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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.


Friday The 13th, Part VII: The New Blood (1988)

Now that the Tommy Jarvis storyline had concluded, it left the door wide open for anything to be attempted in Friday The 13th, Part VII.  Paramount had a great decision by hiring the awesome make-up effects master John Carl Buechler to direct the film, and then, there was the debut performance of Kane Hodder as Jason.  There were workable elements in this film to make it great, but whenever I watch it, I just feel this doesn’t hit the mark.  I don’t even think it’s a fault of MPAA censorship on the gore, of which there was an excessive amount.  It just sort of feels like a poorly executed concept with not enough talent behind the script or in front of the camera to make it what it could’ve been.

Tina Shepard (Lar Park-Lincoln) has the ability of telekinesis, but this ability has haunted her for years now as it caused the death of her father on the docks of Crystal Lake when she was a little girl.  As a young woman, she has returned to the lake with her caring mother Amanda (Susan Blu) and the deceitful and manipulative Dr. Crews (Terry Kiser), who wants to exploit Tina’s powers for his own fame.  However, the teenage residents of Crystal Lake have something more to fear than Tina’s emotionally charged powers as she accidentally frees Jason Voorhees from his watery grave.  He begins yet another killing spree, but is not prepared for the challenge Tina’s powers pose for the undead killer of Camp Blood.

I believe what I don’t like about this movie is the lack of worthwhile characters and fun.  There was always a sense of levity in these movies from even a few light hearted characters.  People that were just fun to spend some time with before the slaughter began.  The only characters in this film making any jokes are the insensitive jerks that are not worth spending time with.  Our female lead of Tina is far too troubled of a character to gain any levity or much relatability from.  There’s really nothing accessible about the character in how she’s presented.  I really don’t think Lar Park-Lincoln was a good casting choice in this instance.  She really does nothing interesting with the character, and spends most of the time with very dour or pouty expressions on her face.  The film starts out when Tina’s ten years old, but her behavior never matures beyond that of a child when we flash-forward.  While she is an active part of the story, it still falls back into that trap with Tommy Jarvis from A New Beginning in trying to make a hero out of a depressed, introverted character.  The potential of what this character could’ve been really required an actress of more textured emotional ability.  I don’t have an issue with the telekinesis idea as it’s something that really could’ve worked very well, but I don’t think it was well realized here.  It feels like a concept that was nothing more than something on the page.  It wasn’t developed with a sense of depth in concept or with the actress.  Like so much in this film, it’s flat and hollow.  The various effects are good for it, but it just needed a stronger character and performance behind it to really sell that this is someone worthy of combating the powerful undead Jason.

The rest of the cast is rather forgettable due to the uninspired writing.  These characters are once again shallow stereotypes played up for one note gags or bland character conflicts.  Not much effort is put into writing them.  I’ll grant that they are better realized stereotypes than most, maybe due to the decent acting talents here, but that doesn’t make them good.  I’ll certainly take this cast and its characters over the boring, disjointed group from Friday The 13th, Part 3, but I’d still rather spend my time with a more entertaining array of people.  On a side note, it’s an interesting retroactive quirk that Terry Kiser happens to be in this movie, and does get killed since he’s partly best known for playing a corpse in the two Weekend at Bernie’s movies.  Kiser is a solid actor with a fine range, but the role of Dr. Crews is such a badly written, one note, obvious bad guy that there was nothing substantive here for him to work with.

The music of the film is terribly uneven.  It features Manfredini cues recorded for Jason Lives and original pieces of score from composer Fred Mollin, and they don’t mesh at all.  They have very different tones and approaches.  Clearly, the Jason Lives music is a little lighter and more fun than the usual Friday The 13th scores mostly utilizing horns, and Mollin’s stuff is very heavy, dark, and menacing primarily using percussion and strings.  It suits the more grim, merciless, and dark edge of the film’s tone.  I have no idea why this mish mash of different scores were used, let alone why they used recycled recordings from the previous film.  This would be fine if they were comparable, but they clearly are not.  It would’ve been better to solely use Fred Mollin’s music throughout as I love everything he did in this film and in Jason Takes Manhattan.  Mollin also did some fine work as the composer on the unrelated television show Friday The 13th: The Series.  I think he took this film and the next into a far more dynamic and foreboding musical realm than Manfredini ever demonstrated.

