The wait is finally over. Trick ‘r Treat, hyped since early ’07 (and to my knowledge, even a bit before that) to the next big thing is seasonally anchored horror cinema, is an anthology horror film that takes viewers on a blissfully entertaining and brisk jaunt through Warren Valley, Ohio where Halloween is one of the busiest and most prepared for nights on the calender. Intertwining 5 or so stories, all seen from different perspectives, Trick ‘r Treat is a mash up of some iconic horror creatures and staples, all while never breaking from its perfect pacing by having to give us narrator scenes that wrap up the last story and introduce the next. The only indicator that a new tale has begun is if we get a EC comic book style overlay on an establishing shot that says “earlier…” Director and writer Michael Dougherty has crafted himself a borderline masterpiece worthy of a place right next to John Carpenter’s Halloween, and Tim Burton’s Sleepy Hollow and A Nightmare Before Christmas as one the most atmospheric, jubilant, and synonymous-with-the-season movies I’ve ever had the privilege of laying my prying little eyes on.
There is so much to like about Trick ‘R Treat, I find myself at a slight loss where to begin. The flick gets off to a rollicking, with a classic, tension building stalk-and-maybe kill sequence that, in a short 5 minutes, sets the tone and pace for the 80 minutes of pure joy that follows. The atmosphere, highlighted by wonderful work with fog, night-time lighting, and a creepy little score that shows influences, but not outright robbery, of some time tested winners like Psycho and Halloween. Be mindful that while there are some absolutely terrific shit-your-pants jump scares, Trick ‘R Treat isn’t about, nor is it trying to be, the scariest film on the block. Quite the contrary, it is trying and succeeds in being a celebration of the undertones and concepts that Halloween was founded on, and a exploration of how it has been bastardized today. It is, at its core, a series of tales about respect, torwards one another and the dead and of rightful comeuppance, all coated in that notion that even though we get older, and stop believing in the spooky, supernatural, and things that go bump in the night, there is always a little flicker of doubt that lingers in the back of your brain like a piece of bubblegum stuck to your shoe. You just never know if all those anecdotes are completely full of shit, or frighteningly based on fragments of truth that could, literally, come back to haunt you. Dougherty and his lens are very rarely ever overly pompous or experimental, but you can truly feel as if the man is really in his element here, as if he was filming and photographing a long lost lover. The colors just scream Halloween, with every pumpkin and shade of orange popping out at you while the sets and locations (the rock quarry in particular looks stunning) look as dreary and macabre as they allow themselves to be. Tasteful and slick scene transitions and zero abuse of worthless establishing shots keep us hopping from story to story like a youth frolicking from house to house in search of their favorite candy. Despite the stories overlapping in some spots or being left alone only to be wrapped up later on, Dougherty manages to keep his plot line juggling smooth and easy to understand. There are red herrings everywhere, and some of the twists that Dougherty has come up with, both in accordance to the herrings and not, are nothing short of brilliant. You will have at least one “I totally should of seen that coming and now I feel like a jackass” moment, if not 2 or 3.
Brian Cox and Anna Paquin are the big name talent in here, and while I still am not very fond of Paquin, I have to say she does fine in her role, but brings nothing to it a dozen other actress’s couldn’t have. Brian Cox however, does everything in his power to steal the entire movie in his segment, and stands out as the cream of the crop in a movie full of actors who not only don’t annoy us (unless they are supposed, like that bitch Macy), but don’t disappoint either. Besides some quality acting to help make us believe, a good fright flick also needs at least a grain of solid effect work, and without spoiling any of the surprises (any gore scenes or kills or…things I mention would be directly spoiling one of the stories, if not the whole film) the blood, creature work, and gore is all top notch and almost entirely practical. No CGI garbage here folks, rejoice! As you have probably guessed from the picture above, the film has thrown in some homages and references to past flicks, which include but are not limited to The Thing (the famous “You gotta be fucking kidding me” line is used to great effect), Evil Dead II (The “Hand” dilemma), and of course, the original Halloween (THE head tilt). Rest assured though, Trick ‘R Treat doesn’t sit on its hands and hope that some nice blood, make-up, and nods to more famous films will get it through. There is a fair amount of substance for something that is this short and moves this quickly. To say anymore, would be to do grave injustice to those of you who haven’t seen it yet, and if you haven’t gotten the hint yet, any fan of anthology, horror, or just the holiday itself needs to see this, pronto.
After the 2+ year tease, Trick ‘R treat has finally arrived, and I hope it makes even half the impression on a larger audience that it made on me. Obviously, movies like this have a smaller, more definitive window of when they can be sold effectively and watched, but that doesn’t make it any less of a great little flick. It has independent blood running through its veins with an outer shell that just oozes passion-filled, high-end production values. Iconic themes and ideas are revisited in interesting and new ways, and even some new rules and laws are implied which are sure to stick with anyone who loves having a film add a new layer of lore to the most grim of publicly celebrated holidays. If you are looking for a more recent way to kick-off the season, you can do no better than Trick ‘R Treat. Just don’t blow out your candles before midnight…traditions are not made to be broken.