Bonus Reviews: How to Make a Monster (1958) and Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers (1989)
Bonus Reviews for Week 161
For this week’s bonus films, we’ll look at a couple of fun horror movies, “Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers” from 1989, and “How to Make a Monster,” a “meta” horror film about horror film studios and murder in 1958.
Don’t forget, the first week of each month, we publish ALL our reviews, including the bonus content, in our monthly “Horror Bulletin” print magazine (also available as an ebook). If you don’t have time to read the website or email, here’s one more option for you! The March issue is out now!
How to Make a Monster (1958)
Directed by Herbert L. Strock
Written by Aban Kandel, Herman Cohen
Stars Robert H. Harris, Paul Brinegar, Gary Conway
Run Time: 1 Hour, 13 Minutes
Spoiler-Free Judgment Zone
An interesting take on classic movie monsters, showing the behind the scenes of the making and makeup that crosses over with real movies of those years. And turning humans into monsters. It’s a little dated and predictable, but still pretty good.
It’s a werewolf! No, it’s an actor sitting in his chair putting werewolf makeup on. He can’t talk with the fangs in, but he clearly likes the work. Pete Drummond is a master at doing monster makeup; he did Frankenstein a while back and now the wolfman. For 25 years, he’s been doing this, and there’s no one better. Everyone at the studio loves and admires his work. In this film, the Teenage Frankenstein monster fights the Teenage Werewolf.
Pere likes working with the teeneagers because they’re so enthusiastic about everything. The new owners of the studio come in, and they’re making changes. They fire Pete; “Monsters are finished; the horror cycle is over.” Pete obviously disagrees. Pete knows they’re wrong, but he doesn’t know what he’s going to do. He does, however, want to prove that he’s right. He vows to use the very monsters they mock to bring down the studio.
Pete puts his special chemical mix in his next batch of makeup; it’ll paralyze their wills so he can command the actors under the makeup to carry out his commands.
The next day, Pete makes up the werewolf again and gives him some “special” instructions. The wolfman kills Nixon, one of the studio executives, and then returns. Pete commands him to forget the whole thing. Larry, the actor under the werewolf makeup, feels strange all night afterwards.
The cops say, from looking at the bite marks, that the man was killed by a wild animal. The topic of laid-off workers comes up, but the studio head doesn’t think any of it was worth murdering someone over.
Monahan, the chief security guard, talks to Pete, and he says he thinks it’s an inside job. Pete and his assistant Rivero never went home the night before. Pete puts on some of his own makeup, becoming a monster in the process, and goes after the security guard. The other security guard tells the police that he saw Pete and Rivero leaving not long ago.
We next get a completely gratuitous musical number from John Ashley, playing John Ashley, doing an Elvis Presley-style musical number. Clayton, the producer, calls the new musicals “the wheels of progress,” and gloats to Pete. He puts special makeup on the Teenage Frankenstein character, who kills Clayton at home in his garage. The monster runs into a woman on the street this time.
The police question everyone. The police think that some lunatic is imitating monsters from Pete’s films. Suddenly, the cops turn on Rivero and start yelling and turning up the pressure. The cops think Pete and Rivero know more about make-believe monsters than real killers. Pete thinks Rivero was just about to turn him in. Would Rivero betray Pete?
The police check out Pete’s workshop and find his stuff. Meanwhile, Pete invites Larry and Tony, the monster actors, along with Rivero, over to his house this evening. He shows them his mask collection, and it becomes apparent to all that Pete’s a little unhinged. Rivero thinks the boys are not going to stay under Pete’s control for much longer, and he wants out. Pete then stabs Rivero.
Pete goes out and threatens the two teenagers, but they accidentally set his collection on fire. Pete stands there and screams about his children dying and then collapses and burns to death.
The monster makeup here is actually very good, which is pretty much the point. The idea that makeup might make one suggestible is believable enough, but apparently, it also gives them super strength which is a bit of a stretch.
The whole point of the murders was supposed to be that monster films aren’t dead, but there were no witnesses to most of the murders, so why bother with the monster makeup?
The “I was a Teenage Werewolf” and “I was a Teenage Frankenstein” films are referred to on movie posters on Pete’s walls. They are supposed to be the same actors and characters as in those films; it’s not really Michael Landon, but it really is Gary Conway, and the monsters look the same as in those other films. All this also takes place at American International Pictures, the actual studio that made all of these films. In reality, AIP didn’t even have a physical studio, but that’s what it’s supposed to be. Also, Pete was supposed to have worked there for 25 years, but in real life, AIP had only existed for the past four years.
The odd part is that the whole film was shot in black and white until they get to Pete’s house, and it all switches to color at that point. Presumably, that had something to do with the budgets, or maybe the parts with the monster makeup just didn’t look so good in color.
It was actually better than we expected. Predictable, but well done.
Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers(1989)
Directed by Dominique Othenin-Girard
Written by John Carpenter, Debra Hills, Michael Jacobs
Stars Donald Pleasance, Danielle Harris, Ellie Cornell
Run Time: 1 Hour 36 Minutes
Spoiler-Free Judgment Zone
Despite what you were led to believe at the end of the 4th movie, shock and surprise, Michael Meyers wasn’t really dead. This one takes up right where the other one left off. It’s okay, but without the clear central character played by Jamie Lee Curtis - or anyone else, it’s kind of lackluster.
