To get the film going, the three screenwriters (which included director Dominique Othenin-Girard) had to address Halloween 4’s unnerving twist finale: little Jamie took a pair of scissors, and while wearing her little harlequin costume, stabbed her stepmom to death, soon after emerging at the stairwell covered in blood.
Was it the evil from Michael Myers that passed onto her after Michael was shot by the town’s rednecks, and tumbled to his death down a mine shaft? Was it a psycho nerve in the girl that went PING! much in the way Michael when PING decades earlier, killing his own parents?
‘Twas mind control.
That’s the excuse that’s delivered in one fast-said line of dialogue to explain why Jamie is now cute again, albeit deprived of speech and living in a kiddie clinic, where her sleep patterns are monitored by extremely patient staff.
That key dialogue is said after we’re treated to a tongue-in-cheek riff of The Bride of Frankenstein that also recaps Part 4’s non-demise: after the shootout, Michael crawls away from the shaft hole and into a rushing river just as torches set the shaft ablaze. Floating down the river with his mask still amazingly intact and firmly planted on his head, Michael manages to get to the shore safely (even though we can see the square outline of the lifejacket under the stuntman’s jumpsuit). The Frankenstein motif continues as Michael collapses in the riverside shack of an old man, who lets the serial killer rest until Michael wakes up, kills the old fool, and reclaims his immaculate William Shatner mask from the wall.
During the man’s traumatic death, Jaime ‘senses and sees’ Michael’s anger and murderous deeds from urge to physical execution, and therein lies the film’s conceit, which oddly mirrors that of the massively inept Species 2 (1998): a former villain (little Jaime) is now good (albeit due to a kind of amnesia), and uses her psychic powers to warn people (Dr. Loomis and her still-supportive stepsister Rachel, now very much motherless) when the evil sibling is poised to take the life of someone.
Those elements are applied to a meandering scenario that’s essentially a Friday the 13th template: an unstoppable killer impales, stabs, or mashes up teens as they’re in sexual heat; one killing even has a beau getting forked, although unlike Friday the 13th (or its unofficial relative, Bay of Blood), the girl is killed separately thereafter.
So much attention is given to teen hijinks, that it’s clear there just isn’t enough interesting material nor killings to keep the film’s running time moving. Michael has also been given a sense of humour: he likes to watch naked girls from closets for a while before pulling out the knife, and he taunts one girl by pretending to be her boyfriend at various stages, and often inches away from killing her.
Investing a sense of humour into an already narrow character is often a sign that a series is headed for silliness and ultimate self-destruction; if we ignore Part 3, Michael Myers isn’t the one-track vengeful menace who kills to torment his target victim, as in Part 1 and Part 4; he’s Jason Voorhees who kind of hangs around, impersonates, tries on masks, has some fun, and lets his victims writhe instead of doing away with them in one big swoop.
And as seen in the ‘final battle’ at the old Myers home (another completely different home from the one in Carpenter’s original film), Michael likes a bit of atmosphere: the bodies of his victims are neatly displayed in the attic (oddly reminiscent of the finale in Wicked, Wicked), with candles and iconic props.
Dr. Loomis has changed though; he’s crazier, and for the most part is allowed to traumatize Jamie into ‘meeting minds’ with Michael so as to save a life, and track him down to a gas station, much in the way Sil helps her new human allies find a more lethal alien roaming inside a grocery store in Species 2.
Director Othenin-Girard (Omen IV: The Awakening) offers some good scares, and his visual style is more buoyant and eerie that Dwight Little’s approach in Part 4, but more so that the prior film, Part 5 is an eighties teen slasher. The colour, clothes and hair are actually less garish than expected, but the music is a mishmash of awful no-name songs over montages, and Alan Howarth’s retreat of John Carpenter’s themes; Howarth’s versions are less poppish than in Part 4, but he also adds sampled stabs from Prince of Darkness whenever Michael gets close to his target. Howarth was also forced to write a few comedic stabs that were applied by the director to a pair of bumbling cops – a wholly bad attempt by the filmmaker to add a bit of ‘lightness’ to the film’s heavy scenes and violence (some of the latter trimmed to get an R-rating.
As Jamie, Danielle Harris is still effective, but her character is mute for the first half, and she runs around for the rest, either with Billy (Jeffrey Landman), a kid from the kiddie clinic, or Dr. Loomis. Loomis eventually uses Jamie as bait to trap Michael in a chain net, once again evoking a bit of Frankenstein lore, but the real surprise of that scene isn’t Loomis dying of a heart attack after beating Michael unconscious, but the fact he knocks out the killer with a plank of wood – something a hail of bullets and grenades in the film’s opening reel couldn’t do.
Othenin-Girard does a decent job in trying to meet the demands of a teen slasher pic while juggling elements from the genre, but it’s too familiar after multiple Friday the 13th sequels basically treaded the same paths. Where things get nutty is when the filmmakers start to inject some Druidic mysticism, a mystic connection dropped virtually from nowhere by Carpenter and Debra Hill in Halloween 2.
We’re shown some ancient symbol tattooed on Michael’s wrist (Michael Myers actually let someone at a tattoo parlour touch him?), and a stealth sub-plot of a ‘an with no name’ stranger wearing steel-tipped cockroach killers arriving into town, and like Father Merrin in The Exorcist, arriving, briefcase in hand, through the night mist for some secret purpose (which ends up being Michael’s liberation from the local authorities).
Whatever flawed finale filmmakers burn into a film, the makers of the sequel often have two choices: ignore the prior film’s existence, or try and make sense of whatever half-assed concepts they’re stuck with. The latter is what the makers of Part 6 did, adding Druidic nonsense, as well as resurrecting Dr. Loomis when he clearly dies at the end of Part 5.
For their new Divimax DVD of Part 5, Anchor Bay’s created a clean transfer that shows off the film’s deeply saturated colours, and another Dolby 5.1 remix (although the original 2.0 Ultra Stereo mix is also included).
Ported over is the making-of featurette from the label’s prior DVD, with cast and crew interviews from 2000 and 1988 archival clips. Producer Akkad admits he didn’t know who the hell the ‘man with no name’ was, and there’s an on-set clip of an unused scene that has some punkish guy removing Michael’s mask, and raising the Shatner visage in awe.
The Divimax disc contains a vintage on-set featurette, a shirt trailer, and a newly recorded commentary track with director Othenin-Girard, and actors Danielle Harris and Jeffrey Landman. There’s plenty of production ephemera for fans, but those more loyal to Carpenter’s first two films will find their praise for the production too gushy. It’s an affection reminiscence of the film, but Part 5 is still a signal of how the franchise had already started to traverse into incredible silliness.
Films in the Halloween franchise include Halloween (1978), Halloween II (1981), Halloween III: Season of the Witch (1982), Halloween IV: The Return of Michael Myers (1988), Halloween V (1989), Halloween VI: The Curse of Michael Myers (1995), the seventh part, Halloween H20: Twenty Years Later (1998), the eighth part, Halloween: Resurrection (2002), and Rob Zombie’s Halloween (2007).
© 2008 Mark R. Hasan