Trick ‘r Treat (2008)
US (dir. Michael Dougherty)
Cast: Anna Paquin, Brian Cox, Dylan Baker, Leslie Bibb, Quinn Lord, Rochelle Aytes
Synopsis: Four interwoven stories that occur on Halloween: An everyday high school principal has a secret life as a serial killer; a college virgin might have just met the one guy for her; a group of teenagers pull a mean prank; a woman who loathes the night has to contend with her holiday-obsessed husband.
Review: “Trick ‘r Treat” was a movie that I waited a very, very long time to see. I was constantly teased by trailers for this movie that would appear online, in theaters, and most notably on the DVD for “300” (why “300”? I have no idea). Its much-anticipated release on DVD recently finally allowed me the chance to see it, and while it was just as awesome as I predicted it would be – it didn’t really exceed my expectations, which is kind of a shame.
“Trick ‘r Treat” is basically an anthology of different stories which take place on Halloween night. Each story is unique in its own little sick, twisted way but all the stories eventually come together in the end (as is the case with most anthology horror movies). Some stories are markedly more entertaining, more gruesome, and more developed than others while some just serve up short-term scares, some splatter-y gore and really not much else. So obviously, some of the tales are better than others. Each story or vignette shares the common appearance of Sam, a child serial killer with a burlap bag over his grossly deformed face, who relishes the simple joys of Halloween and is angered by anyone bold enough to bash his favourite holiday or disobey its sacred traditions. The great thing about this movie is its ability to capture your attention. The movie may progress in what you might assume to be a fairly predictable manner, only to skewer that progression and your expectations in a big way. This is likely the lease predictable horror movie you will ever see.
The first portion of the anthology is a story of a rather bitchy blond and her Halloween-loving husband. She pretty much forces herself into enjoying Halloween for her husband’s sake, but never forgets to remind him, or the audience, how much she detests or is greatly indifferent to the holiday. (Note: Yes, I do realize Halloween is not considered an “official” holiday, but that’s society’s problem, not mine) After snuffing the Jack-O-Lantern light at what is deemed to be a far too early time in the evening (by her husband’s standards), the blonde ends up hacked to bits by an unknown being, who in the end is revealed to be the little killer boy, Sam. This is a short, brutal introductory piece that’s really all about the shock value and it gives you a little taste of what’s to come. The best part of this introduction is the fantastic set design which basically transforms humdrum suburbia into a Halloween wonderland in a Tim Burton-esque way. This design in maintained throughout the movie, and the amount of love and attention that went into every piece of Halloween-related decor is truly a wonder to see.
Part two of the anthology, and my favorite vignette in “Trick ‘r Treat” is the tale of a seemingly normal, Halloween-loving, principal who just so happens to be a serial killer. The revelation of the principal as a serial killer comes as a complete surprise when his first victim of the evening turns out to be a child, albeit a not so innocent one, and a ginger to boot. There’s a whole shaker’s worth of black comedy peppered throughout this dark little entry, and I almost guarantee you will love this disturbing and downright evil high school principal.
The third and most re-occurring storyline in the film, is centered on a group of somewhat skanky college girls ready to indulge in some Halloween-related sex-capades. Within the group, the sole “virgin”, played by Anna Paquin, is looking for her “first”, and believe me, this is not going to pan out the way you would think. They spend the entire night picking up guys, and luring them to a secret Halloween party in the forest, while all the while the virgin, Anna Paquin, pines for her first. Eventually, she finds him, and the climax of this rather unexpected tale of… werewolf women (sorry to spoil it) comes to fruition. This one is definitely the most special effects intensive, and it’s pretty gruesome as well. There’s a lot of horror movie obligatory ass and boobs, and it turns out to be just a tease (no full on sex in this movie! shocking!).
The fourth entry is about a group of mischievous pre-teens attempting to prank a mentally handicapped girl who is obsessed with Halloween. They decide to use the town’s tragic story of a bus driver who killed an entire bus worth of handicapped kids to spare their parents the crushing embarrassment of having less than perfect children as the basis for their prank. They head to the abandoned quarry where the incident occurred and dress up as ghosts in an attempt to scare their unsuspecting victim. The prank backfires when it turns out the quarry actually is haunted (go figure) and the pranksters end up at the mercy of the ghosts who for some reason or other, have turned into flesh-eating ghosts (ghost zombies? zombie ghosts? couldn’t really decide). I liked this entry a lot because of the whole tragic back story and all, and it had a really well executed build up, just like the vignette about the serial killer principal.
The final story, and the most brutal of them all in my opinion, is Sam’s attack on the bus driver from the previous story. The bus driver really detests Halloween, likely because of his general dislike for children (well he murdered a whole bus worth of kids, he’s not exactly fond of kids) and perhaps because decorating his shitty house and giving out free candy in a town that clearly has a hard-on for Halloween is too far beyond him. The story basically plays out with Sam going apeshit on the old geezer for reasons unknown (either because of the bus driver’s dark past or his lack of Halloween spirit). Sam really enjoys candy, and it turns out giving him some is a temporary way to establish peace (as is true for most children). Sam’s a pretty cute killer kid, until of course his burlap bag face is removed and you see that he looks a lot like Pumpkinhead or some sort of Elephant man hybrid. There’s not a lot happening in this story, and it’s by far the weakest one. By this time, the movie has pretty much passed its prime anyways, so its no wonder they tacked this on at the end to sort of tie the different story lines together.
In summary, “Trick ‘r Treat” is a fantastic holiday feature. One that is basically one long fantasy sequence of the most twisted Halloween night ever. The design, the costumes, the decor, the art direction, and each scene is a loving homage to Halloween and all that it means to children and adults alike. The big question, however, is whether or not this movie can surpass “Halloween” as the ultimate Halloween movie. You know, the one you pop into your DVD player every Halloween night. I would argue that no, it doesn’t. I really think it’s a wonderful movie and it pretty much met all my expectations, but it failed to go above and beyond what I was hoping to see. It’s a great attempt at becoming the feature Halloween holiday film, but it just misses the mark. Otherwise, entirely enjoyable and extremely entertaining.