The climax of this film, how Jason is defeated, is just a horrible idea that is terribly executed.  There’s just so much possibility that could have been taken advantage of with the film’s premise, but what the filmmakers do is just plainly bad.  I mean, you’re telling me that no one ever fished the body of Tina’s dad out of that lake to have a proper funeral?  They just left him to decay at the bottom of the lake forever, and he just happens to come back to life without a bit of decay on him?  In theory, it’s a nice reversal of the dream sequence ending from the first film, but I can’t buy Jason getting taken down in this ridiculous, piss poor manner.  The build up to this moment is excellent.  Great action beats with high production values really ramp up the danger and menace of Jason.  So much is thrown at him, and he just keeps coming back, more pissed off than before.  Kane Hodder even does a full body burn in a rather long take (slow motion or no).  Buechler really makes the whole third act impactful and visually impressive, but to have it end the way it does just feels like someone’s slap dash idea who got too tired to write a proper ending to the film.  It’s just a bad idea, through and through, which makes me want to forget I ever saw it.

I will credit the film for having a distinctly darker tone than the rest of the series.  Visually, it’s very dark and imposing.  It surrounds Jason in far more presence and aura than ever before.  This is also a credit to Hodder’s performance.  He created a very thorough body language and mentality for Jason, and it truly penetrated through the screen.  It truly made Jason frightening again, even if the film itself lacked suspense, a decent plot, or good lead acting.  I get that people are supposed to scream in horror movies, but Lar Park-Lincoln seems to inappropriately scream at the top of her lungs at almost everything in the third act.  It’s like she’s not there inhabiting the scene as an actor enveloping herself in the mood, but just screaming as if that’s the only reaction people are supposed to have in a horror movie.  There’s just no genuine fear or intensity in her performance, despite how purely menacing Kane Hodder is as Jason.  I think his debut performance was absolutely his best.  It’s just unfortunate that it wasn’t in a better movie.

Hodder is greatly aided by the stunning make-up design Buechler created for Jason Voorhees.  Seeing the bones stick out from underneath the decayed flesh, and making use of the partially shattered mask to show just a glimpse of Jason’s zombified face are brilliant touches.  This is a masterwork of special make-up effects artistry and craftsmanship, and is something that has not even been remotely challenged anywhere else in the franchise since.  What gore we do get after the MPAA’s severe slashing of this film is exceptionally good, but even still, you hardly see any of it.  This really was the most heavily edited down entry in the whole series of films, and I’m sure an uncut version would be filled with hardcore gore and graphic violence.  That surely feeds into the overall darker, more aggressive tone of the movie.  John Carl Buechler does give us a film that is nicely and consistently paced with a lot of creative kills that have become classics.  However, it all does just feel like a blunt instrument due to a lack of real suspense.  Anyone can show brutality and gore splattering across the camera lens.  It takes a skilled filmmaker to tightly craft suspense, and Buechler hardly makes an attempt to deliver that integral part of good horror.

It’s been said that Paramount Pictures and New Line Cinema considered the crossover idea of Freddy vs. Jason at this time, but the two studios simply could not come to an agreement.  Thus, what ideas Paramount had for the film were adapted for The New Blood – which is a horribly generic title for a slasher sequel.  It’s hard to picture it aside from a protagonist with a supernatural ability, but I doubt they had anything more than a vague thought of a plot for a 1988 Freddy vs. Jason movie.  Maybe just the thought of it got the screenwriters anxious to throw a more powerful adversary at Jason this time, and really push the supernatural angle further.  Of course, I think the script could’ve used more work overall to develop its premise and characters beyond just base concepts.

The New Blood had some potential, and did deliver on inventive kills and a hard edged approach.  It feels like a brutal horror movie, but without the graphic visuals to complement it, due to the MPAA required cuts.  However, it really comes down to a weak script, and some uninspired casting choices that just make this an unimpressive sequel for me.  This could’ve delivered it all, but ultimately, delivered very little of anything, in my view.  There’s not much entertainment value that I take from this sequel as the characters are often yawn inducing with the lead of Tina Shepard being the biggest offender.  Again, it is very difficult to give a damn about who lives or dies when the characters are badly written or poorly acted.  I know this film has its big fans, but I just need more than edited down, suspense deprived brutality and Hodder’s great debut performance as Jason to win me over.