When has a horror franchise run out of gas? According to Judge Bill Gibron, when that shouldn't-have-been-resurrected-in-the first place Shape starts stumbling around Haddenfield...AGAIN!
Our reviews of Halloween 5: The Revenge Of Michael Myers (published October 11th, 2000), Halloween: 30th Anniversary Commemorative Set (published October 25th, 2008), and Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers (Blu-ray) (published August 21st, 2012) are also available.
Michael Lives…and this time, they're ready!
When last we saw a certain Mr. Michael Myers, he was tumbling into an abandoned mine shaft, apparently plummeting to his death. Ah, but if we know anything about a certain "Shape," falling thousands of feet onto jagged, rusty pikes is not about to slow him down. Sure enough, even with police giving him a sendoff with several sticks of dynamite, our unstoppable slayer manages to survive, regain his killing composure, and chase after his only known living relative—a little girl named Jamie (Danielle Harris, Poor White Trash). Sadly, the little child has been totally traumatized by her previous meeting with her murderous uncle and resides in a suburban sanitarium with a group of equally disturbed wee ones. As Michael makes his way through the various torsos of Haddenfield's horny teens, Jamie "senses" his presence. She is psychically linked to her killer kin and knows he is after her very life essence—or something supernatural like that. Hopefully, with the help of a still-pontificating Dr. Sam Loomis (Donald Pleasance, You Only Live Twice), Michael can be stopped. In truth, we fright fans know that there isn't enough firepower in the physical or metaphysical cosmos to stop this slaughtering Shape from his appointed atrocities. He's like a post-mortem Postal Service, delivering death instead of Netflix DVDs.
When audiences failed to cotton to Halloween III: Season of the Witch's child-killing Celtic lore, complete with Stonehenge shout-out and murderous masks (not to mention that earworm-like "Six more days to Halloween" TV jingle), executive producer Moustapha Akkad realized that his quickly-fading meal ticket needed to be reconfigured. So out went founding father John Carpenter's original idea of letting the Halloween label stand as a kind of generic horror film tag (he wanted other filmmakers to use the candy-coated holiday as a means of exploring various aspects of the macabre). Back came The Shape in all his slice-and-dice glory. Instead of representing a return to form for the series, Michael Myers' resurrection destroyed any gruesome goodwill the franchise had previously forged. Halloween 4 was an incongruent mess while its inevitable follow-up, Halloween 5 took illogic to new, scream-filled extremes. Under the terrible tutelage of director Dominique Othenin-Girard (who went on to helm the equally hackneyed Omen IV: The Awakening), this slow, meandering excuse for entertainment is the cinematic equivalent of scarefest sacrilege. As it pisses on the legacy of Carpenter's well-considered original, it establishes new levels of aggravation and frustration.
Frankly, there was never much room to maneuver within the premises for Halloween 4 and 5. Both films provide the implausible position of rooting for Michael's precocious little niece, a non-stop screaming machine named Jamie. Installment number four ended with her "stepping into" her uncle's homicidal shoes. Number five had to backpedal, turning the onscreen slaughter into a combination recurring nightmare and mental shock accident. The rest of the story centers on a cliffhanger-like reprieve for our killer, a bunch of sex-driven victims, and a great many off-screen deaths. Under such auspices, we need a lead that can carry us on her broad, brave shoulders. Instead, we get Danielle Harris. Essaying Jamie with little nuance beyond the ability to vocalize at ever-increasing levels of loudness, the young Miss Harris definitely earns her pre-teen scream-queen mantle. After a first half that finds her locked in mute mode (she's like Helen Keller without the hope), it's all irritating lungpower and hissy-fit histrionics. Fans apparently soil themselves over dainty Danielle's thespian acumen, but this critic believes that most of the rapid fanboy foaming has something to do with her post-Halloween hotness. She has grown into quite a fetching young lady.
Still, future fantasy fodder does not make for a horror classic. Halloween 5 often feels like a drunk stumbling down the street after one too many arsenic shooters. It never really gets going, offering a couple of quick deaths before meandering about behind Michael's search for Jamie. Since it's established early on that the allied kinfolk are psychically linked (our bratling has conniptions whenever her Uncle goes bloodthirsty), it seems fairly obvious that all Mr. Myers has to do is tune into the familial wavelength and grab the girl. Unfortunately, this would mean the movie would last about 10 minutes, and Othenin-Girard would have then been deprived of the ability to milk pointless dream sequences, endless foot chases, and a pre-pube bohunk for Jamie in the form of some dorky Dondi lookalike. None of this matters, really. With Friday the 13th having long established the slasher film formula, all Halloween 5 can do is battle against the basics to differentiate its indebtedness to the fear fundamentals. All of our horny-ass teens buy the farm, Michael is constantly "killed," only to continue his inevitable revitalizations, and the ending is inexplicably sloppy, leaving the door open for—what else—more sequels. About the only unexplainable element is the appearance of some dark-suited dude in a pair of silver-toed boots. Apparently setting up a storyline for installment number six, this unnamed figure is far more intriguing than anything in the actual narrative.
Given the full blown Divimax digital polish by Anchor Bay, the 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen image of Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers looks pretty good. Sure, this is a low-budget horror film with very little in the way of artistic designs, but the flat, featureless transfer still provides a perfectly reliable picture. The original Dolby Digital Surround 2.0 mix has been modified to a far heftier 5.1 multi-channel offering. The difference between the two (both as present on the DVD) is negligible, with just a few more atmospheric and directional touches apparent in the 5.1 design.
As for extras, Anchor Bay fleshes out this feature with a full-length audio commentary. Participating in the backslapping and self-serving discussion are director Dominique Othenin-Girard, and actors Danielle Harris and Jeffrey Landham. There is a lot of butt kissing and glad handing here, so if you're looking for an in-depth overview of the production, move on to the additional featurettes. One is a documentary entitled Inside Halloween 5, and does a bang-up job of describing the entire cinematic process from beginning to end. There is also a selection of behind-the-scenes footage that allows us access to the filmmaking process. Toss in a selection of trailers and you've got a reasonably well-supplemented DVD package.
Of course, Michael Myers doesn't die at the end of Halloween 5. The Shape never dies, he just goes on to further sully his creature-feature reputation. While it may be macabre heresy to say it, Michael Myers is just not that effective as a scare symbol. In fact, more people remember Carpenter's masterful musical theme and the acting of Jamie Lee Curtis and Donald Pleasance than they do the importance of The Shape as a continuing character. As Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers bears out, this was one killing machine that should have been dismantled and mothballed long ago.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Anchor Bay
• Commentary by director Dominique Othenin-Girard and actors Danielle Harris and Jeffrey Landman
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