Thursday, October 28, 2010

Halloweek: Halloween 5 (1989)

Like Halloween II, Halloween 5 (its subtitle, The Revenge of Michael Myers, was used in promotional materials but isn't in the actual movie) was made soon after its predecessor and flows directly from the preceding story, even opening with recycled scenes from the previous movie. It doesn't take place later the same night (instead, a year has passed), but it does build on the characters and situations that were established when Halloween 4 reignited the franchise. Unlike Halloween 4, though, Halloween 5 isn't out to replicate the tone and style of the original film. It's much more lurid and over-the-top, and although it's pretty ridiculous, its exaggerated style makes it a bit more entertaining than the grimly functional Halloween 4.

Once again, it's young actress Danielle Harris who carries the movie and elevates it above the trash heap, with her expressive eyes and skill at portraying terror. She even goes half the movie without speaking, as her character, Michael's niece Jamie, has been rendered mute after the traumas of the previous movie. It's a little disappointing that the filmmakers backpedal on the twist ending of Halloween 4, in which Jamie donned the same Halloween costume as a young Michael and stabbed her foster mother to death, and seemed poised to become the new version of Michael. Here we learn that the foster mother is still alive and Jamie has not become evil, but is troubled enough to have stopped speaking and be placed in a children's clinic.

Jamie is pretty much the only character who gets any development, though; her foster sister Rachel (Ellie Cornell) has returned from the previous movie as well, but she gets killed off quickly, and the other teen characters are interchangeable fodder for Michael's knife. Donald Pleasence is back again as Dr. Loomis, and I did appreciate how Loomis seems to get crazier and crazier in each movie. Here he constantly berates young Jamie for not doing enough to help him catch Michael, since she apparently now has some sort of psychic connection to her uncle (whatever). At the movie's climax, he actually brandishes Jamie like a human shield to get Michael to follow him. The performance has gone from an intense depiction of a troubled man to full-on camp, but in the context of horror crap like this, it's pretty entertaining.

The camp factor redeems other parts of the movie, too, although Swiss director Dominique Othenin-Girard sometimes goes overboard, as with the pair of bumbling cops who have their own wacky sound effects that play whenever they do something dumb. But he shoots with lots of low angles and crazy camera movements, giving the visuals a sort of funhouse feel (he does use the trademark point-of-view shots for Michael as well, but relatively sparingly). Jamie's psychic freakouts when Michael prepares to kill someone are especially gonzo.

The movie is entertainingly stupid until the finale, which is just stupid, and hinges on a mysterious stranger whom we never see above the waist, who comes to town and apparently breaks Michael out of jail at the end. Combined with a series of unexplained symbols that appear on Michael's and the stranger's wrists, as well as in the old Myers house, it's a clumsy attempt at drumming up intrigue that only comes off as confusing and dissatisfying (although apparently it's addressed in the next movie). Halloween 5 is a mess, but I found that messiness preferable to another futile effort to copy the restrained effectiveness of John Carpenter's inimitable original.

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