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Halloween 5 :The Revenge of Michael Myers (1989)

Another sequel, released approximately one year later.  Clearly, it was a rushed production, and the pitfalls of that are blatantly obvious throughout this film.  It’s not a pure failure, but the volume of problems and bad ideas are impossible to ignore.  Director and co-writer Dominique Othenin-Girard is probably responsible for many of them.  His résumé consists mostly of French films, but he was also responsible for the generally panned and dismissed Omen IV telemovie.  The films’ other two screenwriters, Michael Jacobs and Shem Bitterman, have nothing else of note on their filmographies.  If this film is any indication of their talent, it seems to make sense.

One year after the events of Halloween 4, things are not as expected.  Jamie Lloyd (Danielle Harris) is merely locked up in a children’s psychiatric hospital, acting weird, but not homicidal in anyway.  Michael Myers, ultimately, is still alive, and has been laying dormant in the company of a derelict by the river.  With the coming of Halloween, he rises once again, and starts on his killing spree towards Jamie all over again.  This time, Jamie has a psychic link with Michael, able to see what he sees, and generally know where he is.  Of course, most everyone doesn’t believe her wild claims, believing she is indeed insane, and ultimately, allows for many more to die because of it.  Dr. Loomis (Donald Pleasance), as usual, is there to head up the endless fight against The Shape.  Meanwhile, a mysterious man in black makes his way into Haddonfield for unknown reasons as Michael maliciously slashes through the town.

I have to say, first off, that this film suffers mostly from an underdeveloped script due to the rushed production.  Where Alan McElroy put together a rather intelligent script for Halloween 4, the three screenwriters on this film did everything possible to make it stupid and stunted.  From the pair of lame, dumbass cops to the annoying character of Tina to most any other new characters, it’s a real chore to consider anyone likable here.  Aside from the returning cast of Harris, Pleasance, Cornell, and Starr, the acting is rather poor and irritating at times.  Don Shanks’ Shape doesn’t really stand out.  There’s not much for him to really work with, and the mask he’s saddled with is terrible.  Granted, it follows within the continuity that this film establishes, but the filmmakers weren’t forced to make it dirty and ugly.  Part of the symbolism of the mask is to reflect a blank, emotionless visage of the killer, and scuffing it up takes away that stark, striking visual.

The direction that Othenin-Girard takes the film is very visually gothic.  Everything appears grittier, dirtier, and more grim.  Although, the most horrendous and objectionable change is that of the Myers’ house – which bares zero resemblance to any other Myers’ house throughout the series, before or after.  Obviously, continuity wasn’t a real concern for Dominique.  I will give him credit where the film’s tension and suspense is concerned.  He handles it very well, and creates many scary sequences throughout various parts of the movie.  It’s simply the harsh and drastic departure of visual style and art direction that detract from its quality in the overall series.  The entire film has a far more cryptic than atmospheric style compared to the rest of the franchise.  This doesn’t tend to go over well with the fans, and considering the film’s other stated flaws, it’s stance within the franchise is quite expected.

Halloween 5 also planted the seeds for what became Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers with the mysterious Man in Black.  However, as another example of a rushed production and poor screenwriting, even the screenwriters themselves didn’t know who the hell he was supposed to be.  They just decided to throw in some ambiguous character with no idea of what to ultimately do with him.  That’s sloppy work to pawn off onto another screenwriter who would work on the next sequel.  I’m sure that’s something screenwriters of sequels hate – cleaning up the undeveloped or unresolved garbage left over by the last screenwriter.  At least the Friday The 13th and A Nightmare On Elm Street movies had the courtesy to kill their respective slashers off at the end of every movie allowing for a generally clean slate for the next movie.  In Halloween 5, the Man in Black was partly portrayed by Don Shanks at the thought that the character might be a blood relative of Michael’s, possibly a brother.  Obviously, any intentions these filmmakers might’ve had about the Man in Black’s identity were irrelevant by the time of the sixth film’s production.  During this production, tensions and conflicts were abound.  Pleasance and Akkad disagreed with each other, and they both disagreed with Othenin-Girard about the direction of the story, and the direction of the film.  Not many were happy with the outcome, and it resulted in a rather uneven and terribly unpolished film.

