There are times when I hear of a film that, having played at a few test screenings, or possibly film festivals, gets shelved because the reaction wasn’t up to the standards the filmmakers had set for themselves. Other times, the film is so wretchedly awful that the chance of it ever seeing the light of day seems as dim as the dark room the celluloid was developed in. There are even times when a film was unable to pick up distribution upon completion, for a whole myriad of reasons.
Today’s film falls into the later category.
Upon hearing of the film some time ago, I’d wrongfully assumed it to be a remake of Trick or Treat (1986) or Trick or Treats (1982). When I learned about the production of the film, and its lack of distribution, I wrote it off as another horribly contructed film. However, I soon began to hear rumblings of how enjoyable the film was, and noticed it being mentioned in other film blogs and articles.
For reasons that defy understanding, I forgot about the film as its DVD release came and went, only briefly becoming aware of it again periodically, usually around this time of year.
Recently, I began recieving notices that Legendary Pictures was going to be screening the film on Youtube via Facebook, with a live Q+A to follow. My ears perked up, I cleared my schedule, and decided to add my review to this series on 31 frightful films. When I learned of it taking place on Halloween, I knew it would be the final entry in the series.
I’m so glad I that waited.
31 Days of Films and Frights – Day 31: Trick ‘r Treat
Director: Michael Dougherty
Cast: Anna Paquin, Brian Cox, Dylan Baker, Tahmoh Penikett
Country: United States
Specs: 82 mins. / Color / OAR 2.35.1 / MPAA Rating: R
Rating: ★★★★★ / A
An anthology of four stories, connected by their occurance on the same city block on Halloween: A neighborly high school principal harbors a dark secret, a college virgin seeks to find the man to share herself with, a group of youth take a trip to the site of a deadly accident, and a curmudgeon old man gets more tricks than treats.
Right from the start, I knew I was going to enjoy this film. Dougherty pays a somewhat homage to one of my favorite films that take place on Halloween, by utilizing a POV shot of a killer in a mask (Halloween). The suspense alone in the opening scene is so well directed, and edited, that I was on the edge of my seat before the opening titles had even begun. When they did, they also were cleverly executed, standing out from the current glut of horror films for its homage to another classic horror anthology (Creepshow).
The script, stripped from the visual tropes of a cat jumping across the path of an unsuspecting victim from the trash cans just off screen, and absent of the musical cues meant to invoke a gutteral reaction of fright, still manages to hold its suspense, delivering twists and turns in the vein of a classic Tales From the Crypt tome. The stories are tightly interwoven, creating a cohesive overarching plot to an otherwise unrelated group of shorts, sans the Holiday in which they occur. Very well done.
As for the aforementioned visuals, the cinematography from Glen MacPherson (Rambo, The Final Destination, Exit Wounds) is dark and atmospheric, perfectly framed to maximize the effects of the most haunted of holidays. The costuming is original, creating an iconic character (that which is on the poster) sure to join the ranks of a Freddy Krueger, Pinhead, Leatherface, and Chucky.
While the gore is a bit over-the-top, it is far from gore porn. It strangely didn’t feel gratuitous, blending in well with the comical undertones the film delivered, much in the same way Sam Raimi did years ago with his Evil Dead trilogy.
The acting also was exceptional, which wasn’t surprising given the calibre of talent Dougherty brough into the fold. The cast easily handled what could have been camp, were the roles in the hands of less experienced talent.
The most enjoyable aspect, for me, was the fact that it takes place on Halloween. Most horror films which many would associate with the frightfully festive day have nothing to do with the actual day itself. Here, Dougherty, who also serves as screenwriter (Urban Legends: Bloody Mary, X2, Superman Returns), focuses on the traditions of the holiday, as well as the mythologies often associated with same. Thankfully, he crafted a wonderfully entertaining addition. An addition that deserves to be, and will be, viewed again and again, for many years to come.