Sunday, May 8, 2011

Trick 'r Treat Review

Who to Know
Director...............Michael Dougherty
Writer..................Michael Dougherty

Dylan Baker........Steven Wilkins
Brian Cox.............Mr. Kreeg
Anna Paquin.........Laurie
Quinn Lord...........Sam

The Story Goes...
It's Halloween night in a small town, and we follow four spooky stories as they unfold throughout the evening. One common link for all of them is the presence of Sam, a supernatural enforcer of the rules and traditions of Halloween. The tales tell of those who are punished for breaking traditions, and those who are spared for following the rules.

My Thoughts
Trick 'r Treat was one of my recommended DVDs in my rental queue, and it just happened to be on the watch instantly feature as well. I've always been a fan of anthology horror movies, especially those put out by Amicus in the 70s such as The House that Dripped Blood, and Tales from the Crypt, so I decided to give this one a shot. Honestly, I wasn't expecting too much out of it seeing as how this is director/writer Michael Dougherty's first shot at directing a feature length film, and it is also a direct to video release. Much to my surprise, not only does Trick 'r Treat display a more than adequate level of competence in it's production, but it is also very entertaining to watch.

Unlike many horror films that use a framing device, many the characters in each of the individual stories in Trick 'r Treat encounter each other throughout the film. To get an idea of what I mean, think about how the characters in Pulp Fiction have their own separate stories, but they often run into each other as the film progresses. This isn't to say that Trick 'r Treat is anything like Pulp Fiction, but they are similar in that one aspect. 

Besides the characters bumping into one another, the one common link between each story is the presence of a demonic sack-headed trick-or-treater, Sam, who is forever making sure that people follow the rules of Halloween. The penalty for ignoring the traditions of Halloween is often the punishment of death, as per the Gospel according to Sam. The tools that he uses to kill his victims are customized pieces of candy, such as a sucker that has been bitten off to form a point, or a candy bar with a razor blade inside. 

As far as characterization goes, they are well developed, which something that can be rare in many horror movies, and they are each interesting and contribute to the story. It feels as though Dougherty actually cared about the stories and characters that he was creating, and made an effort to avoid the boring stereotypes that we've all come to know and hate. Even the seemingly played out horny college age girls add something to the story, and are not just sheep waiting for the slaughter. I personally find it more frightening when interesting people are placed in scary situations, than when stupid or tired stereotypes are.

One aspect that sets Trick 'r Treat apart from many other similar films is Dougherty's willingness to have children be killed. I honestly was somewhat surprised to see this because it seems to be considered taboo by many filmmakers to have underage victims. I'm not saying that children need to start becoming the victims of psychotic killers in every slasher film, but it really did seem work for this film. After all, in many campfire stories that kids tell each other there is usually some legend about a kid falling victim to a monster or psycho as the setup. This just seems like a visual extension of those stories. If you're sensitive to that type of thing, then just be aware that children do die in this film. 

I could honestly see Trick 'r Treat becoming a classic, as well as a yearly tradition for those who love to watch horror movies during the Halloween season that don't focus on torture. It contains a level of campy-ness, without being stupid, that feels somewhat like a throwback to the 80s, which I think many people might enjoy.  In fact, you may notice scenes that are very similar to classics from that era. I like to think that it is more of a nod than a direct rip off, but I'm sure that there are others who would disagree. 

This is one of those movies where it just seems like everybody is having fun making it, and because of that we have fun watching it. Trick 'r Treat shows that even somewhat unoriginal stories can be enjoyable when told with passion.

Trick 'r Treat should be a real treat for those who enjoy classic spooky tales, and camp-fire style scary stories. I've read other comments that say that this film reminds them of Creepshow. I can see how the comparison could be made, but aside from the fact that they're both anthologies, I don't really find them to be that similar. I am more reminded of the HBO series Tales From the Crypt from the late 80s and early 90s because to me they have a similar look to them. 

For those of you with smaller children, this is definitely an R rated movie because of violence language, and there are a couple of quick topless shots. Also, for those of you who are sensitive to scary material, there is really nothing terrifying about Trick 'r Treat. It does have creepy moments, and there is a scene where Sam and the cranky old Mr. Kreeg are having a battle, but it is far from slasher type material. It's really just a fun movie with a good mix of atmosphere and comedy. 

Trick 'r Treat is definitely worth seeing. Just kick back with a nice cool glass of pumpkin ale, and enjoy the ride.

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