This is a film that tries to be taken deathly seriously, but there’s just so much bad crap smeared all over it that it’s hard to take it seriously.  While I would not speak ill of children with disabilities, they don’t make for good characters in horror films.  They simply add to the irritating bevy of new characters we are subjected to.  There are the aforementioned bumbling rejects from the Police Academy franchise who couldn’t be more out of place, and they are even given their own silly music theme to go along with their goofy antics.  Then, the entire psychic link between Jamie and Michael comes off like something from a Z-grade rip-off of The Dead Zone.  Maybe, and that’s a huge maybe, the idea could’ve worked in more talented hands, but the execution comes off as terrible.  The entire time Dr. Loomis is shouting at and shaking Jamie like a total madman trying to force her to tell him where Michael is, and that alone is just bad on so many levels.  Donald Pleasance does the best job he can with the written material, but there’s just too much incoherent madness for him to make much of it.

While this is meant to be a continuation of Halloween 4, it comes off more like a transitional film meant to segue from Halloween 4 into a different storyline altogether in the eventual Halloween 6.  It never feels like a self-contained movie since it hardly resolves anything from the previous movie, and has no resolution to any new plot elements it introduces.  I think more than its slasher juggernaut counterparts, the Halloween franchise has been the most mismanaged. There was too much cluttered continuity and mythology that almost every new screenwriter or filmmaker who came in tried to twisted around into a new direction, or simply disregard altogether on a whim.  While Jason & Freddy have had their continuity inconsistencies, you rarely ever had someone come into either franchise trying to drastically alter the nature of the characters.  The tone of the films might’ve changed, but what you knew of Krueger & Voorhees from the first film or two remained set in stone throughout the franchise.  Their origins were plainly known, and anything that was added to them later on felt natural and logical.  Not with Michael Myers.  Every new film has tried to find a new rationale for the existence of the character whether or not it jibed with what came before.  Moustapha Akkad never attempted to put the series on a set path of tone and story.  That is very strange considering how thick Halloween 4-6 are with an overarching storyline that’s supposed to make sense, but is really just a fortunate cut and paste job assembled by three different sets of screenwriters.  Halloween 5 raised a number of bizarre, ridiculous questions it never intended to answer, and while that’s surely not it’s worst attribute, it does degrade the artistic and creative potential of the film.

As I said, this is not a pure failure, but it’s a real mixed bag of problems.  While it is enjoyable if you dumb yourself down and not care much about continuity, it’s far away from being one of the better films of the series.  In contrast to Carpenter’s original, this is real schlock.  On its own, it’s still schlock, but potentially enjoyable to some varying degree.  Suffice it to say, this film could’ve stood from an extra year of development as well as a far more competent and talented director.  This was a terrible drop-off from a rather respectable and enjoyable Halloween 4.  It’s worth seeing, but not worth any good expectations.


Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers (1988)

Halloween 4 is probably the one sequel which most closely matches the original.  I would attribute this to a few factors.  The most significant, maybe, is that it was before each new film tried to introduce some new twist to the story.  Some new element to either explain The Shape, or just utilize a gimmick to sell the film as something supposedly worth seeing.  It stays closer to the spirit of John Carpenter’s original film, focusing on a simple stalk-and-slash idea coupled with relatable characters.

The film picks up ten years after the events of the first and second film.  Despite developments in later, contradictory sequels, Jamie Lee Curtis’ character of Laurie Strode died in a car accident, leaving behind a daughter – Jamie Lloyd (Danielle Harris).  She is taken in by another family, and raised alongside their older daughter Rachel Caruthers (Ellie Cornell).  Meanwhile, Michael Myers (George P. Wilbur) has been in a comatose state, and Dr. Sam Loomis (Donald Pleasance) remains persistent in his belief that Myers is indeed evil incarnate.  As Halloween approaches, The Shape stays dormant no longer, and Loomis must take chase of him before he claims new victims.  It is clear to the obsessed doctor that Jamie is to be his ultimate target, but it will be a Halloween night caked in blood before the horror is over.

After the fallout from the unsuccessful Halloween III, Moustapha Akkad wanted to bring back Michael Myers to revitalize the franchise.  After all, it was essentially his only meal ticket.  Akkad only produced five other (unsuccessful) films outside of this franchise in his 75 year life.  Thankfully, this was a solid sequel.  Nothing that tried to shake up the idea of the franchise, just inject new life into it, and be as faithful to the style and vibe of the original.  Dwight H. Little directs, and does a fine job at it.  It’s very difficult to rival Carpenter’s film, but Halloween 4 doesn’t try to be superior.  It only tries to be a respectful continuation, and it does succeed.  Little focuses more on atmosphere and suspense than gore.  While there is a decent amount of it, it’s not obscene.  It’s enough to give the film the needed deadly horror aspect, but stays away from being a splatter fest.  There’s a constant tension through the main meat of the film with little tinges here and there to keep the momentum going.  This allows the film to flow at a decent pace; not allowing it to grind to a halt anywhere, or get wound up too soon.  Dwight Little’s name has regularly appeared as a director on television series like Bones, Castle, Prison Break, and Dollhouse.  I’m always glad to see that his talent has taken him far with a steady career.

