Director: Dominique Othenin-Girard
Writers: Michael Jacobs, Dominique Othenin-Girard, Shem Bitterman
Starring: Donald Pleasence, Danielle Harris, Wendy Kaplan, Ellie Cornell
Rating: R (USA), 18 (UK), R (Australia)
The surprise success of Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers had resurrected interest in the franchise and had brought back two of the fans favourite characters, Dr. Loomis and, of course, Michael. After the relatively disappointing performance of Halloween 3: Season of the Witch, which had jettisoned every aspect of the first two features, the future of the series depended on how effective the fourth entry would be. Moustapha Akkad, who had been instrumental in keeping the antagonist alive for the last decade, wanted to capitalise on the success of his latest venture and immediately rushed into the production of a new sequel. Halloween 4 had closed on the cliffhanger in which its child heroine, Jamie Lloyd, had stabbed her stepmother and inherited Michael’s evil, fans were desperate to know what would happen next and, eager to keep them satisfied, Akkad felt that the next instalment should be released before interest dwindled. With the previous film barely out of cinemas, the producers began scouting for directors and a new and exciting direction in which to take the series.
1989 ushered the death rattle of the slasher genre, with its two most successful franchises, Friday the 13th and A Nightmare on Elm Street, effectively coming to the end of their winning streak. Sensing a change in the climate, Akkad as determined to have Halloween 5 released by the end of the year before Michael Myers lost his appeal. Debra Hill, who had since distanced herself from the series, had met a young Swiss filmmaker at Sundance Film Festival by the name of Dominique Othenin-Girard and was suitably impressed enough with him to suggest a possible director for the next movie. To prepare for his meeting with Akkad, thirty-year old Othenin-Girard had done extensive research by watching all the major slasher films and analysing the best direction in which to take the franchise. Initially disposing of the script he had been given, and working alongside Akkad’s writers Michael Jacobs and Shem Bitterman, Othenin-Girard fashioned a story that would take place exactly on year after the events of Halloween 4, with Michael back from his near-death experience at the end of the previous film and determined to kill his young niece, Jamie.
Although Hill remained on hand for the director with moral support, Carpenter had since distanced himself from his creation. Despite the script not being reworked to everyone’s expectations, pre-production began on Halloween 5 with the producers bringing back the main cast from the the fourth film, with Donald Pleasence, Ellie Cornell and Danielle Harris all returning to their respective roles. Jamie had spent the year since her attempted stabbing of her stepmother incarcerated in a hospital for troubled children where she has remained mute, perhaps due to the shock of her own actions. This aspect of the character was one of Othenin-Girard’s contributions to the story, which he felt would offer Jamie some kind of redemption and thus not following in Michael’s murderous footsteps. From there, it was his intention to allow his young protagonist the chance to take a journey that could result in her becoming the heroine once again, with the help of visions that she has receiving which have allowed her to track his movements. The director’s decision to not follow the darker storyline created at the end of Halloween 4 would result in the new script being a generic rehash of the previous film.
Whilst Harris, in the pivotal role of Jamie, was to enjoy another productive role, Cornell was less than impressed with the treatment of her own character, stepsister Rachel. Upon first reading the script, she was horrified to discover that her character was not only to be killed off during the first act but that her death would come as a result of a pair of scissors being forced down her throat. Refusing to participate in such a degrading demise, Cornell demanded that the writers rework her death, resulting in a less graphic stabbing to the chest. The role of Jamie’s protector would instead be passed to Rachel’s best friend, Tina Williams, played by newcomer Wendy Kaplan. A criticism often levelled at Halloween 5 was how one-dimensional and unsympathetic most of the characters were, inferior copies of the standard slasher teen and lacking any sense of individuality. To add further insult, the writers had decided to add two bumbling police officers, accompanied by their own irritating theme tune, to give moments of comedy relief, much like Wes Craven had unsuccessfully tried with his notorious rape/revenge drama The Last House on the Left.
