TRICK 'R TREAT
Beginning as an old school animated short film ten years ago, centering around the pivotal child-like pumpkinhead spectre known as Sam, comes TRICK ‘r TREAT - an ode to John Carpenter, Stephen King and George Romero from writer/director Michael Dougherty (X-MEN 2).
The flick is a raucous, fun-filled, occasionally bloody return to the format known as the Horror Anthology - i.e. CREEPSHOW (1982), Mario Bava's BLACK SABBATH (1963), TALES FROM THE CRYPT (1972), ASYLUM (1972), TALES OF TERROR (1975), THREE EXTREMES (2004), etc. (you get the idea)
What sets Dougherty's ambitious directorial debut apart from its predecessors is the way the film jumps around from story to story and back again, while keeping their general locations within a single town setting. Main characters from one story become background extras, or minor players in the other stories. Therefore showing that each character is interrelated on the surface.
Tying this complex narrative web together is the aforementioned Sam - so cute, so evil - whom represents the traditions of Halloween that we all take for granted and should dare not disregard. For doing so will bring out his wrath, complete with his sharp-edged pumpkin lollipop.
The stories goes as follows -
“The Opening” - a young couple Emma and Henry: Leslie Bibb (IRON MAN, MIDNIGHT MEAT TRAIN) and Tahmoh Penikett (BATTLESTAR GALACTICA, DOLLHOUSE [TV]) respectively are terrorized by someone or something after she, with her spiteful attitude towards the holiday begins taking down their Halloween decorations a little too early.
Next we're sent to the home office of "The Principal", where sinister Steven Wilkins (Dylan Baker: THE CELL, SPIDER-MAN, FIDO) and his annoyingly cute son, Billy (Connor Christopher Levins: SUPERNATURAL [TV], Masters of Horror: HOMECOMING) entice one of Wilkins’ school pupils: the local obnoxious, pumpkin-smashing kid Charlie (Brett Kelly - Masters of Horror: WE ALL SCREAM FOR ICE CREAM) with some “special” candy and things proceed to go to unexpected depths of depravity (and not in a pedophile way, you sick pervs).
From there, we go to the "Surprise Party" to meet Laurie (Anna Paquin: X-MEN [all], DARKNESS, TRUE BLOOD) dressed as a virginal Red Riding Hood, along with her Cinderella sister Danielle (Lauren Lee Smith: MUTANT X [TV], PATHOLOGY, SUPERNATURAL [TV]), whom are hoping to help Laurie with her "first time". Danielle's cherry-breaking becomes more than anyone (including we the audience) had bargained for.
Afterwards, we venture into "The Halloween School Bus Massacre Revisited" as we're introduced to a group of kids - Marcy (Britt McKillip: DEAD LIKE ME [TV]), Schrader (Jean-Luc Bilodeau: KYLE XY [TV]), Sara (Isabelle Deluce), and Chip (Alberto Ghisi: FINAL DESTINATION 3) - whom invite a strange pumpkin-loving girl Rhonda (Samm Todd) out with them, only to set her up for a very terrifying trick. Granted, things don't go necessarily as planned.
Lastly, there's the old, scraggly, long-haired Mr. Kreeg (Brian Cox: MANHUNTER, THE RING, X-MEN 2, Wes Craven’s RED EYE) whose cantankerous killjoy attitude towards Halloween brings about his impending doom when the time ultimately comes for him to "Meet Sam" in a violent battle to the death... maybe!
In lesser hands, this anthology concept could've easily fallen at the seams. Doughtery's writing and direction deftly juggles these stories and characters like a well-seasoned orchestra conductor.
Some may recall Quentin Tarantino's PULP FICTION or Doug Liman's GO as influences, but I believe TRICK ‘R TREAT is more akin to Wong Kar Wai's CHUNGKING EXPRESS (1994) and FALLEN ANGEL (1995). It may just be the first Horror film to utilize this particular style of multi-story telling, giving us Horror fans something fresh and unique to look at.
Furthermore, the lush cinematography of Glen MacPherson (THE FINAL DESTINATION 3D) and the production design of Mark S. Freeborn (BLACK CHRISTMAS , FINAL DESTINATION 3) really enhance those traditional Halloween earth tones of gold-ish yellow, vivid orange and tinted browns, while adding a special emphasis on the color red when needed.
Clearly, TRICK R TREAT is Dougherty's love letter to John Carpenter, with subtle homages to HALLOWEEN (1978), THE FOG (1980) and THE THING (1982) incorporated throughout. Even the font of the end titles are a homage to Carpenter, according to Dougherty at a recent Q & A.
I have no idea why Warner Bros. sat this excellent movie on its shelves for two years. Dougherty doesn't appear to know either. Were they afraid to compete with the SAW franchise? Did the anthology structure make them nervous about how they were going to market the film? All I know is that whenever the film was screened to audiences, it sold out the venues every time. In hindsight, the studio could've taken Paramount's current midnight showing/word-of-mouth approach to PARANORMAL ACTIVITY with TRICK ‘R TREAT and then open the film up to more screens as Halloween drew closer.
Fortunately, horror fans worldwide can finally see the flick on DVD and Blu Ray. But this film really needs to be seen on the big screen with an enthusiastic audience.
I believe Michael Dougherty has created the ultimate Halloween-themed horror film that future flicks will now have to judge themselves by - if they dare to tread. With that I am proud to give TRICK ‘R TREAT the highest score of 5 Shriek Girls.
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