Alan Howarth’s score also helps to keep a strong connection with the first film.  The themes are slightly rearranged, but are more similar to those of the first film than the overly-synthesizer themes of Halloween II.  For me, that is a welcomed return to form.

The cast and acting of The Return of Michael Myers is indeed solid.  Everyone holds their own weight, and convey a realistic array of emotions.  The young Danielle Harris really stands out.  Where a lot of young actors tend to come off as annoying or phony, she showcases such wonderful innocence and vulnerability.  An audience can’t help but truly feel for her all the way through.  Danielle has gained a long, successful, and seasoned career birthed from this performance.  She’s helped along quite a bit by Ellie Cornell who is very likeable as the loving big sister, but also proves to have a lot of strength.  As Rachel, she doesn’t take anything lying down when she discovers her supposed boyfriend messing around with another girl.  As the film progresses, she’s put right into the thick of the harrowing danger with Jamie.  She maintains better courage under fire than Laurie did in the first two films, and certainly wins over the heart of the audience being Jamie’s sisterly protector.

Donald Pleasance, as always, is excellent.  He continued to bring a real credibility and dramatic weight to the series.  Some actors, if delivering a lot of the dialogue he had to, might come off as inauthentic or laughable.  With Pleasance, he had the talent to make you believe every word.  He gave it all the urgency and consequence of the grave.  The emotion in his eyes, the fear and the pain, transcend through the screen, and hit you deep within.  Where in the first film it was a weary doctor uncertain what Myers was entirely capable of, Loomis is now a man afraid of reliving the nightmare.  He has seen the carnage before, and is intensely adamant about preventing it this time.  With this in mind, Pleasance delivers a much less reserved Loomis.  He hasn’t time for reason or diplomatic talk.  Evil incarnate is loose in Haddonfield, and he needs people to take immediate action.

Beau Starr takes up the mantle of Sheriff of Haddonfield as Ben Meeker, and has a much more assertive and take charge personality than Leigh Brackett did.  Starr makes Sheriff Meeker a fine counterbalance to Loomis’ almost unhinged psychology.  He shows authority and urgency while remaining focused and calm.  And while I stand firm in that Nick Castle was the best Myers, George Wilbur does an admirable job, but he doesn’t get much chance to show his movement.  He tends to more just appear out of nowhere, figuratively, than stalk people over long distances.  However, he does seem less stiff than Dick Warlock’s interpretation (which I’m not very fond of as I prefer a more fluid Shape).  The rest of the cast, as I said, hold their own very well.  They create a solid and realistic community of characters that you don’t second guess their authenticity.  This is also due to Alan McElroy’s solid screenplay – writing intelligent characters with depth who don’t fall into the slasher film formula.  They make the choices that any one of us would in those situations.  When you would run away, they run away.  They don’t make stupid decisions or take foolish courses of action.  They may act, sometimes, out of desperation making not the best choices, but there is a realistic motive behind them.  Amazingly, McElroy wrote this script in eleven days, just before the writer’s strike of 1987 began.  Take it from me, a screenwriter myself, that’s not easy to do.

Again, I feel this is a very worthwhile sequel.  It does more to honor John Carpenter’s original film than any other sequel (or remake) in the franchise.  It retains a similar look and cinematography, despite the 1.85:1 aspect ratio, and really stays true to Carpenter’s story and form of suspense.  It cannot rival that 1978 masterpiece, but Halloween 4 respectably holds its own.  While John might not agree considering his feelings on the franchise, from a fan’s point of view, I feel it is respectful.  After this, the films began to become either more bizarre, watered down, or just plain cheesy.  Overall, I believe this entry in the series is about as appropriate and proper as you could get.  I’ve never cared for Halloween II, feeling it suffered from seemingly lower production values, a badly reworked score, thinner characters, and less-than-inspiring direction.  So, with that mindset, Halloween 4 comes off as the better sequel, and the one I would’ve bettered expected to follow the 1978 film.  It’s not as intensely haunting or fascinating as John Carpenter’s Halloween, and quite as brilliantly shot (a 2.35:1 aspect ratio for this movie may have changed that sentiment more), but I believe it was more of a step in the right direction than anything before or after it.