Halloween 5: The Curse of Michael Myers greatest sin is that it wastes a perfect setup. The end of Halloween 4 is the rare horror movie ending that doesn’t pull a last minute reveal of how the killer is alive and everything the hero went through amounts to nothing. Instead Halloween 4 really posits an intriguing new chapter, a genuine evolution. Michael Myers is dead, but his spirit lives on. How do you stop something as ethereal as that? Where do you go from here? It turns out, the answer is “you do exactly what you did before.”
Spoilers for Halloween 5 Follow
One can’t talk about Halloween 5 without a good understanding of Halloween 4. The films are linked much in the same way that Halloween and Halloween II are in that they are two halves of one story. When we last left Haddonfield, Michael Myers had been shot more times that any human could ever possibly survive and his body fell down a mineshaft. Just to make sure the job was done, his hunters dropped a stick of dynamite down.
Jamie and her sister Rachel are finally free from Michael and return home. But when Jamie goes home, she finds herself consumed by the spirit of Michael and attempts to kill her foster mother in the same way Michael killed his sister. The movie ends with young Jamie covered in blood and Dr. Loomis screaming in horror as he realizes Michael will never truly die.
A more confident film series would have boldly gone forward. The logical direction would be a film where Michael’s spirit now controls Jamie, and he acts through her now, satisfying his compulsion to kill. Halloween is not that film series though. And by 1989 the slasher film series was starting to show its storytelling limits. There are only so many ways teens can be killed after all, and Halloween was competing for screen time against Freddy Krueger and Jason Vorhees. An early version of the script did have Jamie as now being evil, a prospect that excited actress Danielle Harris. Even Donald Pleasance was convinced Jamie should now be the presence of evil in the fifth film.
But Moustapha Akkad was convinced this wasn’t the best story and pushed for a script with more Michael Myers in it, though filming began before a script was even finalized. Gee, you’d never be able to tell.
Halloween 5 took place one year after the events of 4. In the opening of the film, we see how Michael Myers actually survived the last film, and has spent a year in recovery. His body was found by a hermit who kept him alive. Michael promptly thanks the man by killing him and then once again packing up his things and heading to Haddonfield.
Meanwhile, Jamie has spent the last year in a child psychiatric hospital. She is now mute and prone to spells brought on by her psychic connection with Michael. This makes her something of a canary mine as she knows whenever he is killing, and Dr. Loomis is desperate to capitalize on this and find Michael. Danielle Harris once again does great work, especially with the material given to her. Donald Pleasence, on the other hand, appears to finally show his exhaustion with the series. And unfortunately, Loomis isn’t as easy to root for this time around. Though maybe that is the point. Loomis is so desperate to find Michael that he’s become irritable and singularly focused, desperate to stop the terror which he knows isn’t over. Years of being ignored and dismissed have taken their toll.
There are two distinct halves in Halloween 5. The first half of the film is focused on giving audiences Michael killing people. Michael first kills Jamie’s sister Rachel, and then focuses on her best friend, Tina. We spend way too much time with Tina and her companions on Halloween night as they get picked off. All while this is happening Loomis and Jamie are attempting to put together the clues from Jamie’s psychic connection. When Tina, Jamie’s last friend and connection to her sister is killed, Jamie’s voice and will come back and she agrees to help catch Michael.
The second half involves Jamie and Loomis setting a trap for Michael in the old Myers’ house. It is certainly meant to have the importance of a final confrontation between Loomis and Michael, but there isn’t any weight, especially in 2015 when we know they’d have another showdown. Of course the end is predictable. Michael appears to be beaten. He is locked up at the police station awaiting his fate. This is when the next wrinkle and evolution for Michael in a moment that would indicate an even deeper past. As Michael is locked up, a stranger clad in black comes through the station killing all the police. The final image is of Jamie sobbing at the sight of Michael’s cell being empty.
The man in black would come into play in the next film but in 5 he’s a last minute curveball thrown at the audiences presumably to assure them that there would be more Michael Myers. At this point, who needs it? The titular Revenge of Michael Myers never comes to pass either against Jamie or Dr. Loomis, and his escape is merely a reset button so we can do it all over again.
Halloween 5 is a largely forgettable outing, and as I previously alluded to, it is a lot of wasted promise. In Halloween 4 there was a good split between easy victims for Michael and a compelling story for Jamie and her sister. Even then though, the series was starting to forget that our victims’ deaths carry more weight when we care about them. The only victim that we care about in this film is Jamie’s sister, who is taken out so unceremoniously it just left me confused. Her death puts new focus on her best friend who we definitely don’t care about. Especially when Tina and her friends being the focus is distracting from the genuinely interesting story. Michael Myers has a psychic connection and it’s driving his niece insane. That’s much more interesting.
As for the finale, it goes to show just how limited horror movie endings are. Halloween can be forgiven since it’]s cliffhanger ending wasn’t cliche, and Halloween 4 did something different. In this one, we are just reminded that everybody died and Loomis went through this incredible crucible, but it’s all for naught because Michael escaped again. The only interesting development is the suggestion that Michael is a part of something larger than himself.
Halloween 5 isn’t as boring as Halloween II was (at times) but it’s not particularly watchable all the same. And there isn’t enough self-awareness or so-good-it’s-bad quality to make it worth it. There are so few characters to care about, and the ones we do aren’t handled well. Audiences clearly took note. To date, it is the least successful Halloween film of all time. Which is disappointing because the ending of Halloween 4 really paved the way for something great. Instead, that ending was repurposed to fit the needs of Moustapha Akkad and his desire to always have masked Michael Myers be the focus of these films. If you find yourself finishing Halloween 4, do yourself a favor and let your imagination fill in what happened next. I guarantee you’ll come up with something more inspired than this.