Trick ‘r Treat (2007) (82 minutes)
Directed by Michael Dougherty.
Written by Michael Dougherty.
Starring Anna Paquin, Brian Cox and Dylan Baker.
Spun-off from Season’s Greetings (1996)
Producer/Director/Writer Michael Dougherty’s horror anthology is a Halloween classic that no fan should miss. The film is an anthology composed of four interconnected tales that are all brilliantly shot and suitably scary. All of the actors, including the always great Brian Cox, seem as if they were born to play their roles. Dylan Baker gives one of the funniest and engaging performances in the film, although I won’t reveal who his character is or what he does. Additionally, I’ve got to mention Anna Paquin, Lauren Lee Smith, and the gorgeous Leslie Bibb, who all do a fine job as well. Just thinking about the acting, how often is it that we ever see a horror movie full of good actors?
Trick ‘r Treat doesn’t just have good actors; it has stunning actors who really helped take this movie to the next level.
The fact that this film is not derivative in any manner or immediately calls to mind other, more lame movies is a near miracle. Each story has a life of its own and fits together seamlessly with the next. The scares, dark comedy and bloody violence are well balanced and I can see watching Trick ‘r Treat each Halloween, sort of like viewing A Christmas Story during yuletide. In fact, comparisons between the two are not inappropriate, as Trick ‘r Treat treats the traditions of Halloween with the utmost reverence.
The stories that compose the film are not told in linear order, a la Pulp Fiction, and you have to pay attention to things that are said and shown. The film will not scream out plot hints nor dig deep into the backgrounds of the characters. It is all there for the audience to find if one remembers the movie revolves around the rules of Halloween.
In any anthology some stories will be stronger than others. The opening sequence concerns a husband and wife returning from a night out late on Halloween evening. The missus wrongly chooses to violate a rule of the holiday and pays a heavy price for it. The closing of this episode will be reminiscent of Creepshow.
The next episode has a deranged school principle handing out poisoned candy to neighborhood children. As he struggles to bury the bodies of several dead children, he is constantly interrupted. Finally, the madman is able to finish his work and help his son finish carving a most unusual jack-o-lantern.
A vignette based on a local legend, “The Halloween School Bus Massacre”, comes next. A group of four adolescents dragging a wagon full of jack-o-lanterns stop at the home of their classmate, Rhonda, to ask her to join them. The kids secretly want to embarrass the young lady, who rumor has it possesses strange powers. The leader, Macy explains that 30 years ago a bus carrying eight mentally disturbed children dressed in freakish Halloween costumes, so dangerous and deranged that they had to be shackled to their seats, were intentionally drowned in the town’s quarry. The children’s parents had bribed the bus driver to commit the crime and the bodies of the children, nor the buss, were ever recovered.
Macy explains the jack-o-lanterns are an offering to the dead children. The group descends to the quarry in a rickety old elevator where the classmate recites a spell to bring the dead back to life. The other four children then try to frighten Rhonda by faking an appearance of one of the dead children. When Macy kicks a jack-o-lantern into the lake, the dead children actually begin to rise. Rhonda has quietly slipped away, taking the remaining jack-o-lanterns with her, and leaving her classmates to their grisly fate.
Meanwhile, Danielle and her younger sister, Laurie, are preparing to go out to a Halloween party. While Danielle and her friends are dressed in pretty fairy tale costumes, the self-conscious and timid Laurie wears a little Red Riding Hood costume. Danielle and her friends pick up some guys who are trick and treating and then head out to the spooky woods for a bonfire party. Laurie, feeling dejected, leaves and walks through the forest alone. She is suddenly attacked by a Vampire who bites her neck and starts sucking her blood.
A short time later at the bonfire party, a mangled body falls from a tree. Laurie appears, bleeding slightly but otherwise alright. The figure that fell is actually Mr. Wilkins the murderous school principal dressed as a vampire, but is horribly mauled. The girls applaud Laurie, who explains she was always shy because this was her first kill. The dates’ eyes grow wide with horror as they see the true nature of their companions.
Scrooge-like neighbor, Kreeg is at his home, next door to the Wilkins. He refuses to hand out candy and even steals some from the smaller children. Suddenly he is confronted by a small boy dressed in a ragged pumpkin head costume. The evil looking figure had been seen in the background in the previous episodes.
Now he is inside Kreeg’s home, which he has eerily scribed with trick-or-treat rhymes. In addition, the entire place is decorated inside and out with jack-o-lanterns. The two engage in a brutal bloody brawl, with Kreeg unable to kill the mysterious figure. Eventually the strange child leaves on his own while we see photographs of a much younger Kreeg, posed with eight children and a school bus, burning in the fireplace.
Kreeg steps out his front door, bandaged and bloodied in time to see the pumpkin head creature heading over to the home of the husband and wife that opened the film. Rhonda is shown walking across the street, almost hit by a car driven by Danielle. Billy Wilkins son sits on the porch of his home handing out candy. After Kreeg gives out some candy, he sits for a moment. He hears a knock on his door to see eight gruesome trick-or-treaters waiting for him.
Each of the sequences are shot brilliantly, with color, shadow and light in harmony. The final sequence shot in Kreeg’s house is particularly atmospheric and the film as a whole has a nightmarish glow to it. There are very few movies that pay direct homage to America’s favorite adult holiday. Trick ‘r Treat is one such film. If I rated movies on a star system this one would five out of five.