Horror-Wood Blog-a-Thon: Trick ‘r Treat
Anthology movies are a rarity these days. The idea that moviegoers would be getting three or four stories for the price of one seems to be something that is not done a lot these days. However, it is a bit of a double edge sword seeing most of the stories will not be fully appreciated. Again, you’ll have a movie like The Kentucky Fried Movie or Twilight Zone: The Movie where it will have some good segments and some that are not as strong as the previous. There’s even the case where a certain idea would have played better as a full-length feature film. But when you think about, the idea of a multi-story feature is actually not bad. There’s many ways to pull it off and creative ways to do this kind of movie. You can have them play separately like a string of vignettes or even try to make a narrative out of it. Though that last one is hard to pull off, there’s essentially no right or wrong way to this kind of movie. Its all about the magnitude of stories and how they hold up. And this is where today’s flick comes in.
I knew at some point I had to give Trick ‘r Treat some limelight. Its one of those movies that never really crossed my mind or even garnered much interest when I first heard it. The trailers and advertising painted it more like a slasher film or something twisted like a Rob Zombie movie and I believe that’s what turned me off more. It also didn’t help that the film was finished in 2007 but kept getting held back for a good two years until it got a very limited release. I have no idea why they would so such a thing as some believe its due to the falling out with Warner Bros. and the film’s producer Bryan Singer who disappointed with the low box-office returns of Superman Returns. Others say is because of the competition at the time, but for whatever reason, I really feel bad this never got a huge nationwide release because this is really good movie to see at this time of year.
The whole idea is that four stories happen around the same Halloween night and somehow interconnect with each other. So its sort of like a cross between a comic book and a jigsaw puzzle. Some have little foreshadowing hints that will happen later while others answer certain questions from the previous segment. To describe this movie in a nutshell is basically like digging into a trick or treat bag full of candy. But each piece of candy has a very distinctive flavor that mixes dark chocolate with something bitter and sweet at the same time. On first watch, you really don’t know what to expect but upon repeated viewings, you start to appreciate how much it connects with the holiday.
Dylan Baker plays a principal in one segment where he gets revenge on a neighborhood bully by means of poisoned chocolate. Worse of all, he has to find a way to hide the evidence from his son and the neighbors next door. On paper, it sounds dark and horrible but again, its all about how it plays out. The first segment really reflects the overall dark comedy that is within. Dylan gives a performance that is chilling yet enjoyable. You can tell his character really relishes the holiday and won’t stop anything to make sure it doesn’t get ruined. You might remember him better as Dr. Curt Connors from the Sam Raimi Spider Man films. He’s so serious and controlled in those movies but here, he’s the total opposite. What makes this entry enjoyable is the pay off near the end which I want to give desperately away. Its one of those “if you stick around and keep watching, you know what’s coming.”
Much of this movie is like that even considering another segment where Anna Paquin of current X-Men fame is a teenager named Laurie out with a group of girls to a surprise party in the woods. There’s much stab at “virginity” here when they have to get dates and we speculate its probably an old-fashion drink and sex bash in the forest. But then things change up a bit with a vampire tossed in who has his sights set on Laurie to the point we wonder what direction it will take. Well, much a story out of a Tales from the Crypt comic, it hits us at the end with a double twist that even I didn’t see coming. There’s so much focus on the girls and the vampire that we wonder just how they will collide. Sure enough when they do, it all comes together and we start to understand from the start where this was all heading.
However, I can’t say all the segments work. Each one tends to dip in darker territory that might turn some viewers off. One notable example is a segment where a bunch of kids plan to explore a lake near a rock quarry to find the destroyed school bus from a “massacre” thirty years ago. The story goes is that a group of mentally ill children in a school bus crashed into the lake but it turns out the parents of those children paid the bus driver to do the dirty deed. Its something that nearly took me out of the movie just by the concept alone. I’ve seen mentally disabled people and even had the notion to see their behavior during my times at school.
The thought of such a horrible act nearly made me turn off the movie. What stopped was the direction it goes in. As it turns out, the kids come back in the form of ghoulish zombies almost similar to the ones in John Carpenter’s The Fog. As the kids try to play a prank on another, they are unaware of what danger lurks right under them. Its intense but again, I felt the idea of mentally ill kids being sent to their doom almost soured it. I understand this is a horror movie and the need to go dark but it really feels like they are attempted to go dark just for the sake of it as opposed to giving a purpose. I was fine with the first segment because there was a reason for the mean spirited vibe. The kid was destroying Halloween decorations and defiling house and he got his “just deserts” as a result. Here, the dark angle just felt tagged on but if you stick around there is sort of a reason why.
The final segment sees Brian Cox as a Grinch-like character that really hates Halloween to the point he scares kids away and steals their candy. But all of that changes when a kid named Sam intervenes and tries to make him change his ways by means of scares and murder. Its an intense segment that really ends on a high finish. After spending so much time about the town, we get to take a story from the man giving out the treats. There’s some scares that are good but at times feel predicable like the cue for a big reveal or a jump scare. What saves it is how the monster of this segment is actually a little kid that wants candy. Not since John Carpenter’s Halloween have this gone this route and gives it a unique take. The character of Sam is basic but feels creepy and fresh. The orange one-suit pajamas and burlap sack on his head with button-eyes feel somewhat iconic. This is easily my favorite of the batch just for its quiet atmosphere and little use of dialogue. It shows that a story can be told with images and sound without speaking.
I still feel bad Trick ‘r Treat didn’t get that full wide theatrical release because this movie deserves it. But since its release to home video, it was able to maintain a strong cult following and was a critical success none the less. I’m honestly glad I was able to see this and I admit its actually a good movie. I like the tone, the fact it takes place on Halloween night and the fact it feels like a horror comic book film like Creepshow but with a darker edge. The only problems I have with it is the narrative structure that seems to have each story loosely connected to each other. At times, one event affects the next segment but at times we jump from one story to the next at a point one might need to get a notepad to keep track of what’s going on. And also the dark humor might not before for everyone’s taste. As said above, there’s some mean spirited jokes that work in its favor and other times where it could leave you unsettled. Overall, Trick ‘r Treat I’m sure will get a bigger reputation as one of the best Halloween movies. But for now, its a high recommendation that’s perfect for the season.
Posted on October 21, 2014, in Horror-Wood 2014 and tagged Anna Paquin, Anthology, Brian Cox, candy, Creepshow, Dylan Baker, Halloween, Horror, Horror-Wood Blog-a-Thon, pumpkins, Sam, segments, Trick 'r Treat, Twilight Zone The Movie, Werewolves, zombies. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.