Monday, October 13, 2014

Newsploitation: The Mangling of Michael Myers

It makes sense that October would see a lot of box office birthdays since this is a month most targeted for releasing our kind of film. Unfortunately, the first one for this month is kind of a downer because it is a film that is not even close to being a classic.  In fact, it is downright awful.  Hey, they can’t all be good ones, right? Celebrating its 25th anniversary today is HALLOWEEN 5: THE REVENGE OF MICHAEL MYERS, which saw release on October 13, 1989.  The second John Carpenter-less sequel, this continuation of Michael Myers’ triumphant return ended up being the worst of the series…at that point anyway since we had no idea how low things could go.

While some think HALLOWEEN 5 was just a quick cash grab after the success of HALLOWEEN 4: THE RETURN OF MICHAEL MYERS, the film was actually announced by producer Moustapha Akkad in April 1988 when the fourth entry began filming.  Of course, the fifth entry going into production was predicated on the success of the fourth film, which hit theaters on October 21, 1988.  With HALLOWEEN stalwarts John Carpenter and Debra Hill out of the equation, Akkad struck gold regardless as audiences were still craving Michael Myers slashing seven years after his last onscreen appearance.  HALLOWEEN 4 opened in first place and, thanks to smart timing (a HALLOWEEN film around Halloween, imagine that, Weinsteins!), maintained that spot for two weekends in a row.  Amusingly, it was unseated in its third week by THEY LIVE (1988), a film by Myers daddy John Carpenter.  Eventually, HALLOWEEN 4 brought in just under $18 million dollars in the U.S. box office.  Not ELM STREET numbers, but enough to prove The Shape still had some swing in his slash.

So, naturally, Akkad splurged on the next entry and gave it more funds, right?  Ha, yeah right!  According to some sources, Akkad cut the $5 million dollar budget that HALLOWEEN 4 got down to $3 million dollars for HALLOWEEN 5.  Usually aren’t sequels supposed to increase the production budget?  You could practically hear Akkad saying, “Zee people love-ah Michael! Why spend-ah more money on zee film?  All-ah you need is mask and knife.”  I’m not sure why I made the Syrian producer sound Italian but go with it.  Akkad actually passed off the main producer duties to Ramsey Thomas, who may or may not be the director of the utterly bizarre Akkad production APPOINTMENT WITH FEAR (1985).  If you’ve seen that flick, you’ll understand why this film turned out so bad.

While the principal players on screen remained the same, the switch from parts four to five saw a complete overhaul in nearly every department behind the camera.  The fourth entry’s screenwriters were jettisoned in favor of 28-year-old Shem Bitterman.  Akkad also parted ways with director Dwight H. Little – who I consider the real reason HALLOWEEN 4 is a success – and instead put the Swiss-born helmer Dominique Othenin-Girard in control.  He was signed on the strength of his Lilith-centered horror film NIGHT ANGEL (1990), which was finished before HALLOWEEN 5 but released afterward.  And by “strength” I mean he could make a slick looking film for cheap. According to an Othenin-Girard interview in Gorezone, his first order of business was to substantially rewrite Bitterman’s script.  I’m sure that made the screenwriter live up to his last name.  With a production locked in to return to Salt Lake City, Utah for filming in May 1989, it is no surprise to hear that the six week production started with an unfinished screenplay (Othenin-Girard rewrote constantly with co-writer Michael Jacobs while filming).  It definitely shows in the final product as the film is unfocused and even perplexing at times.  The film takes so many missteps and ends with a total head-scratching cliffhanger (The Man in the Black Boots) that you have to agree with Donald Pleasance when he told Fangoria that the young director seemed to have no idea he was making the fifth entry in a long running series.  It tarnished the series so much that when John Carpenter suggested sending Myers into space, fans thought, “Hmmm, that isn’t half bad.”  Perhaps Othenin-Girard and Akkad’s biggest faux pas was they decided to have KNB effects rework the iconic Michael Myers mask, taking it from William Shatner to something that resembles Lin Shaye.

Not surprisingly, when the film opened in October 1989, fans weren’t pleased.  For some odd reason, it had been a tough year for every horror icon as both Freddy and Jason saw their annual entries sink at the box office.  Gee, could it have anything to do with them being rushed productions?  Anyway, poor Michael saw the worst of it.  The film debuted in second place at the box office, behind fellow newcomer LOOK WHO’S TALKING (1989).  Yes, audiences preferred to see a film about talking babies starring John Travolta and Kirstie Alley.  The film made just over $5 million dollars that weekend and was gone from theaters with a haul of $11 million in a few weeks.  The most ironic thing?  By the time the weekend preceding Halloween (October 27-29) arrived, no one was going to see a film called HALLOWEEN.  To date it remains the lowest grossing film of the series.  It was so bad that it put the entire series on ice for six years before Akkad got it into the hands of the Weinstein brothers via their Dimension arm.  They brought us the equally inane HALLOWEEN: THE CURSE OF MICHAEL MYERS (1995), a film legendary for its behind-the-scenes turmoil.  As true signs of their genius, they released it in September 1995.

2 Reactions:

  1. An incredibly minor nitpick, but I still find it odd how they decided to give one of the random victims the same name as the killer.

    Dunno why; maybe because it's something you don't see too often in horror films.

  2. Perfectly understandable grievance if you ask me.


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