Ha ha, very funny. Where's the real Halloween 5?
There's a lot to like about this film. It's been put together with genuine craft and imagination. Its basic filmmaking sense is better than we've seen for a while in this series. The script does all kinds of interesting things with Michael Myers and the slasher genre in general, while the film itself feels more like a proper grown-up movie. I liked its cast, which made a change. It's more in control of itself. For example, for once the annoying teens are actually meant to be like that, which is good for a few laughs.
Unfortunately it's so busy riffing on the conventions of horror films that it's pretty rubbish at just being one. It's like the Halloween franchise's version of Scream, but less successful. (Admittedly this is almost a compliment, since Scream and its spawn wouldn't appear for another seven years.) I like a lot about this film, but it's so bad at being scary that eventually its attempts at doing so just got annoying. Sometimes it feels like an edited-for-television version of itself, but more often it feels like a horror film made by people who fundamentally don't like horror, aren't interested in it and would rather be doing something else. This film did what's still the worst box-office of any Halloween film to date and sent the franchise into hibernation for six years. I can see why too. Michael Myers may have survived being shot, run over and dropped down a mine shaft, but this kind of film is what really kills a movie monster dead.
Nevertheless I do admire the imagination on display here. There are enough ideas here for a normal slasher trilogy. Throwing them all together is counterproductive, but nonetheless we have:
1. Michael Myers: comedian. Put him in a scene where people don't recognise him for what he is, then see what happens. This could have been dire, but thankfully it's done subtly enough that this film doesn't seem to be generally recognised as a comedy. It's character-based stuff rather than slapstick. I thought some of these moments were great, actually.
2. Michael Myers: human being. He goes on a date! (Okay, the girl mistakenly thinks he's her boyfriend and Michael's sole contribution to the evening is to drive the car and not kill her, but by his standards that's like dinner and flowers.) The original film gave us some perspective on the mindset of this emotionally arrested man-child, but Halloween 5 actually psychoanalyses him. There's an astonishing scene where Dr Loomis and his former patient are standing face to face and not trying to kill each other. Both Loomis and Jamie make genuine attempts to get through to Michael and cure his psychoses... and what's more, the film presents this outcome as a live possibility.
More disturbingly, we get to see that he's made a trophy room. You know, where you put your prizes. That's something we'd never seen before. To me he'd always seemed a utilitarian kind of killer, simply trying to remove human beings from this world rather than going down the more twisted serial killer route of savouring his murders.
3. Michael Myers: opportunity for heroism. Normally you scream and run when a psychopath's approaching in a horror movie. However here we get characters nobly throwing themselves in his way to save their friends.
However put all this together and there's precious little room left for Michael Myers: bogeyman. This film's level of threat is just laughable. Unstoppable monster? You must be joking. He's just a bloke in a mask. The first half of the film takes place in blazing sunshine, undermining the so-called scare scenes. You don't react to the jump moments, but instead realise a couple of seconds later that you were meant to be startled. There's even a comedy kill. There's a boy (coincidentally also called Michael) who's established himself as an utter nob with amazing speed even by slasher movie standards. Our opinion of his girlfriend's intelligence goes down the moment we meet him. It's impressive. However it's also clearly deliberate, the film for once choosing to create a "kill me quick" figure instead of taking the usual route of doing it unwittingly. Michael Myers duly obliges and the scene is hilarious. It's a classic. What it's not though is scary. Of all the various things undermining the horror in this film, the most unwelcome is eventually moments of comedy.
There are obvious groaners. It's never wise when hiding from a knife-wielding killer to say out loud, "Please don't let him get me, please God, no." However it's even dafter when the victim in question has only just recovered from a year's shock-induced speechlessness. There's a comedy "car hits tree and explodes" scene as ludicrous as the one in Top Secret. Then there's one of those "TV version" moments I was talking about, in which a boy and a girl go somewhere private. They get intimate. He puts on a condom and enters her. Yet moments later, when Michael attacks them, they're fully dressed! Needless to say there's no nudity in this film, unless you count "through frosted glass" nudity like that in Halloween 3. And this despite a shower scene!
Admittedly even as horror this film has relative high points. Michael uses assorted farm implements and even inflicts death by hanging. I can't remember seeing a hanging in a slasher film before. There's also the rarity of characters occasionally managing to escape him. This might sound lame, but it's actually quite a surprise whenever it happens and thus theoretically good for suspense. Hey, if it worked for Spielberg in Jaws...
I like the cast, both the bit parts and the major players. Donald Pleasence is less memorable than in Halloween 4, but his Dr Loomis has turned even madder. Last time he was unbalanced, but now he's a complete fruit loop. Instead of just going around pronouncing doom, he's using little girls as bait. However shockingly the star of the show isn't him but Danielle Harris, who really charges up her scenes as Jamie and is the main reason why the film's last act has what power it has. She was good last time, but here she's terrific. It's a sad commentary on a film when even its child star is too good for it. Oh, and I also like what the film does with her character, who may not have gone down the route indicated by the end of the last film but is still not in a happy place. She has a psychic link with Michael, which has struck her as dumb as him and left her capable only of silent hysteria and scribbled drawings to warn everyone when something's about to happen. She's brave, she's cool and it's her and Pleasence who hold the film together.
Then there's the ending, which is completely insane. After bludgeoning the slasher genre into six different kinds of unrecognisable and beating Scream to the punch by seven years, they finish up by doing the same to the X-Files. I'd been spoiled, but even then I was gaping at the screen. What the hell is that ending? Who on earth thought that might be a good idea? It's different, I'll give it that, but it makes no sense that I can see. It's like a completely film begins, but then doesn't even reach the opening credits before randomly deciding to stop. I'm sure fanboys went berserk wondering where the series would go from here, but unfortunately the answer was Halloween 6. Bonkers, I tell you.
This film is pretty much the antithesis of all things Halloween. Instead of being mindless and terrifying, this film is too clever by half. It's imaginative, funny, well-made in many ways (but with some shockingly bad redubbing) and pretty much a failure at its central purpose of scaring you. Nonetheless it is interesting to see a Halloween film do all kinds of things you'd never normally expect.