For the gruesome special effects, which would mark a return to the gory era of Halloween 2, the producers approached the newly formed company KNB EFX, spearheaded by creative trio Robert Kurtzman, Gregory Nicotero and Howard Berger. Having already worked on New Line‘s A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child, KNB were already experienced in elaborate effects and were more than capable of providing the required moments of violence. Despite both Akkad and Pleasence protesting at the use of any excessive gore, Othenin-Girard was convinced that fans wanted more blood and guts, although he also stated that he intended on keeping the movie in tone with Carpenter’s subtle original. Pleasence would also have several disagreements with Akkad over exactly what part Jamie should play in the story, with Pleasence stating that Jamie should now become the villain of the piece whilst Akkad insisted that fans wanted to see more of Michael. For the role of Michael Myers, Akkad once again cast a new actor in the role, stuntman Don Shanks who had provided similar duties on the first two Silent Night, Deadly Night movies.
The shooting for Halloween 5 began on May 1 1989 and would last for approximately four weeks, though Othenin-Girard would be required to reshoot several sequences. Whereas the filming of The Return of Michael Myers had been a relatively lighthearted and enjoyable experience, the sequel would see tension rising high on the set, particularly with regards to its temperamental director. Just as Harris had spent her eleventh birthday on the set of Halloween 4, June 1 1989 would see the young actress celebrating turning twelve with her co-stars. Once again, principal photography commenced in Salt Lake City, Utah, with the old, abandoned Myers home being shot at a newly renovated house in the suburbs. The production was constantly rushed in order for the film to meet its set released date in the fall, almost exactly one year after the debut of Halloween 4. For the opening scene, in which a bullet-ridden Michael falls out of the bottom of the mineshaft and into a river, Shanks was required to fall into the water and, moments after disappearing off camera, to catch hold of a netting that would stop the stuntman from being caught in a vicious current. His most dangerous stunt required him to drive head-first into a tree, at which point the car would explode. Crashing against the tree at approximately fifteen miles per hour, the car burst into flames and Shanks remained still, waiting for Othenin-Girard to shout ‘cut.’ But the director was too engrossed in the action that he forgot to stop filming and so Shanks was trapped inside the car with no fire safety gear and flames beginning to make their way up around the fire wall, until stunt coordinator Don Pike insisted that the scene be cut.
The film’s most impressive set piece involved Jamie attempting to escape Michael by climbing down a laundry chute, only for the killer to stab her knee repeatedly though the side. To achieve this sequence, a thirty-piece prop was designed in which Harris could climb through, with section being a fifteen foot chute in which the filmmakers would dolly a camera down on a skateboard, whilst Shanks began to stab a real knife through the side towards Harris, who would perform the scene herself. Due to the director and cinematographer extensively storyboarding the sequence prior to filming, the scene was completed in one night. One piece of footage to be deleted before a final cut was assembled involved the blade piercing Jamie’s leg, as the filmmakers felt that the shot was too graphic. This causes a minor continuity error as when Jamie exits the chute she has a bloodied leg a limp but it seems unclear to as to how this was caused. As a souvenir, the FX team allowed Harris to keep the prosthetic limb after the shoot had wrapped. The one aspect of the movie that would confuse fans was the inclusion of the Man in Black, who would appear in the final moments and rescue Michael from prison. No one on set, from the writers to the cast, had any idea who this character was intended to be, but rumours on set were that it could be Michael’s twin brother, though the writers themselves seemed unsure. It is worth noting though that this stranger was also played by Shanks.
Halloween 5 was, much like its predecessor, filmed on a budget of $5m and released in time for the end of October. But its confusing plot and generic characters caused the movie to perform miserably at the box office, with its final total falling short of $12m, more than $6m less than the fourth entry. It was at that time the least successful entry in the franchise and outside of America would be released straight-to-video. Any plans for further instalments would be jettisoned and the series was laid to rest. By the end of the decade, Paramount had stated that they no longer wished to distribute Friday the 13th sequels and New Line had seemed disappointed at the performance of their latest release, A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child. The public’s interest in horror was starting to wane and the slasher, its most reviled subgenre, was its greatest casualty. It would be some time before Michael would reappear and the performance of Halloween 5 looked to threaten the future of the series.