Crimson Quill’s Appraisal #274
Number of Views: Three
Release Date: October 13, 1989
Sub-Genre: Eighties Slasher
Country of Origin: United States
Box Office: $11,642,254
Running time: 96 minutes
Director: Dominique Othenin-Girard
Screenplay: Michael Jacobs, Dominique Othenin-Girard, Shem Bitterman
Characters: John Carpenter, Debra Hill
Producer: Ramsey Thomas
Special Effects: Howard Berger, Robert Kurtzman, Greg Nicotero
Score: Alan Howarth
Cinematography: Robert Draper
Edited by: Charles Tetoni, Jerry Brady
Studio: Magnum Pictures
Distributor: Galaxy International Releasing
Stars: Donald Pleasence, Danielle Harris, Ellie Cornell, Beau Starr, Jeffrey Landman, Tamara Glynn, Jonathan Chapin, Matthew Walker, Wendy Foxworth, Betty Carvalho, Troy Evans, Frankie Como, David Ursin, Harper Roisman, Karen Alston, Max Robinson
Suggested Audio Candy
Alan Howarth “Halloween 5 Theme”
There is no better discussion for horror aficionado than the old franchise debate. Which was the best Elm Street sequel, what Friday stands out etc. The long-running and more recently revisited Halloween series has always been ripe for the picking. Only last week I engaged in a lengthy discussion with the Robin to my Batman, Silent Shadow. While this could have ended in heated bickering, we were fairly unanimous in our opinions. Halloween II stands as possibly the strongest slasher sequel in existence, the only crime the marvelous Season of the Witch committed was bearing the mantle, The Curse of Michael Myers is something of an overlooked treasure and, of course, Resurrection sucks assholes. There were no great revelations and our conclusion of Halloween 5 too was analogous.
In my infinite wisdom and, with all hallow’s eve fast approaching, I decided what better time to delve into the vaults and give Dominique Othenin-Girard’s entry a further run-out. If memory served, it was something of a mixed bag. Whilst by no means was it the outright travesty many remember, it was a confused mess of a movie which was far too ambitious in scope for its own good and bore more holes in its plot than a slab of Swiss cheese. Nevertheless, there were a number of positives and it, at least, shared the same tone as the solid fourth entry thus rescuing itself from the jaws of certain defeat. Considering Othenin-Girard went on to co-direct the indefensible Omen IV: The Awakening, this could be regarded as one of his better days at the office although it still remained one of the weaker entries in the series.
It is twenty-five years since this film first surfaced, hot on the heels of the fourth installment, and under-performed theatrically, heralding the lowest return of the entire franchise and receiving a critical mauling to rub salt in its wounds further. A little perspective can make all the difference and, to truly appraise, I would be required to take it on its own terms and resist the urge to make comparisons. Has my opinion changed after all these years? No, you can polish a turd until it glimmers but it’s still going to smell like shit. That’s not to say Halloween 5 is feces, but you get what I’m driving at. Often time is the great healer but here it is simply the great reminder. How foolish of me to question my own judgement, I may have been fifteen when I first took this trip back to Haddonfield, but I was still me, albeit a sniveling snot-nosed version of myself. Everything I said about it then I would still concur to this day and that includes the fact that, while flawed in the extreme, it’s still a reasonably worthy sequel.
Picking up where part four left off, with Michael plummeting into an open mine shaft as he is filled with enough lead to shit a thousand pencils, and catching a grenade on his way down; it wastes no time in getting to the meat. Slasher movies never required any great sense of logic so, after a bum with a parrot takes the severely fatigued Myers under his wing and leaves him on the slab for a full year while he decides what to do next, we shouldn’t really be too damning. Instead we let it slide and this decision is justified by the fact that the pace is far brisker than is often the case. Within a handful of minutes one of the last film’s key players has lost a game of rock, paper, scissors with The Shape and it’s down to a new gaggle of geese to grease themselves up for the stuffing.
