So I’ve had a bit of a revelation in the last several years, in regards to the Halloween series. Maybe it was something I always knew on a subconscious level and was in denial of. I’m not entirely sure. When I was younger, I adopted a belief many Halloween fans shared. This is that compared to Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers (1988), Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers (1989) is a significantly inferior film. Many fans praise Halloween 4 for strongly capturing the original look and mood of the original Halloween. While they feel that Halloween 5 is full of flaws and went too far in a newer direction.
Halloween 5 celebrates its 30th Anniversary on October 13th this year, yet I remember when I first got the Halloween 5 DVD in high school. There was an article on the back of the cover where someone defended it. They felt it was, if not better than Halloween 4, then at least an underrated movie. I basically rolled my eyes, thinking, “oh please!” However, I’m going to make a controversial statement. I will acknowledge that revelation I had: I like Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers more than Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers.
Not significantly so. Both are side by side in my ranking of the Halloween series. If you’re curious, that ranking roughly goes: Halloween (1978), Halloween II (1981), Halloween H20: 20 Years Later (1998), Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers (1995), Halloween III: Season of the Witch (1982), Halloween (2018), Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers, Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers, Rob Zombie’s Halloween II (2009), Rob Zombie’s Halloween (2007), Halloween: Resurrection (2002). That eighth film is the only one in the series that I flat out didn’t like.
I remember the first time I saw both Halloween 4 and Halloween 5. This was when I was in middle school, in the mid-to-late-90s. I had definitely seen the first Halloween and Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers by that point. Maybe also Halloween II and Halloween III, though those may have come after. I’m pretty sure this was before Halloween H20 was even announced.
I spent the night at my friend Billy’s house one night. I remember his dad had taken him to rent a couple of movies. They came back with Halloween 4 and Halloween 5. I can’t remember if I played a specific role in that, telling Billy to try to rent some of the Halloween movies. Maybe it was just a happy coincidence.
I’m sure I’d expressed to him by that point my love of the others, so that probably at least played a part. I’m not sure how much Billy enjoyed those movies. I know he found the horror movies of the 1970s and 1980s to be a bit drab and depressing. He much more preferred the lightheartedness of Scream (1996) and the horror movies it spawned. I have sentimental feelings towards the Scream era as well, but my horror love exists most of all in the 1970s and 1980s.
Let me start with looking a bit at Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers. 1982’s “stand-alone” Halloween III: Season of the Witch ended up being a commercial failure. It also confused audiences, who were expecting more Michael Myers. Of course, all the producers aborted the anthology idea for the Halloween series that John Carpenter (The Fog, The Thing) and Debra Hill (Clue, Adventures in Babysitting) had come up with. They almost immediately spoke about how that was obviously a terrible idea. Money talks after all.
The rights got solely back to Moustapha Akkad, the original financier. He wanted to take it “back to the basics” with Halloween 4. Audiences seemed to agree. Halloween 4 has become a fan favorite, one that many hold up as one of the best. I’m going to go ahead and say this much right now: as you could see in my rankings, I like Halloween III more than Halloween 4. Halloween 4 isn’t even one of my personal favorites. I’m prepared to get all kinds of flack for what I’ve already said. But for now, I want to speak about Halloween 4 on its own merits, as I do like it. I definitely like it more than I don’t like it.
So it’s been ten years since the events of Halloween and Halloween II. Laurie Strode and her husband have apparently died in a car crash, within the past year. Many Halloween fans, including myself, hoped her husband might’ve been Halloween II‘s Jimmy, played by Lance Guest (The Last Starfighter, Jaws: The Revenge). Of course, the fatal car crash was ret-conned in 1998’s Halloween H20. That movie reveals Laurie faked her death.
I used to believe that Halloween H20, while ignoring Halloweens 4-6, could still exist in that same world. I suppose it can. Laurie Strode possibly repressed (or wasn’t willing to confront) her guilt in having deserted her own daughter. Kevin Williamson had even written a scene where that abandonment was addressed. It was never filmed.
