Should the fourth in this series of Michael Myers-based slashers be remembered as just a simple and slightly ineffective horror, what shall audiences remember Halloween V: The Revenge of Michael Myers for? It does nothing, has nothing to say, and can only be remembered as an odd little divergence for the eponymous entity of evil. But he will do much worse than this in the future. Worse than murder. He will continue to plague the screen and the dreams of audiences far and wide. He is surplus to requirement, but so was the slasher genre as the 1990s loomed ever closer. Far beyond the quality of the 1980s boom, and now it would peter out and drag the corpse of the flagging genre far enough that the 21st century was bracing itself. No such luck for Halloween, not for a long while yet.
Audiences should prepare themselves, though, for Myers is the emotionally untrustworthy anti-hero, rather than the clear-cut villain. Approach with caution and sympathy, director Dominique Othenin-Girard asks of viewers. Madman. Utter lunacy. Such a shift in tone is adaptable in the early stages of the narrative, but not five films in. After seeing Myers batter, bruise and butcher his way through town so many times before, it is hard to play the “he’s a bit upset” card. In fact, it weakens the core of Halloween V: The Revenge of Michael Myers. As if that core were not weak enough. Trying to engage with Myers as more than a beast that we can funnel our own fears into is difficult. Halloween has made awkward leaps and reaped the rewards of them, but humanising the problematic villain was never going to work.
Not just because of what audiences remember from previous instalments, but what they see from Myers here. He is still hacking and slashing his way through the population, but with a sad twinkle in the eyes behind the mask. It is to feel sad for Ted Bundy, for the killings made him feel sad. Or to pay our dues to Charles Manson, because he’d rather have followed in the footsteps of Bob Dylan instead of the Boston Strangler. Such is life, and for Myers, there is no such choice. Nor are there many choices for this cast and crew, who boast little life or immediacy to the danger they should find themselves in. A kill here, a resolution there, and they’re ready to wrap by lunch. Such typical storytelling is not an issue, it is how it is utilised that is. Slashers are run of the mill affairs; it is the creativity and the kills that set them so far apart. Halloween V: The Revenge of Michael Myers barely has any form of revenge, let alone the creative spark to justify it.
“This time they’re ready!” boasts the subtitle on the poster. You should surely hope so. Ten years and five films later, a cast of fresh and forgettable faces are ready to take on the white-masked villain. They do so with little deviation from the formula that made the first so thrilling, the second so acceptable, and the fourth so dull. Even the third in the series is looking like a stand-out piece of light entertainment. Halloween V: The Revenge of Michael Myers may mark another input to the series, but it does not recreate anything fans of the former will enjoy, nor does it masquerade as a new and relevant topic. It is stuck in the middle, with Myers pratting about at the centre. No consequences, no conviction, and nothing of substance from Donald Pleasence, the wasted guest of honour.