While mired in a lack of ambition, Halloween IV: The Return of Michael Myers (Little, 1988) made a break from its fan service during the film’s daring final moments as it recreated the iconic opening sequence from the original to establish an evil Jamie Lloyd. Through the film, she was established as a genetic parallel for the Shape, and while the film never followed through on this matter it set up its successor to do so. Rushed into production a year after Myers’ return reclaimed franchise viability, Halloween V: The Revenge of Michael Myers (Othenin-Girard, 1989) had every chance, including the first draft of its script, to seize upon that bold moment and create some sort of pay off using Jamie as the embodiment of a young Michael Myers viewers had never seen.
As The Revenge of Michael Myers commences, it becomes frustratingly clear that these moments will never reach a satisfying climax or explanation. The film essentially resets by recreating the final events of its predecessor to show that the metaphorical gates of hell did not open on the serial killer, who once more shimmies his way out of death just before the tunnels explode, only to pass out before claiming his first victim. Meanwhile in the hospital, Jamie Lloyd is haunted by visions of her uncle, and we are told that her step-mother survived. Whatever chance the series had for a fresh, new direction completely evaporates in these moments. In the historical lineage of the horror franchise, it’s not a totally shocking move; Halloween III: Season of the Witch (Wallace, 1982) played a dangerous game with audience expectation when John Carpenter attempted to jump start an anthology series and paid dearly. Though using Jamie as the antagonist of Halloween V had canonical precedent, it would still do away with the element of Michael Myers that was considered to be central to any Halloween film’s success.
So, viewers received the narrative of Michael Myers’ continued attempts to murder his extended family as the masked menace is back to finish what he started a film prior. In this installment, however, his moves are more precise than ever. The Shape doesn’t just stalk his prey until the moment affords him a chance to pounce, but appears to enact complex plans in a way he never had in the series. After watching their interactions from afar, Myers kills Tina’s boyfriend Mikey and dons the mask she had gotten him to confuse identities. It’s a jarring move that has a bit more forethought than any other moments in the previous films. Similarly, Myers takes advantage of character confusion with a repetition of the slow walk towards the police officers that Spitz and co. had done earlier in et another fake Myers prank.
It’s frustrating that the film itself doesn’t feel as well thought out as Myers’ plans; Halloween V continues dropping small hints that it is building towards something yet never gets there as it continually retreats into genre conventions. It is structured like a transitional chapter, but it doesn’t accomplish anything to be successful as one. At the end of each film that preceded itself, either some huge moment happened or the characters evolved. In Halloween, Myers escaped and Laurie was left sobbing about the boogeyman, a groundbreaking climax after seeing him shot six times. In Halloween II, Rick Rosenthal killed both Michael Myers and Dr. Loomis in an explosion. In Halloween III, Dr. Challis felt helpless as millions of children were murdered off screen. In Halloween IV, Jamie inherited the mantle of villain as she brutally attacked her step-mother. In Halloween V, Jamie is good and Michael Myers breaks free again; the two major players that remain have exhibited absolutely no character growth. Dr. Loomis may be dead, but he may also just be injured. There are suggestions that something bigger may be a stake, from the mysterious man with steel toed boots to the repetition of the symbolic tattoo, but those are largely ignored as Myers goes on yet another killing spree. If you’re interested in the mythology of Michael Myers, you could easily skip this one and not miss a narrative beat. Halloween V is also the first sequel that suffers from pacing issues, as the film is a downright slog even in the moments when Myers is attacking. To interject my personal experience into this: while I could at least forgive a film like Halloween IV for being entertaining and quick, Halloween V was consistently tedious and never had material that felt worthy of analysis. It’s also a heavily boring experience as even the gruesome kills, in which Michael Myers shows a predisposition for using farmers’ tools, aren’t quite compelling enough to justify the film’s 100 minutes.
Out of the few half-baked elements that present themselves over the course of The Revenge of Michael Myers, the most striking is the way it deals with masks. Despite being an iconic character with a developing mythos, the viewer is rarely afforded the opportunity to see Michael Myers. In Halloween, an interesting moment occurs near the end when Laurie and the Shape’s struggle causes the killer’s mask to come off. This moment reveals that there lies a man underneath the costume, rebuking the idea that the killer is the supernatural force of pure evil that Dr. Loomis describes and grounding his actions as those of a human. It’s a brief moment, but a powerful one nonetheless. In The Revenge of Michael Myers, the mask is off several times; the first instance is mere moments in the film as he wakes up, blurry, in the background. Later, he will switch the mask to trick Tina, and finally he will be unmasked before Jamie. This moment stands as, perhaps, the thesis of the whole venture that pushes family relations to the foreground; Halloween V attempts to establish a struggle between the reprehensible evil that the mask, and the Shape, represents and the human being with family relations underneath. Pulling off the mask, Jamie reveals Myers as the uncle figure which he doesn’t truly act as, yet when she attempts to console him and wipe away his tears he proceeds to fly into a fit of rage. In a better film, it would have been a more climactic moment when Myers has the choice to give in to his human side, protecting his family and end his rampage, but it doesn’t come across as such due to the lack of concrete build up.
There are also odd changes that must be mentioned within this film; firstly, Rachel morphs from the powerful caretaker of Jamie into a rather unintelligent figure, running around in a towel, and not be on alert for Myers. This results in an early death which seems unfitting for the character we followed through The Return of Michael Myers. Furthermore, the Myers house is completely different upon Dr. Loomis’ return. While this provides a nice setting for the pursuit in the final act of the film, the difference is a bit jarring. Finally, it is worth a visiting the stylistic continuity of the film. In the prior outing, I had noted that the return of the point-of-view and over the shoulder shots had not been accompanied by Myers’ breath. In Halloween V, Othenin-Girard returns with this feature, which is a nice touch. The auditory experience of the series, however, continues to lessen in impact. It felt pretty non existent in Return, and in Revenge it goes all out 80s, the worst tendency of which is to pair the bad cops with a little jingle. One of the strengths of Halloween was its atmosphere, and this was carried over to the second film with another strong score; while there is virtue in silence, one can’t help but be a bit disappointed that the past two films cannot seem to foster, for lack of a better word, creepiness through either lack of sound or soundtrack.
If this seems like my least formal post, it is with good reason: Halloween V: The Revenge of Michael Myers is a bad film. Perhaps its worst trait is that it never veers into the so-bad-it’s-good territory that would make it a comic mess. It doesn’t function so much as an interesting case study like its predecessor, there isn’t really much going on to discuss in terms of what little content in drags out, and it doesn’t seek to explain many of the features it introduces. I noted that the last film was lacking in ambition, but this one outdoes that: Revenge‘s impact on the universe and mythos of the Halloween universe is so minimal you could skip straight to six and barely miss an important narrative beat.