Review Date: October 2, 2012
Released by: Anchor Bay
Release date: August 28, 2012
Codec: AVC, 1080p
Widescreen 1.85 | 16x9: Yes
After Halloween 4
: The Return of Michael Myers topped the box office for two consecutive weeks in fall 1988 a fifth installment was inevitable. No one can fault Akkad for wanting to strike while the iron was hot, but in the rush to fast track Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers
into production, small details were overlooked. You know, like a clear concept and a coherent script. Audiences were understandably skeptical of this follow up. On the first weekend of its release, Halloween 5
failed to open in the number one spot (losing to Look Who’s Talking, of all things) and quickly disappeared from the charts. To this day it is still the lowest grossing entry in the series, even when inflation is taken into account. So disappointing was its domestic take that the foreign distributors unceremoniously dumped Halloween 5
on home video, bypassing theatres altogether.
is a strange bird. On one hand, it has an absolutely wretched script full of half-baked ideas, go-nowhere subplots and just plain awful dialogue. On the other hand, it sports some of the slickest, most effective suspense direction of the series and is anchored by a juvenile performance from Danielle Harris that is nothing short of astonishing. If you can get past the bottom-of-the-barrel script, Halloween 5
is actually a trick or treat bag full of unexpected delights. Admittedly, that’s a pretty big if, and a leap a lot of fans are (understandably) unable to make.
In a lengthy sequence recapping the climax of Halloween 4
we learn that Michael Myers survived the hail of shotgun fire, falling down a well and crawling out of a drainage passage into a nearby stream. While the police throw dynamite down the well and pat themselves on the back for a job well done as it explodes, Michael floats downstream to safety. He winds up at the backwoods home of a strange hermit (and his parrot), whom he tries to strangle before collapsing. Despite being assaulted by the strange masked man, the hermit spends a year nursing the serial killer back to health. Talk about your good Samaritans.
In the intervening time, Michael’s niece, Jamie (Danielle Harris
), has been admitted to the Haddonfield Children’s Clinic. The trauma of the Part 4
’s climax has rendered her mute and also somehow established a psychic connection between her and Michael. When uncle boogeyman returns to town after murdering parrot man, he begins stalking and killing the people closest to Jamie, starting with big sister Rachel (Ellie Cornell
). The now utterly insane Doctor Loomis (Donald Pleasance
) wants to exploit Jamie’s psychic connection to find Michael and kill him (odd that he knows about her psychic link despite her inability and apparent unwillingness to tell him). And then there’s a guy in steel tipped boots and a black trench coat lurking in the background throughout the film that seems to take great interest in events as they unfold. You’ll have to wait until Halloween 6: The Curse of Michael Myers
to find out exactly who he is and what he wants…and once you know, you’ll probably wish you didn’t. Again, that’s another can of worms for another day…
Anyway, back to the story at hand: after Rachel’s friend Tina (Wendy Kaplan
) is murdered while trying to protect Jamie, the young girl agrees to act as bait to lure Michael into an ambush. This leads to the finale of the movie, a show stopping twenty minutes of relentless suspense and horror that’s short on logic but long on style and scares.
Actually, that last sentence is a fairly apropos description of the film as a whole. Halloween 5
is loaded with great set pieces and the some of the series’ sharpest suspense direction since the original film, but has an equal amount of head-scratching, WTF moments. The parts of Halloween 5
that are good, though, are really friggin' good. It’s ironic that Carpenter, a director with influences quintessentially American (Ford, Hawkes), outclassed all his countrymen who worked on the series and all its subsequent rip-offs. It wasn’t until a European director was put at the helm of a Halloween movie that the series started producing scenes that approached Carpenter’s deft directorial hand on the original. Swiss director Dominique Othenin-Girard brings back the free-roaming handheld camera that is a hallmark of the series, and that was almost entirely absent from Halloween 4
. The farm chase, the laundry chute sequence, Michael stalking Rachel while she’s in the shower, Michael assuming the identity of Tina’s boyfriend and taking her for a joyride, Loomis using Jamie as bait to lure Michael into an ambush…whew! All these are top flight setpieces; the laundry chute scene in particular ranks high on the list of the series’ top moments.
