Directed By: Michael Dougherty
Starring: Dylan Baker, Anna Paquin, Lauren Lee Smith, Brian Cox, and a bunch of other people I didn’t recognize and couldn’t have been bothered to pretend to care about.
As with any review, I’d just like to point out before I begin that there is a great possibility of spoilers. If you’re really not interested in having the movie spoiled for you, then it’s probably best to avoid this review! I could try to avoid the plot, but what’s the fun in that?
Trick ‘r Treat is one of those films that didn’t get a wide release, but had quite a bit of internet buzz around it. I remember seeing the trailer sometime around 2007, but the film didn’t actually get released here in Canada until August 2009. So perhaps any lucky American readers that wander here may have had their hands on this movie much longer than their Canuck friends from the north. I can assure you, we are shaking our internet fists at you.
The film itself is broken down into sections: the opening, the four separate story sections, and then the closing. Unlike many horror films, it doesn’t focus on one specific protagonist, or around one antagonist. It contains four separate stories that are kind of “glued” together by one specific character that I was calling Sack Head or Creepy Kid throughout, but upon looking it up, is named Sam. I’ll talk more about his character later though.
I suppose before I can talk about anything else, I should explain the plot of the film first.
The first act centers on Principal Steven Wilkins, who is a serial killer. We get to see Wilkins poison a large, obnoxious, ginger kid who probably had it coming (the evil principal thing is my favourite TV/film principal cliché – think Snyder from Buffy). And don’t worry, Ryan and I covered all the “gingers have no souls” jokes whilst watching the film. What I really like about this act is the sequence where Wilkins is trying to bury not one, but two bodies (one of which is actually alive), which is an extremely humorous scene. Not only does he have to try to fend off his neighbour’s dog, but try to act inconspicuous as his neighbour comes outside. Plus, his annoying child keeps yelling out at him from his bedroom window (“Daddy when are we going to carve jack o’lanterns?” etcetera), so it was entertaining watching him try to deal with all those elements. This scene also had my favourite line of the film. Wilkins’ son keeps yelling from the window, and Wilkins yells up that his son should watch Charlie Brown. The son yells back “Charlie Brown’s an asshole!” Yes he is kid, yes he is.
The second act is about a group of pre-teens collecting jack o’lanterns as a type of “sacrifice”. I really thought they were going to try to summon the Great Pumpkin or something – which would have been super cool. The sacrifice is actually for their town’s legend: The School Bus Massacre. Every horror movie town has a legend it seems. Apparently this town frowns up on the special needs, as apparently the parents of eight special needs children had hired the bus driver to drive them into the rock quarry many years ago. It turns out however, that the group of stereotypically mean preteens were trying to scare a very odd girl named Rhonda. Following the natural progression of a horror movie fake out – the ghosts of the dead special need kids emerge and start attacking, and the only one to survive is Rhonda, as she ascends to the top of the quarry in the lift. I love when the outcast gets revenge in films.
The third act is primarily about Laurie, dressed as Red Riding Hood, who is self-conscious about being a virgin. That means in horror film logic that her friends need to fix that problem immediately. After separating from her sister and friends, she goes wandering through the woods alone (a very “uh oh! Don’t go in there!” moments). A masked man appears (who actually appears in an earlier transition – having killed a young woman), and starts to attack Laurie. Back at the promiscuous bon-fire in the forest where Laurie’s sister and friends wait, we see a figure thrown violently into the crowd of people. Another horror film fake out ensues, and it is actually the man who attacked Laurie, who appears mostly unscathed from within the forest. Two more fake outs ensue, and the masked man turns out to be Wilkins, and Laurie and her friends turn out to be werewolves.
The fourth act is about the town’s crazy, creepy, old man who lives alone named Kreeg. The simplest of the acts, he ends up being attacked by the Creepy Sac-Head Kid, AKA Sam. I have to say, there’s nothing more entertaining in a film than an old man fighting a creepy kid. Kreeg manages to shoot Sam with his shot-gun (which was the best part of the movie), and he takes off Sam’s mask to reveal his true face – which is what I think looks like a hybrid of a pumpkin and the ugliest child in the world. Let’s just say it is not attractive. Yet another fake out, and it turns out Sam isn’t dead. It looks as though Sam has the upper hand and is about to kill Kreeg with a broken pumpkin lollypop (don’t ask). Sam stabs him, and yet another fake out ensues, and it turns out he stabbed a large chocolate bar that had somehow fallen onto Kreeg’s chest. I suppose Sam took this as an “offering” of sorts and leaves. The camera pans over to Kreeg’s fireplace, and it shows some pictures burning, including one of the bus from the bus massacre, with all the special needs kids standing in front with the driver – leaving us to believe Kreeg was the school bus driver.
