Pros: balances the humorous and the macabre; Dylan Baker's performance; effects work
Cons: over-rated; some boring and/or silly moments
Originally scheduled for an October 2007 release, Trick 'r Treat was continually pushed back before finally making its debut in the graveyard of direct-to-DVD releases. Since then, it has been unbelievably hyped and praised by horror geeks. While it doesn't live up to the lavish praise heaped upon it, it's a decent little flick all the same.
The film is a series of four (five, if the very short opening story about the woman who hates Halloween can be counted) interconnected stories, all of which take place in a small town on Halloween night. Trick 'r Treat has been called an anthology film, compared to Creepshow, but that's not entirely accurate, as the stories are all tied to each other and occur within the same night. Rather than telling one story and moving on to the next, the action shifts perspectives, going back and forth between each set of characters. It's like the Crash of horror movies.
A 22-year-old woman is coaxed by her sister and girl friends to finally lose her virginity. A group of cruel kids decides to play a prank on a weird classmate, luring her to the rock quarry where a bus load of mentally handicapped children met their untimely end. A cranky old man refuses to participate in the traditions of Halloween. His next door neighbor, a school principal, is way too obsessed with the holiday.
It is this story which illustrates right off the bat why this film was denied a theatrical release. When Principal Wilkins catches a fat kid who's smashing pumpkins and stealing candy, he decides to teach him a lesson. He hands the kid a candy bar and lectures him on the rituals and traditions of Halloween, when suddenly the kid starts choking and gagging. Wilkins says, "Wait. There's another tradition... Always check your candy," and the kid starts puking up blood and some vile liquid. I don't want to go into too much detail, but suffice it to say this kid won't ever be making it home.
Indeed, the film has no problem with allowing kids to become victims. I think more kids died in this movie than in the rest of the horror movies I've seen combined. It's not overly gory; in fact, most of the kids' deaths take place off screen, but harming a kid, even though it's not real, is the kiss of death for horror movies.
The stories and performances vary in quality, but Dylan Baker deserves special mention. His Principal Wilkins is creepy from the moment he appears on screen, and his complete madness and sheer glee is unnerving. His performance is somewhat reminiscent of his role as a pedophile in Happiness and offers further evidence that putting this man (the characters he plays, not the actor himself) near children will not end well.
The jumping between stories works for the most part, but the final story takes so long to be picked back up that I'd forgotten it was left earlier on with no conclusion. It has a neat twist ending, but it's actually pretty boring up to that point, despite the best efforts of Brian Cox. And the staple of all the stories, the little guy with a sack over his head and buttons for eyes known as Sam, the spirit of Halloween, was a bit silly. The effects work, however, is solid; for example, a forest transformation scene has a whole group of werewolves shedding their human skin to reveal the beasts within.
Though the connections between some of the stories are a little shaky, director Michael Dougherty finds a balance between the humorous and the macabre, and eventually ties the events together into a cohesive whole. While it's not quite the next coming of horror movies it's being hyped as, Trick 'r Treat is a loving tribute to Halloween, to scary movies, and to horror fans.
Entered in talyseon's "Let There Be Lips" write-off.