Whilst bearing certain parallels with its predecessor, Halloween 5 is far less interested with the characterization of its fodder and the teens in question are largely superfluous. They include Mikey, a car-obsessed grease-ball who seems unaware as to whether a Shark or a Jet and Tina, who intriguingly is far too fun-loving and easy to ordinarily make it past second base but here becomes a major player. Her inclusion provides one of the film’s more interesting dynamics as her character undergoes a distinct change as she realizes that she is in mortal danger. But the absence of Rachel Carruthers who was such a pinnacle figure last time out and was bursting with final girl charisma, hurts the film on a whole. On one hand, it throws a screaming cat amongst the pigeons and shows that nobody in Haddonfield can rest easy, but her replacements pale in comparison.
Thankfully, while the teens are floundering and the entire police force bumbling, two key players come up trumps. Donald Pleasence is at his deranged best here, never veering into campy McDowell territory, but showing the signs of mental wear-and-tear that years of chasing shadows would invariably provoke. He thinks nothing of dangling a frightened twelve year-old girl in front of his old adversary as a cute carrot, but then, isn’t it forgivable that he would be just a little jaded by this point? His turn here is titanic, flamboyant and still every bit as controlled as the great man always was. Besides, he was probably worn down by a particular brace of harebrained deputies whose appearance as comic relief is woefully misguided. They even have their own clown-shoes audio accompaniment, plucked straight from Wes Craven’s Last House on the Left nearly two decades prior. It didn’t work there and doesn’t here either.
Our second hero is the glorious Jamie. Danielle Harris gives a remarkable account of herself, considering her lack of years. Rendered mute for the first half of the film and perpetually haunted by her uncle’s omnipresence, she displays histrionics which put her elders to shame and her cherub-like face conveys all the emotion to keep us invested while the foundations around her continue to shake. She gives slasher fans their very own Haley Joel Osmant and, considering child actors often provide little more than annoyance for Keeper, she deserves massive kudos. That, my friends, is why she is regarded so highly now, despite some questionable career choices more recently. She’ll get it back, it is just a matter of time as attested by her spirited turn in Halloween 5.
The Myers house has undergone some sort of Gothic transition and is now all dusty stairwells and high-arched windows. We forgive this indiscretion as it does provide an admittedly ominous locale for The Shape to come home to. What’s harder to overlook is the inclusion of the much-debated man in black. This is the cinematic equivalent of passing the baton as neither Othenin-Girard or his screenwriting sidekicks had the faintest idea where to take this, choosing instead to leave a jumbled ball of wool for the next unfortunate to unravel. He shares the druid sign that Myers bears on his wrist but that’s pretty much our lot. He ghosts in and out without any explanation ever being necessitated and nobody ever took up the reigns, leaving an immense lack of logic for cynics to perpetually berate.
Having said this, there are many factors which keep Halloween 5 just shy of the doldrums. There’s plenty of tension, its well shot and riddled with atmospheric lighting, and the pace rarely slackens throughout. In addition, the scene where Michael breaks out his alternative headgear to transport Tina to the local 7-eleven is milked to perfection, if somewhat bizarre. It also dares to unmask our killer for the very first time and The Shape is wisely kept in the shadows, shedding but a solitary tear, which is an audacious move. By no means the thanksgiving turkey many sharpened their knives over back in 1989, The Shape’s fifth outing is just as uneven now as it was twenty-five years ago. But in the interest of ending on a plus, Malcolm McDowell and Busta Rymes are nowhere to be seen. So there is that.
Crimson Quill’s Judgement: 6/10
Grue Factor: 3/5
For the Grue-Guzzlers & Pelt-Nuzzlers: Although poor Rachel is first in the showers, this does enable us to shamelessly gawk over her supple curves from the opposing side of frosted glass. On the grue side of things, Michael adds a claw hammer and pitchfork to his inventory and the moment when he perforates the noggin of his Fonzabee namesake will likely evoke rapturous applause proving categorically that one should never wear white socks with black slip-ons. “Ayyy” that motherfucker!
Richard Charles Stevens
Keeper of The Crimson Quill
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