After Season of the Witch failed to change the face of anthology horror films, Akkad decided that it was time to go back to what made the franchise successful. This didn't involve returning to the same well-constructed scares or brutal violence of the first two films. Instead, he decided that the reason the series was successful was Michael Myers. So, in a twist of survival that stretches the limits of the human body, Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers brought Michael and Dr. Loomis back from their explosive end.
What resulted is a relatively successful trilogy of films that took two details from Halloween II and Season of the Witch, a connection to the devil and Stonehenge, and spun a long story line together. The Return of Michael Myers, The Revenge of Michael Myers, and The Curse of Michael Myers evolve the idea that Michael is afflicted with a Druidic curse that compels him to kill every member of his blood-line before the curse can be passed on to another family.
As far as plot twists go, that's a doozy from the vague motivations that drove his killing from the beginning. But it's to the trilogy's credit that it doesn't shy away from any of the crazy implications of that change. Instead with each film it digs further into this mythos and by the time Curse is released the style reflects a full-blown state of madness.
Return is the runt of the litter. It doesn't have all the pieces in play as of yet and the story is that Michael Myers survived the explosion, hears that Laurie had a daughter, Jamie, and died in a car accident. This is enough to spring him back to life and summons Dr. Loomis, who has kept a close eye on Michael, back from his work to track the killer. The next two films introduce a society who wants to protect Michael until he can complete his task, with Dr. Loomis going steadily mad trying to keep up with them.
The escalation of Dr. Loomis' insanity is my favorite part of these three films. In Return, Donald Pleasance gives him an air of urgent sophistication that makes everything he has to say dreadfully important. During the time between that and Revenge he is nearly mad, hilariously screaming for answers at the now-mute Jamie, and wondering why, now 40+ murders in, he is not being taken more seriously. Pleasance keep Dr. Loomis right on the edge of snapping, popping in and out of the frame with a lot of energy, and is great fun to watch. Sadly, by the time Curse rolls around Pleasance's health had deteriorated, but he still gets relish out of being a retired doctor who lives in what appears to be a Hobbit Mound in the middle of the city.
If you haven't gathered yet, these three films pretty much dispose of the idea that they are scary anymore and go for straight entertainment. The transition isn't altogether successful, as the fourth film seems content to have Myers appear in the dark with none of the strong visual language that was present in Carpenter's film. That all changes when the climax involves Myers having a life or death struggle with a mob out to kill him in the back of a speeding truck. Then in Revenge it's Myers going after Jamie, who is being used as bait by Dr. Loomis, and tracks her into the amber remains of his old home. So while the shots may not be interesting, the set design and cast take the threat very seriously.
But then there's the matter of the sixth film, which is visual chaos and has many odd moments. Trying to pick my favorite is almost impossible with the choices at hand. There's Tommy, Paul Rudd's first starring role, with about five candles lit underneath a light in front of his already bright monitor. The climax involves a tour through a sanitarium that has so many steam pipes and labs that I'm sure director Joe Chappelle accidentally ran into the set for Alien 3 a few times. Then there's the mysterious stranger who killed all the officers and freed Michael at the end of Revenge, who brings in full-body black jumpsuit clad henchmen to do his dirty work.
I love all those details, and while it doesn't translate into a similar affection for the films, I'd be lying if I said that there is no reason to watch them. Whatever boredom Return injects into the series is resolved by the time the crazy chase at the end happens, and then it just continues escalating in entertainment and insanity from there. It's a lot more than I can say for the next two Halloween films, which do their best to complete forget this fun trilogy ever happened.