Halloween 5 was rushed into production without a finished script, but it didn’t have to be. Halloween 4 had revitalized interest in the franchise and suggested a clear path forward. Jamie was supposed to become the new killer in the Myers family, or if not a full-blown killer then at least Dr. Loomis’ second chance, gifting him the opportunity to help her in a way he never could with Michael. Instead, they went with a director/co-writer who memorably told a TV interviewer, “[The film] is a question of cat and mouse. And we see the cast and we see the mouse. The mouse knows about the cat. And that cast is going after the mouse [nervous pause] That’s about it, I guess.”
They were determined to deliver Halloween 5 almost exactly a year to the day after Halloween 4, but they seemed unaware the Elm Street and Friday the 13th franchises were doing the same thing at that very moment. The market for slasher films had already been waning, but it was about to bottom out. Turns out, Michael returned just in time to see everything go to shit.
1. Halloween 4’s director and writer passed on the opportunity to return
Halloween 4’s writer-director duo Alan McElroy (pictured above) and Dwight Little were so pleased with their movie they didn’t feel the need to return for the sequel. They simply didn’t believe they could top themselves, but they assumed their Halloween 5 replacements would follow their lead and explore the notion of Jamie inheriting Michael’s evil.
Their assumption was initially correct. The first screenwriter Moustapha Akkad hired to pen Halloween 5 did exactly what Little and McElroy would have. So, of course, Akkad fired him. He didn’t want to make a movie about Jamie becoming pure evil; he wanted another Michael Myers movie.
- Not even Danielle Harris is convinced making Jamie the killer would have been a better idea than what they went with.
By the time Halloweens 4 and 5 arrived, Friday the 13th had already toyed with the idea of converting one of Jason’s potential victims into his eventual replacement before getting cold feet and backing off of from that. Halloween would ultimately follow the same trajectory, using the beginning of 5 to erase the memory of 4’s ending and simply ignore any discussion of Jamie turning evil. At the time, Donald Pleasence found this supremely disappointing, telling Fangoria, “I think they should have gone along with the fact that the little girl is now totally evil. I was disappointed that we now discover she did not kill her mother at the end of the last film.”
However, when interviewed in 2013 for Anchor Bay’s “Dead Man’s Party-The Making of Halloween 5,” Danielle Harris sounded uncertain as to what a Halloween movie with Jamie as the killer would even look like, “Where would the story go if they didn’t have Jamie as a sympathetic character? If I was just running around as Michael Myers’ little sidekick I don’t really know what could have happened. I think they needed to keep Jamie a sympathetic character to have someone to root for.” Elsewhere, though, Harris has struck a more playful tone about how much fun it might have been to be Michael’s little sidekick.
- The director threw the original script in the trash right in front of the producers
Based on Debra Hill’s recommendation, Moustapha Akkad agreed to meet with Dominique Othenin-Girard about maybe directing Halloween 5. What happened at that meeting was a veritable ambush, as Dominique told HalloweenMovies.com:
Having watched all the Halloween, Friday the 13th and Nightmare on Elm street films, I met with Mr. Akkad and his 2 men team, (story development and scriptwriter). After I made an analysis of the market of horror film and their sequels and an analysis of the script I received from him; I asked him if he intended to continue with following installments of the Halloween films. He laughed and asked who I was to ask such a question. I then said, so if you do, may I do what I think will allow you to continue with the privileged niche that you have on the market? He nodded. I took the script they gave me and threw it in the trash can in front of them.
Wow. The balls on him.
Slowly, I started to tell them the story I came up with, following the structure of the original Halloween from Carpenter/Hill; a structure following the Hitchcock rules of suspense, not mixing the genres like the script they had given me. It had a body count of death like the Friday the 13th, and many deaths in nightmarish situations like the other competing series. Once I got their attention, I asked Mr. Akkad if I could let in a friend of mine, a writer I worked with. Mr. Akkad was irritated by my boldness, but allowed to let me go on. Robert Harders entered and I started to work with Robert in front of them, explaining the story I was going for. He had not read their script and had not seen Halloween 4.
The gambit worked. Within 24 hours of this first meeting, Akkad hired Dominique to write and direct 5. Harders, however, did not get the gig. Instead, Akkad paired Dominique with Michael Jacobs (Certain Fury, 3:15) to co-write the script.
Billy, Jamie’s stuttering friend, appears to be run over by a car. His assumed death, however, is never actually confirmed. According to Jeffrey Landman, who played Billy, this is what happened:
“When the car chase sequence was initially shot, it was more graphic, and it was clearer that the car hit me. However, due to industry regulations, the accident had to be trimmed. At the time, filmmakers were not allowed to actually show a child being harmed. So they had to make the accident look less “real”, and now it looks like the car missed me. Additionally, as I previously mentioned, there was a scene at the end of the movie showing me alive and well at the clinic. However, due to circumstances unknown to me, the scene was shot after I had left Salt Lake City and returned to New Jersey. Therefore, Billy’s fate is up in the air. To me, he is still alive and well.”
- The Myers house looks so different because, well, it’s a completely different house in a different state
Halloween fans go crazy over the Myers house, so much so that one superfan built a near-exact replica in North Carolina. As such, Halloween 5 didn’t fool many people with its clearly new and entirely different version of the Myers home. Everything about it is just wrong, but give the director a minute to explain himself:
We had to shoot the film in Salt Lake City, and the neighborhoods are not so similar to the ones of the original Halloween. In any case, Michael Myers’ house came in play towards the end of our film, it had to be designed for the various scenes I had planned and it had to be a fascinating set for a 20-minute showdown. It had to have space and several specific locations like an open living room floor with many windows for the night lighting, (I desired no interior source of light), an interesting curved staircase with a window to create the apparition of Michael Myers’ back silhouette against it, long corridors for the escaping running child, several bedrooms with a laundry chute for Jamie’s hide-out leading to a kitchen, a spooky basement where the horrible blind stabbing thru the laundry chute takes place and a large ceremonial attic, all with the abandoned look.