For whatever reason, something never occurred to me until recently. Had that continuity existed, you’d think Jamie Lloyd, Laurie’s daughter and Michael Myers’ niece in Halloween’s 4-6, would’ve also mentioned her dead brother John. I always wondered why Michael Myers never went after Laurie Strode’s son John (Josh Hartnett) in Halloween: Resurrection after supposedly killing off Laurie. Yet I never thought about John’s place in the previous Halloween 4-6 continuity. That makes it all seem worse. Laurie Strode inexplicably making a Sophie’s Choice of sorts in choosing one kid over the other? Yeah, I don’t like that. Anyways, sorry for that fanboy tangent.
In Halloween 4, Jamie Lloyd, Michael Myers’ eight-year-old niece, has been adopted by the Caruthers after that car accident that killed her parents. She knows her uncle is the boogeyman. If she wasn’t directly told by her parents, then she was at least by the kids who torment her at school. And yes, her uncle and Dr Loomis are both still alive. Dr Loomis is ridden with burn marks. Michael has apparently fallen into some sort of coma.
I liked learning a few years ago that writer Alan B. McElroy had an original opening shot in mind. The camera holds on this hospital hallway for a long period of time. Suddenly, there’s an explosion which blasts Dr Loomis out of the operating room. This reveals we’re being shown the aftermath of Halloween II. I wish they could’ve and/or would’ve filmed that shot. It would’ve been great in explaining Dr Loomis’ survival and in connecting this movie to the previous ones. It also just would’ve been one hell of an attention-grabbing shot.
In a transfer from Ridgemont Sanitarium to Smiths Grove Sanitarium on Halloween Eve, Michael wakes up. Learning that he still has relatives to kill, he kills the transport personnel and returns to Haddonfield. Dr Loomis follows quickly behind.
Director Dwight H. Little and his writing partner McElroy tried really hard to copy the tone of the original Halloween. They do get it right in a lot of ways. The look consists of some really strong blues and fog and shadows. It’s relatively bloodless. The death and sex scenes aren’t done in a tasteless way. It’s classier in a sense, more in tone with the first, which was also more suggestive than exploitative.
Another thing Halloween 4 does really well is in making the characters feel real and ordinary. Such as Jamie’s foster sister Rachel (Ellie Cornell). Rachel’s essentially filling in for Jamie Lee Curtis (Prom Night, The Fog). She’s that virginal, girl-next-door, guardian-of-the-children teenager character. Fans love Rachel, and I like her quite a bit too. She gets a chance to shine in the movie’s rooftop sequence, which is the showcase scene of the movie.
My favorite moments of Ellie Cornell’s though are actually at the end, where she’s really taking charge and hitting Michael with the truck while gritting through her teeth, “Die, you son of a bitch!” I’ll also go ahead and say it: Danielle Harris (Rob Zombie’s Halloween, Hatchet II) was really good as Jamie Lloyd. I was reminded while watching Halloween 4 and Halloween 5 what an exceptional child actor she was. She was perhaps an underrated child star even outside of the horror genre.
Donald Pleasence (Phenomena, Alone in the Dark) is doing his usual thing as Dr Loomis. He refers to Michael Myers as “evil on two legs” and mentions how the human part of him died years ago. But I don’t mean that as a knock on him at all. That’s what Dr Loomis does, and Donald Pleasence does it really well.
I’m even going to admit I think I like Sheriff Meeker (Beau Starr) in Halloween 4 and Halloween 5 more than Sheriff Brackett (Charles Cyphers) in Halloween and Halloween II. Even Rachel’s cheating boyfriend Brady (Sasha Jenson) and vixen Kelly Meeker (Kathleen Kinmont) aren’t as one-dimensional as they’d be in other slasher movies.
Alan Howarth had helped John Carpenter on the scores for Halloween II and Halloween III: Season of the Witch. He also worked on some of Carpenter’s other movies in the ’80s. With Halloween 4, he does his first of three consecutive solo scores in the Halloween series. I actually found his score for Halloween 4 to be the least impressive of the three. It’s got some powerful moments throughout, such as during Jamie’s nightmare, the rooftop sequence, and the end of the movie.
