Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers (1989) ****  Director Dominique Othenin-Girard brings a Frenchman’s sensitivity to this last Halloween installment of the 80s.  Beautiful and extraordinarily talented child actress Danielle Harris returns as Myers’s niece Jamie along with Beau Starr and Ellie Cornell, who also appear in Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers.  After being taken in by an old hermit like Frankenstein’s monster in Bride of Frankenstein, Myers shuns the sympathy such a comparison might have suggested by doing away with his benefactor and making his way back to Haddonfield for another night of terror directed at his psychically damaged niece, who unfortunately for her spends most of the film in a state of acute distress.

The great Donald Pleasence’s Dr. Loomis shtick might have been annoyingly stale by this point in the series if not for the streak of erratic behavior and cockeyed scariness injected into his character in this outing.  Particularly appalling is his badgering of the psychologically brittle Jamie and his willingness even to use her as bait to lure her relentless uncle.  Loomis, after spending the other films decrying Myers’s pure evil and soullessness, now has the idea that the killer’s niece might be utilized therapeutically to reach what remains of his humanity.  While this may seem at first to be a far-fetched and too-liberal interpretation of Myers, the fact that he repeatedly returns to his home and instinctively seeks out his family does suggest that some emotional need still exists behind the legendary impassiveness of the William Shatner mask.

Halloween 5‘s risk-taking in playing with franchise mythology continues with its introduction of an enigmatic, faceless stranger in cowboy boots who follows Myers and plays an important part in this sequel’s somewhat silly ending.  Also questionable is the inclusion of two bumbling, comic cops (Frankie Como and David Ursin) whose antics are more than once accompanied by absurdly clownish music.  These are only minor blemishes, however, on what is overall a very worthy entry in the series (with blemishes seeming to constitute a motif of Halloween 5, what with Loomis’s inconsistent burn makeup and not one but two scenes of characters examining pimples in rear view mirrors).

Also doing much to enliven this entry is the sympathetic and sexy presence of Wendy Kaplan, who in one of Halloween 5‘s more memorable and suspenseful scenes unwittingly plants on Michael Myers his first (albeit still masked) screen kiss when she mistakes him for her Halloween-costumed boyfriend.  Her character’s death, along with those of Ellie Cornell, Tamara Glynn, and others, is painful to watch, and what ultimately keeps The Revenge of Michael Myers urgently interesting, suspenseful, and frightening is the sustained and probably allegorical sense of youthful innocence in a very real and deadly peril.  A respectable 4 of 5 possible stars.

Night Angel (1990) ****  Sordid, slimy, atmospheric, and slightly rough around the edges, Dominique Othenin-Girard’s Night Angel, his next film following Halloween 5, is perfect late night entertainment.  After melodramatic voice-over narration that introduces the myth of Lilith, Adam’s first treacherous lover in Eden, the wily woman herself (raven-haired model Isa Jank) is seen arising from the earth in sensual ecstasy, only to react with horror after catching a glimpse of her grotesquely deformed hand.  She soon recovers from this small setback, however, and proceeds to seduce and prey upon the entire staff of a fashion magazine, Siren, through which she hopes to distribute her evil image in high circulation.

Linden Ashby is adequate as the male lead, and Debra Feuer is fine as his love interest; but Night Angel‘s true stars are the enticing Jank and the overwhelming sense of lurid design with which the film is gifted.  Filled to the brim with gorgeous women, lust, shadowy interiors, night, blue light, smoke, and the unsubtle synthesized music of its period (plus “Siren’s Burning”, a wild and unexpected contribution from Screamin’ Jay Hawkins), Night Angel is a tawdry feast for the senses.  One highlight is a sadomasochistic sex club phantasmagoria worthy of Brian Yuzna’s Society.  Constantly driving the film, however, and providing its principal visual confection and sex appeal, is the irresistible Isa Jank as Lilith.  Night Angel is also surprisingly funny, due partly to Doug Jones’s turn as a gangly, curly-haired, and overheated nerd.  Also prominent in the cast are lively and exquisitely mature Karen Black and frumpy, gruff-faced Helen Martin in a part that perpetuates the film industry’s wise, supernaturally initiated black person stereo/archetype.

Though dated to an extent by its wonderfully gooey, pre-CGI special effects, exotic fashions, chintzy music, and overall sensibility of Miami Vice mode gothicism, Night Angel is nonetheless timeless in its concern with devious temptation opposed to the safety of purity and love – a theme given more unsettling resonance in the age of AIDS.  This film deserves rediscovery by horror fans and those with a taste for the 80s and the stylishly, unabashedly tacky.  4 of 5 possible stars.

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