[We're celebrating some of the most memorable horror and sci-fi movies of 1989 this month in Daily Dead's Class of 89 retrospective series! Check back on Daily Dead throughout the rest of August for more special features celebrating the 30th anniversaries of a wide range of horror and sci-fi films!]
It’s one of the great “what ifs?” in horror cinema: what if Jamie Lloyd (Danielle Harris) had gone on to become the next Haddonfield killer after the shocking ending to Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers? Dressed in a clown costume, standing at the top of the stairs, bloody scissors in hand after stabbing her foster mother, Jamie seemed like a young Michael Myers reincarnated. If she wasn’t ready to take over for her uncle, she surely seemed ready to help him hack and slash his way through another Halloween. But like so many of the great “what ifs?” in the Marvel comic book series What If, the murderous Jamie Lloyd was more of a Halloween night one-shot than a fully realized story.
Flash forward one year after Halloween 4 to the release of Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers in October of 1989 (two Halloween movies in back-to-back Octobers—something that horror fans will experience for the first time since then when Halloween Kills and Halloween Ends slice into cinemas in 2020 and 2021, respectively). After surviving the deadly events of Halloween 4, Jamie sets aside her bloodstained scissors and looks inward to battle the psychological connection she shares with Uncle Myers (this time played by Don Shanks). His demons have become her demons, and while a part of me will always wish we could have seen Jamie deal with this connection by carrying on Myers’ murderous legacy in Halloween 5, the more heroic path that she takes is still a compelling one, setting the stage for some of the franchise’s most harrowing encounters with Haddonfield’s very own boogeyman.
While Halloween 5 may be one entry that fans of the franchise would like to forget due to the Man in Black, the early rumblings of the Cult of Thorn, and its humanization of Michael Myers, it’s a film that I unashamedly cherish—specifically for those reasons. Along with Halloween: H20 and Halloween: Resurrection, Halloween 4 and 5 were the Halloween films that AMC seemed to play the most every year during their FearFest when I was growing up, and there was nothing better than kicking back on the couch to watch a double feature rematch between Dr. Loomis (Donald Pleasence) and his former patient at Smith’s Grove Sanitarium.
From the opening credits, we see that this is going to be a different kind of Halloween movie, as a butcher knife slices and dices into wet pumpkin guts (the impact of the blade sounding like it’s cutting into flesh) to the haunting tune of Alan Howarth’s ominous funhouse spin on John Carpenter’s Halloween theme. And while the way Michael survives gunshots and a dynamite blast from Sheriff Ben Meeker (Beau Starr) and his officers may seem a bit too “out there,” I’ve always enjoyed watching Michael try to navigate the waters of a raging river (and I’m still mad that there isn’t a Michael Myers log flume ride where he comes out of the water like a fish with a butcher knife). And yes, having Michael be taken in by a hermit to rest and recuperate for a year before rising for his revenge is a bit of a stretch, but even the boogeyman isn’t invincible, and in a movie that goes out of its way to show us a human side of unspeakable evil, it gels with the film’s overall theme of Michael’s mortality, ultimately leading to an inevitable round two between The Shape and his niece.
In 2018’s Halloween, we see the effects that Michael Myers has on Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) even after 40 years since the night HE came home. In Halloween 5, Jamie’s encounters with Michael have also made it difficult to move on, and his devastating effects on her life hit home just as hard as any of the other people lucky enough to survive his wrath in the Halloween franchise. Although he didn’t kill his niece in Halloween 4, Michael destroyed the comforts of Jamie’s tranquil life. Instead of living at home with her foster family, she now stays at a children’s hospital, where she’s kept under a watchful eye due to her previous attack on her foster mother. The trauma of going up against Michael has also robbed Jamie of her voice and given her violent seizures coupled with the eerie ability to sense when Michael is adding the next victim to his kill list. That’s a long laundry list of psychological effects to convey, and in lesser hands, it might have been too much to portray believably on screen, but right from the get-go, Danielle Harris proves that she’s more than capable of realistically showing how a survivor of Michael Myers would cope with life one year after surviving a brush with the boogeyman (something she would also do exceptionally well 20 years later as Annie Brackett in Rob Zombie’s Halloween II).
While Halloween 4 saw Danielle Harris making a memorable first impression in the Halloween franchise alongside Ellie Cornell as her foster sister, Rachel Carruthers, Halloween 5 gives Harris the chance to become a Halloween hero worthy of standing next to Laurie Strode in the franchise’s canon (despite existing in separate timelines in the new Halloween quadrilogy). With wide, haunted eyes and a ferocious desire to keep not only herself alive, but her loved ones as well, Harris is an admirable adversary of Michael Myers, and she brings the inner conflict of knowing that his twisted family blood runs through her veins to the surface in haunting fashion.