Yet it’s also got the scarcest use of the main theme. It’s fairly unimpressive. The airiness and ambient noise that takes over the rest of the score actually brings it down, in my opinion. Though I’m also not a fan of this film’s opening shots at the farm, it might be my least favorite opening of a Halloween movie. I’m aware that’s also a bit of a controversial opinion. Some fans feel it’s one of the best.
There’s one part of Halloween 4 I never noticed until fairly recently. It’s at the Meeker house when Rachel is talking to Deputy Logan. Logan tells her it shouldn’t be long before the state police arrive. I did always notice how the score suddenly accentuates into a high note. But what I didn’t notice was what it was accentuating. If you look closely, Michael’s mask can barely be seen deep in the darkness of the house.
As far as the end of Halloween 4, I was never too impressed with Michael being gunned down by the state police. Maybe that’s better than Michael being in shackles in a jail cell while still wearing his mask at the end of Halloween 5. Then again, I also prefer the ambiguity of Halloween 5’s ending over Halloween 4. The Man in Black kills all the cops and busts Michael out of jail. Jamie comes across his empty jail cell. Her “Nooo!” echoing over black, as a simplistic version of the Halloween theme starts to play, is a wonderful touch.
I think it’s a better ending than Jamie stabbing her foster mother at the end of Halloween 4. Yes, it’s nice we get that classic point-of-view shot through the eyes of the clown mask. It harkens back to the original film, bringing it all full circle. Jamie is now the kid in the clown costume stabbing an adult, like Michael was in the first film. It’s a nice twist for this film. It basically apes what was implied in the ending of Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter (1984), except taking it a step further.
Do I think an alternate reality where Jamie became the new killer or at least becoming Michael’s sidekick, could’ve worked though? No. Halloween 5 and Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers are blamed for taking the story too far and offering some muddled, overblown ideas. Yet I think its the end of Halloween 4 that started all of those problems. I think Halloween 5 did okay in providing the answers to Halloween 4’s ending, all things considered.
But I’ll get back to Halloween 5 in a bit. While I admire how much they strove to capture the tone of the original Halloween in Halloween 4, I think ultimately they overdid it. It has the right look that re-captures some of that in the original. Yet in doing so, it also perhaps loses the spirit or energy or even suspense that the first Halloween had. In trying to become so close to the original, it comes off more like a carbon copy than an imaginative film of its own.
While I like Halloween 4, with time I realize that I don’t love it as much as I thought, or as much as most fans do. I know it’s a blasphemous opinion among the majority of Halloween fans, but I think Halloween 4 ultimately ends up being a bit flat and even dull. The original Halloween is my favorite horror movie of all time. But yet, maybe trying to duplicate the innocence and purism that the original 1978 film had in 1988 just wasn’t possible, at least to the same extent. In hindsight, I think there was missed opportunity to do something new for its time. It could’ve gone to some new territory.
Which brings me to Halloween 5. Before I get into my defence, I want to acknowledge the beliefs I share with most Halloween fans. It is a flawed film. That part is obvious. It’s weaknesses stand out a lot more than any weaknesses Halloween 4 might have. It introduced some ideas that would make the potential future of the series problematic. Stuff with the Man in Black and that Thorn symbol (more on that later). I think Michael Myers’ mask in Halloween 5 is probably the worst mask in the whole series.
There are the stupid cops. Stupid cops had existed in horror movies before of course. In Halloween 5 though, that stupidity is accentuated more than ever before. They get their own corny, carnival-type theme music. I’ve heard people compare them to the Keystone Cops, a pair of incompetent cops featured in old silent movies. That’s a reference I personally can’t attest to though.
The Myers’ house looks nothing like any other version of the Myers’ house. Instead, it’s a gothic mansion. Though I’ll somewhat defend that right now. I had those continuity gripes regarding the house like every other Halloween fan. Yet I’ll at least say it is a cool-looking house. Director Dominique Othenin-Girard does some neat things with it.