We see a brief recap of the end of that film, where Michael falls into a collapsing and exploding pit in the cemetery while Dr. Loomis protects young Jamie. They all assume Michael is dead, but we see him escape into the river and float away. He staggers into an old man’s house and collapses.
We then advance one year after the events of the fourth film. At the Children’s Clinic in Haddonfield, little Jamie has nightmares while hooked up to an EEG machine. As Michael finally wakes up across town, she can sense it. Michael puts on his mask and kills the old man who’s taken care of him for the last 364 days.
Jamie goes into convulsions, and the doctor wants to cut her open. Loomis breaks in and stops the doctor; he knows she has something to tell them. The next day, Rachel from the previous film brings her a new dress. Someone throws a note through the window, “The evil child must die!” The locals don’t seem to care for Jamie anymore. Loomis tells Rachel that there’s nothing wrong with being afraid.
Someone in the bushes watches Rachel and her friend Tina. Loomis calls and tells Rachel to check on her dog, who’s been barking for a long time but is now suddenly quiet. We see Michael in the house, but he doesn’t do anything. She runs out of the house, but the police find nothing and the dog returns unharmed.
Later that night, he returns and stabs her. Tina goes over to the house but doesn’t find Rachel; she meets up with Samantha instead.
Loomis goes to Sheriff Meeker, who wants to pretend it all ended last year. Michael finally comes after Jamie, and the iconic music starts playing. No, it turns out it’s just the maintenance man and the nurse. Loomis returns and terrifies Jamie even more; he’s completely unhinged and probably traumatizing her more than anyone else.
A man in black disembarks from a bus; we don’t see his face.
Loomis goes to Michael’s old home, which is now empty and abandoned. The man in black is there, and we see his odd tattoo.
Tina’s boyfriend, Mikey, encounters Michael in the garage, and that goes badly for him.
There’s a kids’ Halloween party at the children’s hospital, and Loomis attends to watch Jamie. Michael picks up Rina and goes for a drive. The man in black wanders around ominously. Jamie uses her psychic link with Michael to warn Loomis, who tells the cops to rescue Tina. Everyone warns Tina to stay at the police station, but she insists on going to the party at the farm.
Jamie and friend Billy go after Tina. So does Michael. The man in black walks aimlessly through town. A guy dressed as Michael chases after Tina and almost gets shot by the cops, but it’s just a guy in a costume. There’s some fake-out scares with this guy in the barn until the real Michael runs him through with a pitchfork. Samantha follows almost immediately.
Tina finds the bodies, and suddenly it’s not all a joke anymore. Jamie and Billy show up; they’ve apparently walked to the farm. They scream to get Michael’s attention, and Michael chases them around in his car. There’s lots of running, screaming, and chasing through the woods until Michael’s car hits a tree and explodes.
This, of course, barely slows Michael down. He stabs Tina and continues after the two little kids. Loomis finds them first and takes them to Meeker and the cops. Jamie finally agrees to help Loomis. She can see where Michael is through telepathy, and Loomis and the cops use that against Michael.
Michael eventually shows up, and Loomis talks to him. He explains that Jamie can take his rage away, but Michael ain’t havin’ it; he stabs Loomis and throws him across the house. Deputy Charlie shoots Michael about a dozen times before Michael kills him.
Finally, it’s just Jamie and MIchael alone in the old house. Jamie crawls into a laundry chute and gets stuck at the other end. Jamie lays down in a coffin and calls Michael “Uncle.” She wants to see his real face, and Michael removes his mask. We see only shadow, but she says he looks like she does. Things go south quickly, and there’s more chasing.
Loomis reappears and shoots Michael with tranquilizers and beats him repeatedly with a 2x4. He screams “Die! Die! Die Michael!” He’s such a great doctor!
Still, Michael stabs Loomis again as the police arrive. Michael is taken into custody, where he’ll be heading back to the asylum.
Oh yeah, the man in black! Remember him? He continues walking through the night. Suddenly, there’s an explosion and gun fight in the police station. Jamie goes back inside to find all the cops dead and Michael gone. The jail cell doors have been ripped open.
Dr. Loomis really is the worst psychiatrist ever; he really does more to terrify Jamie than Michael does.
This was the lowest-grossing film of the entire series. I suspect audiences may have thought traumatizing a little kid throughout the movie may have been too much. Killing babysitters is fine, but a line had to be drawn at repeatedly coming after nine-year-olds.
I think another big issue with this film is there’s not a main character. Rachel dies early on, and we get alternating bits with Loomis and Jamie, but there’s not really a “final girl” who really stands out here. Tina eventually starts getting some screen time, but too late in the film to get any focus. There’s also no connection at all between Tina and Michael; why is he following her in the first place?
And the man in black was shown ominously several times, and we have to assume he had something to do with Michael’s final escape, but nothing whatsoever is explained about him. It’s almost as if they needed a way for Michael to return in another film and shoehorned all that in after the fact.
It’s not terrible, but it’s missing most of what made the other films good.
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