Directed by: Michael Dougherty.
Written by: Michael Dougherty.
Starring: Dylan Baker (Steven), Anna Paquin (Laurie), Brian Cox (Mr. Kreeg), Rochelle Aytes (Maria), Quinn Lord (Sam / Peeping Tommy), Lauren Lee Smith (Danielle), Moneca Delain (Janet), Tahmoh Penikett (Henry), Brett Kelly (Charlie), Britt McKillip (Macy), Isabelle Deluce (Sara), Jean-Luc Bilodeau (Schrader), Alberto Ghisi (Chip), Samm Todd (Rhonda), Leslie Bibb (Emma), Connor Christopher Levins (Billy), James Willson (Alex).
Trick ‘r Treat is one of those movies that has been on “to see” list for a shamefully long time, and I’m just now getting to it. I remember hearing about the film when it played a few horror festivals – to very good reviews – back in 2007 – but then the film kept getting delayed, before Warner Bros. finally just dumped straight to DVD two years later in 2009. Since then, it has become a cult item of sorts, building up a small group of fans who seem to really, really like it. It’s easy to see why people like it – the film is fun, bloody, but not the in the “torture porn” way that seem to be dominating horror around that time, and is basically a throwback to 1980s films. In fact, it kind of reminded me of another horror anthology I watched recently – George A. Romero and Stephen King’s Creepshow (1982), as both seek to have a lot of fun more than scare the audience, and pay tribute to what the creators loved. The difference between the two movies is simple – I had a hell of lot more fun watching Trick ‘r Treat than I did watching Creepshow.
The film weaves together five stories, that all take place in the same suburban neighborhood on the same Halloween. It’s not quite an anthology, as the film doesn’t tell each story (aside from the prologue) from beginning to end and then move onto the next one, but rather have the stories overlap and sometimes double back on each other – with characters from one being the background of others, etc. The prologue is about a married couple (Leslie Bibb and Tahmoh Penikett) who come home, slightly drunk, on Halloween night after a party. Despite the husband’s warning of dire consequences if they were to blow out the Jack O-Lantern’s candle before midnight, the wife does it anyway – and needless to say, she shouldn’t have. The second story is about a mild mannered school Principal (Dylan Baker – perfectly cast) who, of course, isn’t as mild mannered as he looks – as he murders one child, and we start to worry about his son (hey – is he just playing his character from Happiness?). Another story involves Laurie (Anna Paquin), out with her sister and a couple of friends – all of whom make fun of her for being a 22-year old virgin – and want her to finally lose it at the party they’re going to. She just wants things to be “special” – and, of course, there is a twist. Another has a group of pre-high school students, who decide to play a horrible prank on the unpopular girl in school – only to have things turn around on them. We then cycle back a little, as an hour after we first see him in distress, we finally find out what the hell is happening with Mr. Kreeg (Brian Cox), the Principal’s neighbor, who has played a role in a few other stories as well. There is a strange little boy in a mask – Sam – who seemingly shows up in all the stories as well at certain times, sometimes just to be creepy, and sometimes with a lot more going on.
Trick ‘r Treat isn’t a really scary horror movie. Of the five, only the story with the kids playing the prank really gave me the chills – writer/director Michael Dougherty used the location of that one – an old quarry, at night – to brilliant effect, and the fact that he made them children – not teenagers – just makes the whole scene even creepier. The rest of the segments are more fun-scary, than scary-scary. It’s actually the type of horror movie that would be okay for younger teenagers looking to watch horror movies for the first time – or those wussies out there who don’t like the unrelenting terror of my favorite horror movies.
The film works because it never takes itself too seriously – but it takes itself seriously enough that it doesn’t cross the line between darkly comic and pure camp (which Creepshow, for example, did not do). I can see why horror fans have made this a cult item over the years – the production values and acting are really good for a low budget horror film, and the film has a great deal of fun recalling some of the 1980s horror films. I can also see why Warmers wasn’t sold on this being a big hit – horror movies usually become hits, regardless of whether or not they are any good, because they can market a simple hook. Trick ‘r Treat doesn’t have one of those. What it is though is a hell of a lot of fun for horror fans.