Hell, there’s something else I don’t even remember anyone ever addressing. There’s some weird ADR going on in Halloween 5 I don’t like. There’s some noise looped over some of the kid extras that doesn’t sound natural or like actual kids. It sounds more like adults faking kid noises. This stuck out on the audio track so much to me that I found it distracting.
I’ll go ahead and lump in the next movie, Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers, with the following statement. Both films had probably the most muddled scripts and troubled productions. There were too many cooks in the kitchen. Yet they also have some of the more interesting visual styles of the series. The visual style of Halloween 5 consists of a lot of natural lighting, or lighting lit from the exteriors of locations. I find it to be a more engaging look than that of Halloween 4. It’s a different style than most Halloween movies, yes. Though I’ll actually credit Dominique Othenin-Girard for it rather than criticize. The only other movie of his I’ve seen is the TV sequel Omen IV: The Awakening (1991). That one has a female antichrist.
I feel the standout scenes of Halloween 5 are also more engaging than those in Halloween 4. There’s the car chase scene first of all. Michael is chasing teenager Tina (Wendy Kaplan), and kids Jamie and Billy (Jeffrey Landman), in a Camaro. Then there’s also the laundry chute sequence. Jamie is stuck in a laundry chute while Michael stabs through it, trying to pull her out. I find both to be more exciting than the rooftop sequence in Halloween 4. I think those scenes’ effectiveness is partly due to the way they’re shot.
The score by Alan Howarth also helps. I’ll admit there are apparent flaws even in the soundtrack. There’s the dumb cop theme and what I’d almost call “quacking noises”. Yet I think this might be the most interesting solo score that Alan Howarth did for the series. Hell, I’ve even always thought the poster for Halloween 5, albeit simple, is one of the best posters in the series.
Let me go ahead though and speak on the writing, which is the most troubling aspect of Halloween 5. First of all, I want to echo what I said earlier. I think the end of Halloween 4 is really the starting point of the writing issues that the Halloween series would endure. At least until the series somewhat started fresh in Halloween H20.
The way the writers of Halloween 5 decided to answer the question left by the ending of Halloween 4 is preferable personally. Instead of Jamie being the new killer or Michael’s sidekick, she has this mysterious psychic link with her uncle. This seems to have started from the moment she grabbed Michael’s hand before he was gunned down in Halloween 4.
After stabbing her foster mother, Jamie ends up at the local Haddonfield Children’s Hospital. She’s also mute after those events and will stay that way for at least half the movie. That device can also be strained at times. A moment that admittedly makes me chuckle is when a nurse asks Jamie, “do you want me to call your mom?” Jamie’s helpless to respond. I’m thinking for her though. “Well, there’s my real mom that ‘died’ in a car crash. Then there’s my foster mom that I stabbed nearly to death. Hmmm…”.
I also find Jamie being mute interesting. It’s not unfathomable that going through the ordeal and trauma Jamie’s gone through could lead to this psychological defect. In another way, it plays more into that psychic link with Michael. Michael can’t talk, or simply chooses not to, so neither can Jamie. Jamie seems to have these psychic feelings through the rest of the movie. She does break past the muteness though. Not only is this a victory in a psychological sense. It could also be a victory over becoming more like Michael. In essence, it’s a victory over that darker nature that threatens to come out.
Now let me get to the first big mystery of Halloween 5. There’s a Thorn symbol that appears on the wrists of Michael and the Man in Black. The symbol appears early in the film when Michael wakes up in 1989 from hibernation for his inaugural Halloween massacre. Originally, the beginning of Halloween 5 went differently than how it ended up, with an explanation for Michael’s reawakening. Instead, in the final film, there’s an old hermit with a parrot who takes Michael in after he floats downstream to the hermit’s makeshift home after escaping the mineshaft.
This was originally a younger hermit that went by the name of Dr Death. The younger version of the hermit was into occultism and witchcraft. He’s the one who originally draws the Thorn tattoo on Michael’s wrist. For this film’s purposes, the symbol means “eternal life.” I believe Dr Death performs some incantation to bring Michael back to life. What I do know is that Michael inevitably kills him. He first breaks his back, then smashes him with a stone. Someone didn’t like all of that so they changed it. You can still see a couple of these original shots within the editing of the final product.