- No one working on the film knew who the Man in Black was supposed to be
Perhaps nothing better epitomizes Halloween 5’s filmmaking-on-the-fly mentality than the Man in Black. As played by Don Shanks, the stuntman, incidentally, who also played Michael in 5, the Man in Black is a mysterious figure lurking in the shadows throughout the film. He finally intercedes on Michael’s behalf at the end to break him out of prison.
He was never in the script, though. Instead, the Man in Black was added halfway through at Akkad’s suggestion as sort of a quick fix for the unfinished script’s various holes. It would all make sense, they figured, in the sequel. They could explain who this guy was in 6. Until then, let’s just drop him in here and there to help tie some scenes together.
Dominique says Akkad entrusted him to do whatever he wanted with the Man in Black. The point was to keep it vague enough for the next writer and director in the Halloween franchise to come along and figure it out. So, with that in mind Dominique created the Man in Black as someone spiritually connected to Michael, and “found the idea of the ‘mark’ (the Thorn tattoo) to link him to Michael” on set.
- The mask was changed to humanize Michael
Anyone who worked on Halloween 4 and got carried over to 5 knew the mask looked different; they just didn’t always know why. Maybe it was a question of durability, they figured. Maybe the mask was simply worn down from the last movie.
In truth, the mask had been altered according to Dominique’s instructions. He wanted something which looked more human since his larger goal for the film was to humanize Michael:
How could I make this character feel human and alive when he has no right to speak and when we can not see his face expression? As latex is a perishable material, we had to create a new series of masks for him and with the KNB SFX team we went for a human interpretation of evil. I wanted also to distance myself from the plastic shiny look of the hockey mask of Friday the 13th.
- It took a script re-write and pay raise to get Ellie Cornell to agree to play Rachel’s death
When watched back-to-back, one of the biggest (and earliest) giveaways that Halloween 5 was made by a different team than Halloween 4 is the treatment of Rachel. She’s a full-on final girl in 4, fiercely protective of Jamie and constantly outsmarting Michael. In 5, she’s a nothing character who showers and dies. Even then, in the brief time she’s around she doesn’t even feel like the same person,
This proved to be a point of contention between Ellie Cornell (who played Rachel) and the director. Cornell sensed Rachel wouldn’t survive because, well, just look at how Friday and Elm Street had treated/killed off any of its surviving characters who came back for sequels. Cornell did not, however, expect Rachel to die so soon and so gruesomely. The script called for Michael to shove a pair of scissors down her throat, but Cornell put her foot down. This was too undignified an end for her character, or so she argued. So, they compromised by having Michael stab her in the chest. Plus, they offered her a little more money.
Dominique’s rationale for killing Rachel makes a certain amount of sense, “If Ellie goes so early, that means that anything could happen next.” However, years later Moustapha Akkad expressed regret for backing Dominique’s play, citing Rachel’s death as one of their biggest mistakes on the movie.
- Wendy Kaplan was almost run over by that car for real
To shoot a low-budget horror movie often means walking away with a “and then I almost died” story. The cast of Halloween 5 has several of those.
Most notably, when Michael is mowing everyone down in the woods the cast was entirely reliant on the restraint and attentiveness of Don Shanks, the man behind the wheel (and the Michael Myers mask). Because they didn’t use any stunt people for that scene. So, that really was a car chasing down actors at night in the foggy woods. The chance of someone falling down was very high, and that’s exactly what happened to Wendy Kaplan (who played Tina). As seen in on-set footage featured in 25 Years of Terror, during one take when she was supposed to look back at the car so the camera could get her scared reaction she tripped on her cape and fell to the ground, causing instant cries of concern to echo out from the crew. Thankfully, Shanks stopped the car immediately. No harm, no foul, but it was damn close to disaster.
Moreover, when they filmed the (eventually deleted) scene of Michael stabbing Jamie’s leg through the laundry shoot that really was little Danielle Harris crunched up in an air conditioning duct. She was trying to stay in the assigned safe area since they’d marked off exactly where Don Shanks would be stabbing his very real knife into. However, again, if she had slipped or fallen she probably would have been stabbed for real. That didn’t happen, but looking back at it as an adult Harris told “Dead Man’s Party” she’s stunned how much danger she was actually in while making 5. That’s not even mentioning how they put her in a flammable dress and dropped her into a coffin surrounded by lit candles.
- BOX OFFICE: $11.6m domestic
- BUDGET: $5m
- CONTEXT: That’s a 34% decrease from Halloween 4. By comparison, 1989’s other slasher biggies, Nightmare on Elm Street 5 and Friday the 13th VIII, posted respective drops of 55% and 25% from their predecessors. Both films, of course, still outgrossed Halloween 5. As of this writing, $11.6m is the lowest overall gross for any Halloween movie.
- INFLATION: At 2017 ticket prices, Halloween 5’s domestic total converts to $26.1m, which is Resident Evil: The Final Chapter ($26.8m)/Bye Bye Man ($22m) territory for today’s horror movies.
Next time, I’ll tell you about the epic clusterfuck that was the production of Halloween 6: The Curse of Michael Myers.
If you liked this also check out my prior trivia lists about the Friday the 13th and Nightmare on Elm Street franchises, and you can always circle back around to see my other Halloween trivia articles.
Any corrections or questions? Let me know in the comments.