Giddy over the surprise success of “Halloween 4”, the producers wasted no time getting a follow up into production. Their haste is evident, since the fifth installment in the “Halloween” franchise is an amalgam of great ideas that never come together to make a satisfying film. While dark and atmospheric, the film underachieves in the rush to get it to the screen.
Michael Myers once again escapes an apparent death in “Halloween 4” by some deus ex machina factor, and is found by an old hermit. The hermit is either incredibly slow on the uptake or desperate for company, because he cares for Myers and nurses him back to health. Myers repays the kindness by killing the old coot, and returns on Halloween night to finish what he started. Once again, Dr. Loomis (Donald Pleasence) is hot on Myers’ trail, this time trying to use a psychic connection Myers shares with his young niece to track the killer down. But who is the mysterious Man In Black, and why does he appear to be helping Myers?
The script, credited to Shem Bitterman, Michael Jacobs, and Dominique Othenin-Girard, is chock full of great concepts, especially the mysterious Man In Black. Who is he? What is the meaning of the tattoo on his wrist? Why does he seem intent on helping Michael Myers? Are they connected somehow? The film would have been better if these questions were answered, but they’re just raised, and then dropped. An intriguing character like this shouldn’t be introduced and relegated to the background.
The issue of Jaime Lloyd’s psychic connection to Myers is also never really explained or even adequately explored; it’s a great idea, but it feels stuck in there to pad the script. We’re never even told who the hermit is, or why in God’s name he’d be crazy enough to bring Michael Myers home as a houseguest. He just does, dies, and is forgotten. The title itself is never really explained; what is Myers trying to avenge anyway? He’s the one perpetrating the evil acts, so why should he be seeking revenge on the townspeople he’s been tormenting for so long? The title sounds good, but it just makes no sense.
Donald Pleasence once again dominates the screen with his performance as Dr. Loomis. This may be a low-budget horror film, but Pleasence gives Loomis every bit of energy and relish, as if he was in a big-budget summer blockbuster. Appearing in the “Halloween” films is clearly a labor of love for Pleasence, and he seems to be enjoying himself immensely in the familiar role.
Ellie Cornell’s character seems to have grown more since the last installment, and is no longer so whiny. Too bad we never get a chance to be acquainted with her reformed personality, as she’s killed off prematurely. Danielle Harris is again excellent as young Jaime Lloyd, still trying to come to terms with a relative she barely knows who nevertheless wants to kill her. It usually takes two or three family get-togethers to elicit that kind of response in any household.
Dominique Othenin-Girard does a fine job in the director’s chair, giving the film a bleak European feel that comes from his previous experiences overseas. He may have a weak script to work with, but he tries to overcome it with some great visuals, a quick pace and nice kill scenes. He nearly does it too, but to turn a film with this scattered a script into a wonderful film, he’d have to be the child of John Huston and Alfred Hitchcock (and have Steven Spielberg as a godparent).
“Halloween 5” could have been a great film. It’s got some great performances, great direction, and some truly innovative ideas that wouldn’t see fruition until the next film. It could have surpassed the previous entry, especially with the addition of a new character and ally for Myers. Too bad the producers were more concerned with meeting an October 1989 release date than making a quality film. “Halloween 5” is another example of a “Halloween” film that could have been, should have been, but wasn’t.
Dominique Othenin-Girard (director) / Shem Bitterman, Michael Jacobs, Dominique Othenin-Girard (screenplay)
CAST: Donald Pleasence …. Dr. Sam Loomis
Ellie Cornell …. Rachel Carruthers
Matthew Walker …. Spitz
Danielle Harris …. Jamie Lloyd
Wendy Kaplan …. Tina Williams