Though also in the final product, you can see Michael…UNMASKED!…as he sits up from his slumber. Later he’ll also take off his mask at the request of Jamie Lloyd before attempting to kill her. She acknowledges him as “Uncle” (or rather, “Uncle Boogeyman”), and he even sheds a single tear. Ok, that’s lame, but the whole “Michael Unmasked!” aspect was really hyped up before the film’s release. It is kind of cool to see quick glimpses of his face. This was the first time since the first film. Well, in Halloween 4 he’s technically unmasked part of the time. He was wrapped up in bandages though, so you couldn’t actually see his face.
The Man in Black is a different story. That was more of a desperate attempt to add something new to the storyline. They wanted to make the movie more interesting. This wasn’t the first example of desperation in the series. If you’ll remember, the revelation of Michael Myers and Laurie Strode being siblings was something created for Halloween II, which also created problems.
Getting back to Halloween 5 though, the Man in Black is a mysterious man who arrives in Haddonfield about a third of the way into the movie. In addition to wearing all black, he has a hat and steel-tipped boots. He also smokes and makes a jingling noise when he moves.
He’ll pop in and out of the movie at different times. He’s seen arriving in town via bus. He hides in the shadows of the revamped Myers house as Dr Loomis walks through. He’s standing outside the Carruthers house as Tina gets picked up for the Halloween party. Not from Tina’s boyfriend Michael. He’s dead by this point. It’s Michael Myers himself. But the most memorable appearance of the Man in Black is at the very end of the film. He breaks Michael Myers out of jail, gunning down a bunch of cops in the process.
There was other footage filmed for the movie that ultimately got scrapped. The film initially showed the massacre inside the police station. Sheriff Meeker, who is featured less in this movie than Halloween 4, is assumed to be one of the cops gunned down. The audience was also supposed to see the massacre at the Children’s Hospital, rather than just the aftermath. There’s a mystery over whether Jamie’s friend Billy survives. That original scene confirmed he did. I don’t think we really needed to be shown those massacres. It’s more fitting to the Halloween series that “what we don’t see is scarier than what we do see.” Yet it would still be cool to see the footage someday, and there has been talk.
The identity of the Man in Black was not entirely clear, even to the filmmakers. According to Donald Shanks, who plays Michael Myers and the Man in Black, director Othenin-Girard told him Michael Myers has split personalities. The Man in Black is one of them. There were also talks he could be Michael’s brother. They didn’t know for sure. Halloween 5 was a rushed production. The Man in Black was something to set up in Halloween 5 and answer in Halloween 6. The sixth movie came much later than anticipated after Halloween 5 had one of the lowest box offices in the series. I’m sure the answer that movie gave for the Man in Black was not what they were setting up though.
One thing about Halloween 5 fans had a hard time accepting is that they killed off Rachel so early. I don’t really have that problem though. Don’t get me wrong, I like Rachel. But I think the biggest mistake they do with her in Halloween 5 is in changing her character. She’s a little less smart, more careless, mostly running around in a towel. She’s not so much the “girl-next-door” type she was in the previous movie, but more the “airhead bimbo” type. Cornell was told on set by director Othenin-Girard to “think sexy” when playing her this time around.
I agree with Cornell that was a mistake, and not really fitting with the character. Rachel is the “good girl”, the innocent pure one, not the sexy one. However, with Rachel’s death, I actually think it better serves Halloween 5. Remember, this is a horror movie. The fact that one of the most innocent characters of the movie is one of the first victims is horrific. It takes away that sense of safety you might’ve felt had Rachel survived. This is more in line with actual horror. So I actually approve of Rachel’s death in that sense. It also reveals that this is a darker and more dangerous Halloween movie.
Along those same lines, let me discuss the laundry chute sequence. Originally, Jamie was stabbed in the leg. In the finished film, you can still see the cut on her leg when she crawls out of the laundry chute. They ultimately thought showing a kid getting stabbed may have been too extreme, so they cut it. Personally I think they should’ve left that in. That would’ve fit with the darker tone that Halloween 5 has. Hell, this is even a movie that takes the “horror rules” to a whole new level. Later, there’s a sex scene between teenage couple Samantha (Tamara Glynn) and Spitz (Matthew Walker). This time, safe sex will no better aid your chances at survival than unsafe sex.
