Reviews: Senseless Rants from a Picky Sissy
The Wholesaling of Michael Myers
As a special post-Halloween treat (read: didn’t get the fucker done in time to post for Halloween), I thought I’d take a few moments to rattle on about a topic that most people don’t even waste their breath on: Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers and Halloween 5: The REVENGE of Michael Myers. First off, you know that a franchise has hit the skids when the only difference between two consecutive sequels is “return” vs. “revenge”, which within the context of a slasher movie mean the same damn thing anyway. Remember that scene in Noah Baumbach’s Kicking and Screaming where the guys are playing the trivia game and Otis says “Friday the 13th Part 6: Jason Kills” and Skippy’s like, “that would be a stupid title, because Jason kills in pretty much all of the movies”? That’s what we’ve got going on here. Ding THAT, Skippy – get a fucking LIFE.
Anyway, Halloween 4 (note the use of the Arabic number– apparently the Roman numeral IV was too confusing for American teens, who thought the movie was about intravenous drug use during October) was an attempt to get the fractured franchise (smarting from the batshit-crazy and completely awesome feverdream Halloween III: Season of the Witch) back on-track with its Shatner-masked golden boy out in front. After the flick was a runaway success at the box office (#1 for two consecutive weeks, I believe), they greenlit another sequel that feels like it was shot in about a week in my back yard with no script. Both movies are grossly sub-par compared to their predecessors – while they may have gotten the series back on-track in terms of the Michael Myers/Laurie Strode narrative (and do lend a few interesting developments here and there), I’d still take the left-field weirdness of Season of the Witch over these paint-by-numbers deals any day.
Here’s where we stand after Halloween II, which came 7 years earlier, when people actually made decent horror movies: Michael is comatose-ish, having been burnededed up in the hospital at the end of his last movie. He’s been locked away in a sanitarium not too terribly far from Haddonfield for, oh, 10 years or so, giving Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee in the original two films, although she only appears here in photos, good for her) time to find a suitable mate, pop out a kitten, and die. Nice of them to bump her off for us and get on to what we really want to see: PSYCHOLOGICALLY TORTURED 8-YEAR-OLDS!!
Yes, this is the movie that Dakota Fanning was born 15 years too late to be in. And if you’re not ready to hear me totally geek out about how amazingly talented a screen masochist that little girl is, then skip to the next paragraph. When a grown homosexual male launches into a litany about Dakota Fanning, is it called a Dakota Fagging? I think we’ve found a Sniglet!
Alright, I’ll move on. Danielle Harris plays Jamie (ugh…), Laurie’s daughter – and she’s actually quite a good little performer in both films. When we meet her, she’s already having visions of a masked Michael Myers in her bedroom. Considering she’s likely never heard of him and certainly hasn’t seen him or photos of his mask, how on earth is this possible? Sure, in the second film we get a subplot that Jamie is apparently in the Psychic Preteens Network and she and Michael are connected somehow, but here it just smacks of the filmmakers trying to stuff as many jump-scares into the movie as possible (and we all know that it’s the beginning of the end whenever that happens).
Anyway, Jamie lives with the Carruthers family and is pretty much the responsibility of step-sis Rachel (Ellie Cornell), which Rachel handles with considerable grace considering how annoying it must be to get saddled with the niece of a comatose mass murderer when you’re going into your junior year. While Rachel’s worrying about whether she’s going to get a commitment out of ratty-handsome Brady (Sasha Jenson), who’s actually bagging bimboriffic Kelly (Kathleen Kinmont) on the side (despite the fact that Rachel is actually really cute – minus the atrocious Mom-hair – while Kelly is like a set of wax teeth on a floatation device). Rachel takes Jamie trick-or-treating while Michael – having awoken from his coma and trashed an ambulance – follows them around in his new white mask (identical to his old one, of course), causing general mayhem. Dr. Loomis, looking constipated and cash-starved as ever, arrives to bug his eyes out at every line and generally freak people out, and eventually Michael traps Rachel and Jamie on a rooftop, only to be evaded once again (damn those clay tiles!). Finally, after dispatching an angry mob of vigilante hunters (how Silver Bullet…) and surviving a bunch of gunshots and a truck to the chest, Michael gets to touch Jamie and tries to knife her, only to be blown to bits and dropped into a hole in a field.