The opening and closing scenes are basically the same – showing one or two characters from each scene (Rhonda walking with a jack o’lantern, a car full of the werewolf girls back in human form, Wilkins son sitting on the deck handing out candy dressed like his father, as well as Kreeg opening his door). At the end you see Kreeg opening his door for trick-or-treaters, and it is the ghostly corpsified special needs kids he drove off of the quarry all those years ago.
The characters of the film were overall pretty entertaining. But considering that we never spend much time with one character or one group of characters for an extended amount of time, it’s hard to really care about what happens to them. This is both a good and bad thing. There were few characters that I felt I could relate to, and I often found myself saying “kill him! Kill him!” But the lack of emotional attachment also made the film very entertaining. I found myself trying to guess what was going to happen, without worrying if my “favourite” character was going to get hurt. I had fun watching it, rather than feeling scared or nervous. The only character I felt anything for was Rhonda. I’m not sure what was weird about her; she may have been special needs, or just a very peculiar girl. In either case, I was happy she survived – maybe because I felt sorry for her. And out of all the other characters in the film, she was the only who deep down wasn’t an asshole and probably didn’t deserve to get hurt.
Sam/Creepy Kid was overall a pretty interesting “antagonist” (if you can even consider him that). He wears a shabby costume and a burlap sack mask, and conveniently shows up in every story. I’m gonna be honest, if a kid came dressed up like this to my door on Halloween, I’d probably kick him in the face for being so creepy looking. I know that’s violent, but meh, it’s Halloween. I did some research about this character, and apparently he appeared in a short film the director had made way back when in 1996 called Season’s Greetings. Throughout the film he seems to be silently watching the mischief and horrors that unfold, but it is revealed that he also punishes people. Now I was talking with Ryan during the beginning of the film, so I didn’t really notice that there were traditions that “need to be followed” during Halloween – whoops, my bad. Looking them up, the rules are: handing out candy to trick-or-treaters, wearing a costume, and never blowing out a jack o’lantern before midnight. I think his character is interesting, however, I think the “rules” that he is supposed to enforce or uphold (and punish those who don’t follow them) are just plain silly. It seems that this character picks and chooses who he wants to punish and who he doesn’t. Why does he leave fate up to some people and punishes others? What exactly is he supposed to be? I suppose in movie logic it works, but that was something that always annoyed me. I suppose I just wanted the movie to explain that more.
Overall I did enjoy the film, but I didn’t think it was scary. Sure it had a few moments where I jumped up a bit, but I never thought the film was scary. To me it was more of a comedy than anything. That’s not really a bad thing either – the movie uses a bunch of horror film clichés (such as the “oh no, the phone lines are out!” bit) and basically makes fun of itself for it. Plus it has fun with twisting the normal tropes of the genre and in doing this it didn’t feel stale and overdone. The amount of fake outs was a bit annoying sure, but it also seemed fitting for the film. At least with the fake outs, the “twists” they were different, or at least trying to be different. Also, one thing I really enjoyed about this film was the opening titles and the credits sequences; there was a really beautifully drawn comic-book style to them, and considering how the film was laid out, I thought it was a very fitting. The soundtrack was really great in my opinion as well. I noticed about half way through the film that a recurring theme for the score was “ring-around-the-rosie”, which is just a creepy sounding song as it is.
I would definitely recommend this film for most people. It really isn’t scary at all, but it is very entertaining. I think for the most part the writing was really well done, and there are some genuinely funny moments in the film. Though I spoiled all the plot, it’s still a fun watch.
ScareMeter: 1.5/5 “My pants are still dry and I’ll have no trouble sleeping tonight”.
Overall Movie Rating: 4/5