Even the character of Dr Loomis is edgier this time around. Some fans have a problem with this too. Dr Loomis mishandles the kids a little more. At one point he gets in Jamie’s face while trying to get her to talk, practically shouting at her. He calls out Michael’s influence that had her stab her foster mother. He then threatens her with the fact that Michael has stolen the coffin of a nine-year-old girl from the cemetery.
In the finale, it appears he’s even ready to offer Jamie up to Michael in a final effort to kill him. It’s clear to me though he never actually intends harm towards Jamie, or to give her over to Michael. Dr Loomis has been studying and pursuing Michael for a long time. The obsessiveness he reaches in Halloween 5 almost takes him to the point of becoming a madman himself. This, to me, is fitting with where the character should be at that point. He’s also given the most to do in this movie.
There were some talks at the time this could be the last movie with Dr Loomis. The ending has Dr Loomis collapsing on Michael after shooting him with tranquilizer darts and smacking him repeatedly with a piece of wood. It implies he’s died of a heart attack or stroke. Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers reveals he did have a stroke, but not a fatal one. That sixth entry in the series would truly be Dr Loomis’ last movie in the original series, as Donald Pleasence himself died shortly after filming. The character does come back in Rob Zombie’s Halloween movies though.
I’m not done making controversial statements. Here’s another one: I don’t hate the character of Tina as most fans do. Rachel was such a beloved character in the series. Maybe fans put their betrayed feelings of Rachel being killed so early in the film onto Tina. Maybe it’s more the performance of Wendy Kaplan herself. Either way, Tina is one of the most loathed characters in the entire Halloween franchise. Maybe in the history of horror movies altogether.
I not only don’t share in those feelings, I even actually like Tina. I think the amount of hate Wendy Kaplan has gotten over the years is unfair. She’s just recently come out of hiding, going to some conventions. I hope to meet her one day. There is only one time where Tina truly annoys me. I’ll admit that it probably didn’t help that it’s her introductory scene. She first bangs on the windows of the children’s hospital. Then she’s dancing around going “da-da-da, da-da-da…” after Jamie’s shown her Halloween dress.
Now true, Tina is a very different character than Rachel. She doesn’t seem to have the same amount of wits that Rachel had. She seems more impulsive and neurotic than Rachel would be. And I get the feeling that she’s also more experienced, sexually and otherwise. I’ll just put it this way: I’d rather party with Tina than Rachel.
To the detractors, I’ll even acknowledge that Tina deserts Jamie in her time of need to go to the tower farm party. This is after Jamie and Dr Loomis have warned that she’s in danger. It’s clear though that she doesn’t completely buy into these visions that Jamie has. She practically states that she feels Dr Loomis has brainwashed her, until Tina experiences that danger first hand.
Even on the surface, her mood swings could be seen as bad acting. When she’s leaving Jamie she has tears in her eyes. Then when Dr Loomis urges her to stay and tells her to be sensible, she mocks him. She exclaims jokingly, “I’m never sensible if I can help it!” Yet as she exits the hospital, she appears upset again.
But I don’t think it’s bad acting. In fact, quite the opposite. I think Kaplan gives a rather clever performance there. In reality, she loves Jamie and seeing what she’s going through does upset her. She’s also a teenage girl though, afraid to show her true feelings. Tina uses her careless party girl facade to mask those feelings. She goes to the party to escape. That’s how she deals.
I think Tina’s character arc is to own up to her feelings. She inevitably does this by sacrificing herself for Jamie, and I, for one, believe her death is effective. I feel her loss. I think that’s another strength that Halloween 5 has over Halloween 4. The important deaths, specifically of Rachel and Tina, are felt more, again aided by Othenin-Girard’s visual style and Alan Howarth’s music. Alright, and with that, I think I’ve had my fill of controversial statements. Thank you for humoring me.