Even the opening credit sequence, probably the most pissed-off cinematic pumpkin carving in history, is a mini masterpiece itself. Beautifully lensed, its hard edge sets the tone for the rest of the movie. It’s a long way from the jack-o-lanterns of the first two films slowly looming closer to the camera. With its tight shots and quick editing, this opening sequence still feels modern twenty plus years later. It’s another example of European filmmakers being on the cutting edge while North American ones lag behind.
At the centre of all this madness is young Danielle Harris, receiving top billing for the first time in her short career and every bit deserving of it. Despite her character being rendered completely mute for the first half, Harris delivers a show stopping performance from minute one. For her second time in the role, Harris makes her performance as Jamie intensely physical; so intense is her silent screaming I’m surprised she wasn’t routinely passing out between takes from lack of oxygen. This is literally one of the best juvenile performances the genre saw in all of the 80s. It’s criminal that Harris’ career didn’t follow a more upward trajectory in the years that followed and is only now getting the kind of exposure indicative of her talents.
While Harris is given every opportunity to shine, and does, Ellie Cornell unfortunately gets the short shrift. While she was cute in Halloween 4
, this time around, sporting an adorable perm, she positively glows. Her outward beauty must have been radiating from an inner confidence; while she felt like an amateur actress in Part 4
, her few scenes in Part 5
reveal an actress much more assured and confident in the role of big sister/surrogate mother Rachel. Her early exit from the picture is a true missed opportunity and one of the biggest black marks against Halloween 5
. Her function in the story is filled by newcomer to the series Tina. Wendy Kaplan is vivacious as Rachel’s best friend and, later, Jamie’s new surrogate mother figure. I like the vibe that Tina brings to the movie. She’s cute and fun, but in the end she’s simply not needed: Rachel really should have filled the role. It seems like Cornell’s death was crassly thrown in so the film could meet its slasher movie quota of a death every seven minutes.
Donald Pleasance has a bit more to do in Halloween 5
than in the previous film, but by this point you can tell he was tired of the series. He’s so wild-eyed and crazy he almost seems to be playing a different character than we’ve seen before. I’m sure the fact that he was, by most accounts, sauced to the gills all through the shoot in no way contributed to his overacting. It’s hard to sympathize with Loomis when he spends so much time menacing a mute young girl. Honestly, I’m not sure we’re meant to be on his side anymore. He’s almost like a second villain. The scene where he holds Jamie hostage, using her like the proverbial carrot on a stick, is intense and well done but reveals the monstrous moral bankruptcy to which Loomis has finally succumbed. He's Nietzsche’s warning personified: “Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster.”
I’m willing to cut Halloween 5
some slack in the story department because, the way I see it, Halloween 5
is largely the victim of Halloween 6
’s mishandling of the resolution of the man in black subplot. Had Curse
hit it out of the park, Halloween 5
would probably be given a more charitable evaluation by fans today. Still, it would disingenuous for me to make too many excuses for Halloween 5
’s shortcomings; it introduces the man in black with no real concept of who he is or what he represents and left the door open for the makers of 6 to take it down the garden path. Halloween 5
’s script doesn’t have enough faith in the underlying strength of the series mythology and needlessly complicates it. It owns those mistakes, and in that regard it’s rightfully marked as the point where the series really went off the rails.
Not that it matters, because Halloween 5
is still awesome.
[Editor Note: I can confirm. It's awesome.]
What a difference a year makes. I had a few minor complaints about the Halloween 4
Blu-ray, but I can’t find very much to nitpick about Halloween 5
. Rob Draper’s moody, atmospheric cinematography is one of the film’s strongest assets and it gets the VIP treatment here. Filled with high contrast lighting, lurking shadows and shafts of light cutting through smoke, Halloween 5
’s visuals are rendered beautifully in its hi-def debut. Flesh tones are spot on, edges are sharp, even in murky shots even while this Blu-ray has a slight softer, smoother look and lacks the harsh digital noise that characterized the otherwise excellent Divimax DVD. Best of all: while Halloween 5
was clearly shot in spring or summer, the image has more of the autumn warmth that cries out “fall in the Midwest.” There are a couple of very small, blink-and-you’ll-miss-‘em source defects in the first few minutes but other than those very minor flaws Halloween 5
is an exemplary catalogue release.