But that’s not the end – Jamie is taken home and unexpectedly knifes her step-mom in the bathroom! Well, that is, unexpected to anyone who’s not seen the original and knows that Jamie happens to be wearing the same exact costume that young Michael wore when he killed his sister all those years ago. It seems that evil is passed on like an easily-transmitted virus, and no amount of Purell would have been enough to protect Jamie from Michael. It’s like Serial Killer Pink Eye.
All in all, not too bad of a movie. There are some huge jumps in logic and some pretty unlikable actors (Ellie Cornell is good but her friends are just gross), but little Danielle Harris’s amazing performance and a pretty clever script that respects and builds upon the original movies keeps things pretty much above water. I personally love the fact that Michael gets to Jamie in the end – really, any franchise villain becomes a parody of himself after 2 or 3 movies anyway – why not move on to someone else? The struggle for Jamie’s survival and the shock when she doesn’t make it through unharmed is kind of like doing a backstory for Michael himself, who was likely a perfectly decent kid until he got an evil hair up his ass and decided to hack up sis. So Halloween 4 kind of acts as a prequel and a sequel at the same time, and we could now continue with our first bona fide female slasher frabchise villain (sorry, Angela – chicks with dicks don’t count)! How cool is that?!
Sadly, Halloween 5 soon came along to stink up the joint. It starts off with promise, picking up exactly where 4 left off (actually, it overlaps a bit and does so with a few goofs – notice how some of the dialogue inexplicably changes in the archival footage), which I LOVE. It’s always fun to see how they handle that sort of thing and the overlapped action is pretty well done. Unfortunately, though, the script turns to shit at just about the same moment that the archival footage ends. It seems that Michael survives the fall and a subsequent explosion by crawling out of a drainpipe of some sort and pulling himself to the shed of some vagrant (you just knew that Haddonfield was full of vagrants living in Hoovervilles by the river, didn’t you?). Michael takes off his mask and passes out – and in the DVD, you can actually see his face somewhat clearly (why are the crazy ones always so durn cute?!).
We cut to Jamie, who is now in some kind of halfway house mental hospital for crazy 8-year-olds who tried to kill their stepmoms after being possessed by their dead uncles who weren’t even DEAD (totally covered in her health plan, I’m sure). Jamie isn’t crazy anymore, but she is mute and psychic. I guess Danielle Harris was angling for an Oscar nom with this one. Anyway, it’s a year later and Jamie’s not looking forward to Halloween (understandably), but Rachel – who has somehow transformed into a flighty bimbo without changing a hair on her matronly head – doesn’t seem to want to let her forget that it’s almost Halloween. Honestly, let the bitch forget. If she’d been attacked by cows, would you force her to bathe in milk? Give the girl a break, people!
Meanwhile, Michael is hanging out – a YEAR LATER, in the SAME HOUSE. Wait – he’s been living with this old man in a shack for an entire year? And then all of a sudden he goes nuts and gets all violent and shit just because... what, he didn’t like what the old hobo made for dinner, or just because it’s Halloween? I guess it’s kind of like Michael has a menstrual cycle that only comes once a year, so his PMS is really really fucking bad. Seriously, was that the best they could do? Couldn’t they have had him go to Boca for the winter or something? I seriously want to know what Stinky Pete and Michael were doing to pass the time for a full year in their little lean-to. That’s the stuff of brilliant fanfic right there.
Back at Kidz “R” Nutz, Rachel and her completely bizarre friend Tina (Wendy Kaplan, in one of the most loathed performances in horror history, apparently) try to cheer up Jamie but only makes things worse. Meanwhile, Loomis – who has officially passed into Creepy Old Man Who Shits Himself territory here – reappears and proceeds to alternately berate and terrify Jamie within an inch of her life (seriously, this drama is like some long lost Lars Von Trier film). Rachel doesn’t last much longer – they were either trying to pull a Janet Leigh with her or she got wise to the fact that this movie is a total pile of horseshit and had them kill her out of mercy.
