If Halloween 4 squeezed the last viable juice from the Michael Myers lemon, Halloween 5 rubs the pulpy rind in the viewers’ eyeballs. The returns are not only diminished, they’re basically nonexistent.
Halloween 4 has an absolute banger of a final scene, which I’m about to spoil, so click away if you haven’t seen it and want to go in blind (which I recommend, at least to the extent I recommend watching Halloween 4 at all). After Laurie Strode’s seven-year-old daughter, Jamie (Danielle Harris), survives her encounter with the lumbering mass of evil that is Michael Myers, she’s recuperating at home. We get some POV shots mirroring the opening of the first Halloween suggesting Michael has snuck back into Jamie’s house and stabbed Jamie’s foster mom. But when the killer we assume to be Michael appears on the stairwell and the family turns and gapes in horror, it’s not Myers, but little Jamie holding a bloody blade. This is not only a great reflection of the series’ opening scene, when a six-year-old Myers commits a brutal murder, but pays off on Jamie’s paranoia and hallucinations throughout that film. Plus, a little girl in a clown costume holding a bloody butcher’s knife is just a striking image.
Thus, it was with some very mild anticipation that I approached Halloween 5, curious if the film would explore inherited trauma and psychological burden or the cycle of abuse and violence. Unfortunately, the film goes the stupidest possible direction with the material: It hints at a vaguely telekinetic connection between Myers and Jamie, who remains a protagonist rather than an blossoming psychopath. Myers is hunting down Jamie once again, meaning we are basically recreating Halloween 4 with very little changed, and worse. Come the fuck on.
Halloween 5 makes things worse for itself by killing off the heroine of its predecessor, Rachel (Ellie Cornell), in an early scene, leaving yet another hole in the Final Girl role. Instead we get Tina, one of Rachel’s friends, in the role of protecting Jamie. Thus, we’re not only reenacting the previous film, but sans a crucial character.
One of the film’s key set pieces is a big, boozy costume party at a barn. To call this stretch insufferable would be an understatement. It’s a mess. Because it’s a costume party, one in three attendees is dressed in a Myers mask, allowing the movie to play the fake-out beat about seven times. It goes on for what feels like a half hour until someone finally dies, and not in a way that raises the tension. It just taxes the viewer’s patience, especially when it’s obvious which canoodling couple will get stabbed. (And since it’s at a barn, they get pitchforked.)
I mentioned in my review of Halloween 4 that there was something ooky about having the murder target in a film of a subgenre and franchise so explicitly linked to teen sexuality be a seven-(now eight-)year-old girl. If Halloween 4 poked that hornets nest without much thought, Halloween 5 leans into the stings. Myers’ obsession with Jamie has very strong pedophilic undertones, especially in the film’s climax in which Myers hunts Jamie through a house with simultaneous bloodlust and curious gentleness, as if he’s battling competing urges. It’s deeply horrifying. To be honest, I appreciated that the film tackled that lingering queasiness head-on; it added a deeply uncomfortable layer to the film’s final act which is otherwise low in tension.
There’s also the matter of a mysterious man in black who is hunting down Myers. This new character is shot enigmatically and, frankly, I had no idea what we were supposed to take away from his appearances for most of the movie. I guess we’re supposed to be intrigued, but I was mostly confused as to who or what he was, and why I might care. Given the backstory we have for Michael, it makes little sense that he’d be involved in some deeper mystery, but I suppose it will be some sort of supernatural malarkey. Halloween 6 will undoubtedly botch it, but at least this time I have no high hopes to get dashed.
I’ve gone this far without describing perhaps the film’s most interesting element: Sam Loomis’s (Donald Pleasence) unhinged obsession with Myers, to the point that he’s harassing and manipulating Jamie to lure Myers out, consequences be damned. It sends Loomis down a dark path, and I wish the movie had done even more with it. Mostly it manifests as Loomis shouting a lot. I can imagine a better film turning Loomis into a full-fledged anti-hero who commits his own murders in the name of stopping Myers.
But Halloween 5 is not that movie. It’s a stinker that has spoiled my mood enough that it has me wondering if maybe I was too generous to the previous entries. Any sort of goodwill I might have had has evaporated, and I approach Halloween 6 — the last film before the first timeline reboot — with great trepidation.
- Review Project: Halloween Retrospective