While the video packs more of a punch than Halloween 4
did, so too does the Dolby 5.1 True HD track. Like the film, it’s not subtle. Surrounds are active, with lots of panning effects and deep bass. Dialogue is front heavy but still always clear and crisp. Alan Howarth’s awesome score is well reproduced. From the lower octave rendition of Caprenter’s theme that opens the picture to the desperate, high pitched “No!” that ends it, Halloween 5
’s does this misunderstood picture great justice.
As was the case with Halloween 4
, the original stereo track is not carried over from the previous DVD release which is disappointing, but par for the course at this point.
The packaging is mis-labeled, but the first audio commentary is with actor Don Shanks with Justin Beahm returning to act as moderator. Shanks’ open nature belies the menacing part he plays in part 5 and Beahm once again does a good job of keeping the discussion lively. There’s not a lot of insight to be gleaned but it’s still an enjoyable listen.
The Divimax commentary with Danielle Harris, Jeffrey Landman and director Dominique Othenin-Girard is ported over to the Blu-ray. While not quite as charming as Harris’ and Cornell’s commentary from 4
, with Harri’s charm, Landman’s encyclopedic knowledge of Halloween 5
and Othenin-Girard’s effusive praise for his cast and crew, this one is still a winner.
There’s a lot of footage overlap between "Halloween 5
: On the Set (16:17)" (a collection of behind-the scenes footage) and "Halloween 5
: Original Promo" (5:50) (which I surmise was used to entice exhibitors to book the film). Neither will knock your socks off, but they’re fun for fans.
The extremely short Theatrical Trailer (1:04) is also included. Honestly, I think this is actually a TV spot. If this coarse, slapped together promo is actually what played in theatres, it’s no wonder nobody went to see Halloween 5
Once again, some features didn’t make the trip to hi-def. The documentary "Inside Halloween 5
" and the cute introduction with Danielle Harris and Ellie Cornell are both missing in action. The supplements feel a lot more substantial than they did for the Halloween 4
Blu-ray, but fans looking to clear some shelf space will be disappointed they still need to hang onto their Divimax DVD.
I can’t disagree with most of the criticisms lobbed at Halloween 5
: the man in black subplot was ill-advised, as was Ellie Cornell’s early exit from the picture and the goofy cops with their clownish theme music are appalling. What I can say is that none of those flaws in and of themselves, or even compounded on one another, are enough to undo the moments when truly Halloween 5
excels. Dominique Othenin-Girard has given the series one of its true highlights: stylish, atmospheric, fully of masterfully crafted suspense scenes and a more violent, harder edge than we’ve seen before. That it occasionally slips up is not all that unreasonable.
Even if you’re not a fan of the film itself, you’d be hard pressed to deny that Halloween 5
’s Blu-ray presentation is an improvement on Halloween 4
’s in every way possible. There are still a couple of notable errors and omissions in the supplemental features but, similar to my opinion of the film itself, those flaws not enough to sway me into the negative column. I will be watching this Blu-ray a lot in the years to come, and that’s the greatest compliment I can pay any disc.
Movie - A-
Image Quality - A
Sound - B+
Supplements - B-
- Running time - 1 hour and 37 minutes
- Rated R, 14A
- 1 Disc
- Chapter Stops
- English 5.1 Dolby TrueHD
- English SDH subtitles
- Spanish subtitles
- Audio commentary with actor Don Shanks and author Justin Beahm
- Audio commentary with actors Danielle Harris and Jeffrey Landman and director Dominique Othenin-Girard
- Halloween 5: On the Set
- Halloween 5: Original Promo
- Theatrical Trailer