Halloween drew the short straw with memorable characters. Christmas has Santa, Rudolph and the elves. Easter has the bunny. Valentine’s Day has a naked archer baby. The closest that Halloween has the brilliant Jack Skellington from The Nightmare Before Christmas, and even he is in the middle of a custody battle with Christmas. Horror certainly has a plethora of memorable characters—Hannibal Lecter, Jigsaw, Jason—but none are suitably festive enough to fill that pumpkin-shaped void.
Thankfully, in 2007, a movie came along and did its damnedest to fill it in. From first-time director Michael Dougherty came the cult classic Trick ‘r Treat. I should forewarn you that this will not be a spoiler-free review, but I will try to keep it to a minimum.
I’m actually surprised by how many of you wanted a full review after I featured it on my Top 5 Werewolf Movies list. Trick ‘r Treat is a movie that deserves more recognition though, so I’m happy to step up to this one.
This is Trick ‘r Treat.
First a little context. Trick ‘r Treat was intended to have a theatrical release, but was ultimately shelved by Warner Bros. The reason for this is up to fan speculation, but my feeling is that it’s probably something to do with the school bus scene. Regardless, it eventually got a straight-to-DVD release, and accumulated a cult following at a surprising rate.
So first, let’s address the plot. It’s not a traditional one. We have multiple plots running simultaneously because it’s an anthology. The stories overlap, characters playing roles in numerous parts of the movie. Their connection is a simple one: it’s a Halloween night in a small New England town.
Right off the bat, I have to say that there is something gorgeous about the way this movie was shot. The sets are gloriously festive, and the establishing shots look so orange. I love how authentic the shots of fall are, and the way the street festival looks. Production-wise, this movie has incredible scenery.
The music too is so very creepy. Composer Douglas Pipes knows exactly how to put things in a Halloween mood. It’s not too horror-based, but it’s most definitely suspenseful and at times even really innocent. The music is done masterfully.
The movie starts with a short story about a woman who blows out a Jack-o’-Lantern, despite her husband’s protests. What happens to her sets the stage for the rest of the movie. It’s gory, gross, but not a slasher. There is a real art to this scene.
The star of the movie in my eyes goes to the principle. Steven Wilkins, played by Dylan Baker, is a character with a big respect for Halloween. He’s one of the most fun characters in the movie. When people disrespect his favourite time of the year, they end up dead. He poisons a child’s candy, he drinks the blood of a woman in the street. Possibly the only creepier thing about this movie is his relationship with his son. He’s a fun villain. There’s a brilliant scene where he’s burying a body, and his son yells at him out the window. When asked why he’s being shushed, Steven replies:
“You’ll bother the neighbours!”
I love him.
Then there’s Laurie, played by Anna Paquin. She is the only virgin amongst her sisters and friends, and she plans to use Halloween to change that. I talked about this scene in my Werewolf list, but again, I adore how subversive this part is.
My only real problem with the movie comes from the School Bus scene. It’s a flashback to 30 years ago, with a bus full of children with various mental disabilities. Their parents, embarrassed by their children and exhausted with the care they needed, and they paid him to get rid of the children. It’s just an awful scene, and emotionally distressing. The children don’t know what’s happening, but they sit and let themselves be chained to the seats. One of the children, just desperate to go home, escaped and drove the bus straight off the quarry.
This scene is attached as a prologue to the story involving a group of kids who are playing a trick on Rhonda, a girl who is constantly bullied. They pretend to be the undead children, and scare her in to knocking herself out. Unfortunately, one of the group kicks a Jack-o’-Lantern in to the lake…
Another problem with this scene is that it’s performed by children who aren’t that talented. It’s not ambient as the other scenes, and it takes away from the spooky atmosphere. All and all, this is the weakest of the stories.
The finale finally introduces a character we’ve seen many times through the movie. That is Sam, played by Quinn Lord, who also goes by Peeping Tommy. Sam existed before Trick ‘r Treat. He stars in an animated short from 1996 called Season’s Greetings, also from Dougherty. His name comes from Samhain, a Halloween precursor with Celtic roots. Sam is the enforcer of Halloween traditions, from the sanctity of the Jack-o’-Lantern to the importance of giving out treats to people who come to your door. He is there to punish those who don’t abide by the sacred traditions.
We meet Sam when Kreeg, played by Brian Cox, refuses to give the trick-or-treaters any candy. The result is a chilling climax, an entertaining fight sequence, and possibly the creepiest interior shots I’ve ever seen.
Trick ‘R Treat, and particularly the demon spawn that is Sam, has been given a cult treatment similar to Repo! The Genetic Opera. People are avid about it, especially around Halloween. There was a tie-in graphic novel published by Wildstorm Comics, and even Vinyl Pop has a Sam bobble head. Plus with the announcement of Trick ‘R Treat 2, more merchandise is on its way this Halloween. Sam exists in various forms of merchandise, and it’s easy to see why. Menacing, malevolent, and just the right amount of cute, Sam is just right to be the figure-head of Halloween.
Closing thoughts on the movie is that it’s good Halloween fun you can have all year around. It’s shockingly short at only 82 minutes, and there’s a lot of child death in it. But it’s a brilliant movie, and I eagerly anticipate the sequel. This is me, the queen of the babies when it comes to horror, is giving this the full five stars.
And so, dear readers, we reach the end of another review. I hope you enjoyed it.
Let me ask you this: do you have a straight-to-DVD movie that you think deserved a theatrical release? What did you think of Trick ‘r Treat? And do you have a Halloween movie you love?
Let me know your thoughts!