Trick ‘r Treat
Director: Michael Dougherty
Writer: Michael Dougherty
Starring: Anna Paquin, Dylan Baker, Brian Cox
You guessed it, another movie review about someone with a bag head. I’ve got a thing, what can I say. Trick ‘r Treat was supposed to be released in 2007, but was pushed back and got a straight to DVD release just this month. The internet campaign that has followed is remarkable, with the movie popping up all over horror genre websites, with nearly unanimously excellent reviews. Which confused me. The cover looks like something I’d bypass at Blockbuster, or maybe rent only to make fun of in some kind of drunken stupor. I was very wrong.
The movie is a tightly woven anthology of four stories about Halloween, all set in a small idyllic American town. The title sequence and frequent title slides frame these stories as a graphic novel, which in fact it has just been adapted into this month. The art direction is wonderful, as the town is veiled in a Sleepy Hollow-esque gothic orange hue. I can’t quite describe what makes the movie so beautiful, but they have achieved a perfect saturated Halloween world that could never actually exist. Yes, all this for a campy straight to DVD release.
Fact is, the stories Dougherty has given us are written in such a way that makes them seem like classics. Think Freaky Stories, but with great actors. Without giving away too much of the plot, I’ll attempt to outline the stories in their most basic form. First we meet Laurie (Anna Paquin), a younger sister who is attempting to find a boyfriend at a Halloween party, and ends up at a bizarre sorority ritual around a campfire (See: Porn). Next is Dylan Baker’s character Steven, a school principal who celebrates a spectacularly bloody Halloween with his son, when they find a chubby young boy stealing their candy. Baker has to be one of my favorite actors, and he’s stellar in this maniacal — albeit brief — role. Perhaps the scariest of the stories follows the legend of the High School Bus Massacre, as a group of teenagers end up at the bottom of a rock quarry, hunted by the ghosts of the kids who died. And finally my least favorite of the four, when you finally meet the bag headed character that is the roughly hewn through line connecting the stories, as he intrudes into a Halloween-hating old man’s home, played by Brian Cox.
What I should also mention is an opening sequence before the titles that doesn’t sustain itself enough to be considered a “story”, but is a strong element in the film. I won’t describe it in the least, but hopefully provoke you to watch the movie by hinting at it. There is a double fakeout that is one of the scariest moments in the movie.
I found myself grinning from ear to ear for about eighty percent of this movie. The scares are plentiful, but are done with a dark comedic tone that makes you smile. As the plots progress, you’re never left wondering why a character won’t just turn the damn light on, or call the cops, because the world of the movie is so precisely drawn that you’ll buy whatever they give you, and leave you wanting more. Anytime you guess what will happen next, it usually does, but with a clever spin that is exponentially more fulfilling than you’d imagine. Each of the stories are cleverly woven together in a more well thought out way than other commendable films dealing with multiple storylines. I loved Paris Je T’Aime, but I think the stories exist in a world seemingly seperate from one another. And a montage at the end simply isn’t enough for me to link them into one unit.
MAKE – There are a few things that make this movie which I’ve already listed above. But if I had to pick one, it would be the writing. Trick ‘r Treat is an exercise in storytelling. It uses horror cliché in new and startlingly innovative ways that never leaves the audience bored. Pair that with an honorable mention for stellar acting, and the movie is a must see.
BREAK – What could break the movie is the damn bag head character, actually. There is a ten minute sequence near the end that borders on annoying, and enters a realm of science fiction that the rest of the movie has artfully hinted at. There is also a fair amount of gore in the film, which if you aren’t in the mood for, or can’t appreciate from a “camp” point of view, make come across as simply distasteful.
BOTTOM LINE – The movie is bloody entertaining. It is a must see around Halloween, because it delivers pitch perfect scares from good actors. The writing is cunning and sharp, and no stone is left unturned as far as the exploration of subject. I went in determined to dislike this movie, and was so happily proven wrong. It’s about time there was a mainstay Halloween genre movie. I hate to say I’d go to the theatre to see Trick ‘r Treat II, although with a title like that, I can’t imagine it’d draw a big crowd. Yeesh.