As someone who loves Halloween 4 (along with Patrick Bromley, I’m a proud member of the Dwight H. Little fan club,), I was thrilled to see Ellie Cornell return in Halloween 5, and like many viewers, I was also devastated to see her succumb to Michael’s rage via a pair of scissors (a cruel reminder of what Jamie used to stab her foster mother). As much as Cornell deserved to become the next Laurie Strode, over time and countless rewatches of Halloween 5, I’ve grown to admire just how shocking her death is, making for a genuinely unexpected murder in a franchise that’s brimming with kills. Like Randy Meeks (Jamie Kennedy) in Scream 2, Rachel’s death is hard to take, but it provides Halloween 5 with a heartbreaking emotional resonance that first gut-punches you and then kicks you in the teeth when, in the film’s climax, Jamie finds Rachel’s body and asks her foster sister to help her. Rachel’s death also forces her friend Tina (Wendy Kaplan) to step up and become Jamie’s protector in a movie that might have otherwise seen the carefree Tina die early on (just make sure you never play a drinking game where you take a shot every time Jamie yells Tina’s name, or you may not survive to see the end credits). It’s an interesting and unexpected character swap, and while Rachel’s survival would have been another great “what if?,” her death lets you know that in Halloween 5, anything can happen.
And yes, that applies to Dr. Loomis as well. While Halloween 4 saw Dr. Loomis emerging from the hospital flames of Halloween II like a phoenix rising from the ashes, Halloween 5 sees Dr. Loomis’ obsession with Michael Myers being pushed to a dangerous and almost selfish level. Like Haddonfield’s own Captain Ahab seeking the Moby Dick of all boogeymen, Dr. Loomis is determined to bring Michael Myers down at any cost, no matter who he puts in danger on his quest. Gone is the Dr. Loomis who spoke gently to Jamie and sought to protect her. This time around, he uses her as bait, luring Michael back to his childhood home, dangling Jamie like a carrot on a stick and putting two policemen in mortal danger as well (although they certainly could have done better to prepare themselves for a killer as legendary as Michael Myers). Similar to how Malcom McDowell portrayed Dr. Loomis as an egomaniac in Zombie’s Halloween II, I love the hard left turn that Pleasence takes with Loomis in Halloween 5. Loomis believes that he’s probably the only person who can kill Michael Myers, and knowing that he may not have much time left on this Earth, his growing obsession with ending Myers at any cost is a believable progression in a character who has dedicated the second half of his life to containing and obliterating the evil that lives within Michael—even if it means putting Jamie squarely in harm’s way.
Which leads us to the laundry chute showdown between Jamie and Michael. As a claustrophobic kid who got the heebie-jeebies just from poking my head into my grandparents' laundry chute, there is nothing more horrifying than seeing Jamie trapped in a metal duct while Michael reaches up to grab her before plunging his butcher knife through the sides of the chute. It's like watching my own personal hell come to life, and I still cringe when I watch this scene today, as Danielle Harris and Don Shanks completely sell the entire encounter as a genuinely terrifying experience. When I think of the scariest moments in the entire Halloween franchise, the laundry chute scene is the first thing that comes to mind.
As vicious as the laundry chute showdown is, Harris, Shanks, and director Dominique Othenin-Girard still bring out the humanity of Michael Myers in the following scene in his attic lair. Now, I know there are a lot of Halloween fans who prefer to view Myers as an emotionless killing machine, and having Michael shed a tear in the climax of Halloween 5 may be considered sacrilege by some fans, but I personally like that Myers shows that vulnerability, and I think it makes sense in that moment. In her last-ditch effort to survive, Jamie, unable to escape Michael physically, instead reaches out to him emotionally, calling him “uncle” and upon the removal of his mask, saying, “You’re just like me.” After years of rage, we see Michael finally find someone who truly understands him, who really connects with him, who can reach him (ever so briefly) through the blood and pain of all his victims throughout the years, and the fact that he sheds a tear shows that in this Halloween timeline, the boogeyman is a more complex person than we may have realized.
The reasons I like Halloween 5 are the reasons others don’t like it, and hey, that’s perfectly fine. We can still co-exist as one big happy Halloween family, Silver Shamrock masks and all. I like that Halloween 5 takes risks, I like that it gives the boogeyman a heart (albeit a twisted one), and I like that it expands on the characters of Jamie Lloyd, Dr. Loomis, and Michael Myers in unexpected ways. Hell, I even like that it ends with the Man in Black breaking Michael out of jail like it’s a 1950s gangster movie. Watching Halloween 5 for the first time, there was no cooler feeling than watching Jamie walk through the smoke and rubble of the police station, realizing with mounting dread that Michael was on the loose again—this time with a mysterious sidekick. I was so excited to see Harris come back in Halloween 6 for a third showdown with the boogeyman. But, as it turns out, that would be another “what if?” for the Halloween franchise. Oh well, as the saying goes, “We’ll always have Halloween 5.”
Check here throughout the rest of August for more special features celebrating the Class of 89!