl Who Takes a Shower; you’ve already met Tina, Rachel’s best friend who is woefully unfit to take her place as teen protagonist and never speaks normally when a dog whistle shriek will do; Mikey (Jonathan Chapin), Tina’s greaser boyfriend who I would say is the least attractive slasher hunk in history if I hadn’t already met Spitz (Matthew Walker of Child’s Play 3), a Neanderthal with a puddin’ bowl haircut, and yes that is his real name; and Sammy (Tamara Glynn), his inappropriately sexy girlfriend. The teens are alone in Rachel’s house for the weekend and head out to a barn party, because Halloween 5 has no idea what type of movie it is.

I can tell you one thing for sure, it’s not a good one.

I didn’t think it was possible, but Halloween 5 proved me wrong. I thought no slasher character could be more profoundly irritating than Joey from Friday the 13th: A New Beginning. Or Franklin in The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. Or – heaven help me – Jack Black in I Still Know What You Did Last Summer. But I was wrong. Dead wrong. Tina’s car alarm chirpiness is bad enough, but when you roll her up with the grimacing, gibbering imps she calls friends, it’s enough to make you want to tear out your eardrums and staple them over your eye sockets so you never have to see or hear them ever again.

I think writer-director Dominique Othenin-Girard (whose name is actually misspelled in the opening credits, because this film is a work of art) took notes on everything that slasher sequels do wrong and vowed to copy that formula exactly. Mysterious killers are ruined with too much mythology? “Let’s throw in a cult tattoo, a shadowy Man in Black following the proceedings, and vapid psychobabble about quelling Michael’s inner rage!” Slashers are no fun when they’re not working with sharp implements? “Let’s have our first finale [EN: There are like twelve endings to this damn movie] be an extended car chase!” The Last House on the Left had infuriatingly inept comic relief cops? “Great idea! Make sure you throw in some honk-honk sound effects so people know that they’re silly!”

“Just call me the Jean-Luc Godard of horror cinema.”

Halloween 5 is just all over the place. It can’t decide whether it wants Tina to be a Final Girl or a victim. It can’t decide whether Michael Myers is the product of supernatural forces or a shattered psyche. It even misplaces an entire character (Billy – a young boy with a crush on Jamie) and never finds him again. All it knows is that it wants to have its cake and stab it too.

The ineptitude at work here is frankly staggering. Let me give you an example. If you were a director staging a sex scene in a barn, how would you do it? Would you throw on a smoky filter and layer some light music, toss in a couple boob close-ups, and call it a day? Or would you have it completely silent save for the uncomfortable grunting of two actors who would clear rather be nowhere near each other, one of whom is supposedly engaging in intercourse without ever having taken off her panties? If you answered the former, congratulations. You are not Dominique Othenin-Girard.

At least the gore is safe from this kind of treatment. Because there is none. Only two deaths have any sort of visceral impact, but they happen to 1) the fourth most annoying character, which is still well above the curve, and 2) a character we only meet 20 minutes before the ending. Needless to say, it’s a bit difficult to care.

Also, Michael has a mean case of turkey neck.

The pure negative power of Halloween 5 is such that it finally defeats Donald Pleasance. His deflated wheeze of a character sounds something like Winnie the Pooh after running a half marathon, and his fire and brimstone speechifying flings itself so far over the to that it’s visible from space. He’s laying it on thick, and his lines constantly bounce from subject to subject like an untrained high school improve show. After four films, I suppose it’s hard to really put your heart into lines like “Hell would not HAVE himmm!”

You’d think people would know that Michael Myers is kind of a dick at this point, without Dr. Loomis’ help.

But after all this trial and tribulation, a seed germinates, containing hope for a better future. I know it’s hard to believe, but there are positive factors to Halloween 5 as well. A shot from inside one of Jamie’s drawings proves that somebody somewhere has at least a crumb of visual ambition, and a scene between Tina and Jamie at the clinic is actually pretty tender and sweet. Plus, it’s hard to knock the finale, which pits Michael against Jamie as she tries to escape imprisonment in a slick metal laundry chute. Of course, that’s immediately followed by a metal net, a weepy Michael getting beaned with a 2x4, and a machine gun-toting druid, but this is Halloween 5 after all. It needed to reach its crap quota.

At least it’s fun to make fun of, right? And the few genuinely good moments are scattered at an even enough distance that it almost feels like a tolerable motion picture. Halloween 5 isn’t the worst Halloween film (thank you, Rob Zombie), but it is the keystone film of the year that destroyed the traditional slasher once and for all. That’s no small achievement. A round of applause, everyone, for the final Halloween of the 1980’s.

Killer: Michael Myers (Don Shanks)
Final Girl: Jamie Lloyd (Danielle Harris)
Best Kill: Charlie is hung using the very rope ladder he was going to escape with.
Sign of the Times: Hell hath no fury like Tina’s outfit.

Scariest Moment: Michael attacks Jamie while she’s trapped in a laundry chute.
Weirdest Moment: Tina ends up in the spooky barn because she chased an adorable kitten in there.
Champion Dialogue: “When you’re older there are people you’re gonna meet that make you feel connected. Like your heart is made of neon.”
Body Count: 9; not including 10 cops, who were alternately machine gunned by the Man in Black or slaughtered by Michael Myers – Or Max, the family dog.
  1. Mountain Man is stabbed to death.
  2. Rachel is stabbed in the chest with scissors.
  3. Mikey is stabbed in the face with a three-pronged garden tool.
  4. Spitz is impaled with a pitchfork.
  5. Sammy is slashed with a scythe.
  6. Goofy Cop #1 is pitchforked offscreen.
  7. Goofy Cop #2 is pitchforked offscreen.
  8. Eddie has his face smashed into a steering wheel.
  9. Charlie is hung with a rope ladder.
TL;DR: Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers is an inept horror picture that pisses all over the legacy of Halloween even more than the other sequels already had.
Rating: 4/10
Word Count: 1641
Reviews In This Series
Halloween (Carpenter, 1978)
Halloween II (Rosenthal, 1981)
Halloween III: Season of the Witch (Wallace, 1982)
Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers (Little, 1988)
Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers (Othenin-Girard, 1989)
Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers (Chappelle 1995)
Halloween H20: Twenty Years Later (Miner, 1998)
Halloween: Resurrection (Rosenthal, 2002)
Halloween (Zombie, 2007)
Halloween II (Zombie, 2009)
Halloween (Green, 2018)
Halloween Kills (Green, 2021)

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