From here we follow the increasingly schizophrenic Tina as she swings from talking about Jamie as if she were the only thing that mattered in the world to hopping into convertibles with totally gross toughguy-wannebes and acting all, “Jamie who? Let’s fuck!” All the while Michael just wanders around in the background – at some points for entire scenes, in broad daylight. There’s one hilarious scene in a park where Michael is literally investigating the foliage of a nearby tree for about 3 minutes as Tina and her bimbo blonde friend chat in the foreground – is this suspense, or did one of the Michael body doubles accidentally wander on set in a Lithium haze? Either way, this shit’s funny.
Anyway, Tina’s gross boyfriend Mikey (I’m sorry, is it even possible to be a tough guy and be called Mikey?) gets killed by Michael in a bizarrely rushed scene in a garage, which allows Michael to dress up as Mikey and drive his car over to Tina’s to pick her up for the party. Um, what? Since when did Michael have the time to engage in Noises Off!-style “mistaken identity” wackiness with his potential victims? Is this some French farce all of a sudden? Yes, staggeringly incompetent director Dominique Othenin-Girard – I’m talking to you.
Anyway, Samantha and her rather undercooked boyfriend Spitz (sorry, but there are just no boys worth looking at in this one) go at it in a barn and of course don’t last much longer – but there are baby kitties involved, so it’s okay (and no, that’s not a euphemism). There are some truly (and unintentionally) disorienting scenes involving a couple of cops staked out directly in front of the house. For one, Spitz dresses up as Michael and attacks Tina right in front of them as a prank, apparently not thinking about the fact that the cops are after a lunatic killer and have guns. Sorry, but they BOTH deserved to be shot for that one. But no, the cops are actually the ones who get it when Michael attacks them in their car. Minutes later the kids run right past the cop car to the barn, not noticing the fully-lit corpses that are sitting in the front seat. But minutes later the dead cops are used as a scare when Tina comes running out of the barn screaming. Fucking retarded.
It’s bad enough when the logic of a film as a whole doesn’t work, but it’s even worse when the internal logic of individual scenes is completely screwy. But since we’re on the topic, I may as well address the biggest problem that most people have with Halloween 5: the cowboy. Yes, in this installment it was for some reason deemed necessary to introduce a character that knows about Michael’s whereabouts and actions and is for some reason interested in protecting him. He’s kind of the anti-Loomis, following Michael with as much interest as the now-batshit doctor but with the intent of aiding him or harnessing his power of some such nonsense, instead of wiping his ghoulish killer ass off the planet. In plain English, it’s a stupid plot and a stupid character and nothing good comes of it. Who wants their slasher killers to be a part of a conspiracy? Hell, I don’t even like it when the cops show up!
The only other thing worth noting about Halloween 5: The Systematic Destruction of All That Was Interesting or Remotely Scary About Michael Myers is Jamie’s little friend at the Krazy Kidz Children’s Hospital, Billy (Jeffrey Landman). Okay, so I know that nearly all 11-year-old boys come across as total fags (a sad-but-true fact that Todd Solondz’s Happiness exploits brilliantly). But this kid is one songbook shy of a Judy Garland impersonator. Yes, I’m going to hell for yelling “gay-face!” at a pre-teen, and yes, it’s totally shallow and counterproductive to suggest that the kid’s limp wrists and lisp make him a card-carrying homosexual. But considering Landman soon after played the pivotal role of Jason in both the regional tour and Broadway production of the landmark (and brilliant) gay musical Falsettos and later went on to play an underage gay hustler in off-Broadway’s Shopping and Fucking AND currently works as a performer at Disney, I think it’s fair to call this spade a big, gay spade. And if I’m wrong – sorry, Jeffrey. You can be on top. And you can wear the Pluto head.
In all, Halloween 4 was a return to the Michael Myers mythos that showed real promise – a promise that was subsequently stomped to bits by the near-unwatchable Halloween 5. Fame’s a fickle bitch, Michael – or as Heidi Klum would say, “one minute you are in, and the next minute, you are out”. Interestingly enough, the same probably applied to young Jeffrey Landman. Either way, if you haven’t seen part 5, don’t – your memories of the once-great series will be all the better for it.