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Trick 'r Treat
For those of you who love Halloween and don’t mind your horror served with a wicked sense of humor, you need to watch Trick ‘r Treat. This film was released “straight-to-video” last October after two years of delays, but I couldn’t tell you why. Did Warner Bros. drop the ball on this one? I think they could have made a ton of money off a proper theatrical release (think of all the fans that have been waiting for this), so I honestly don’t know what they were thinking.
This is a slick-looking horror anthology in the style of Creepshow and Tales from the Crypt but chooses to focus solely on the traditions of Halloween (and what happens to those who don’t heed its customs). The cinematography is excellent and makes this film a treat for the eyes, and the young cast does a fantastic job of adding to the fun and scares that take place on this very special holiday.
Writer/director Michael Dougherty manages to capture the essence of Halloween with this film and he does it by sticking to the basics – costumed kids, jack-o’-lanterns and a few well-placed monsters. Repeat viewings will reveal cracks beneath the glossy surface, but this is a movie about the joys of Halloween so (as long as you’re not looking to get scared) it won’t disappoint.
All four stories take place in Warren Valley, Ohio, a town that takes Halloween very seriously (they host a huge annual parade), though we don’t know how serious until we’re introduced to its strange inhabitants. We have the junior-high teacher carrying on a family tradition, a group of kids who play a prank on a Halloween-obsessed outcast, four fearless young women looking for a good time and a grumpy old man just waiting to die.
Dougherty expertly weaves together these four tales and it all works very well but the non-linear format was a little confusing during my initial viewing. Using the town parade as a reference point helps separate the intertwining storylines, as does the introduction of Sam (the boy in the burlap mask) who is a recurring character. His purpose isn’t immediately clear but it soon becomes obvious and serves to ground the four stories, adding that extra bit of Halloween magic to this movie.
However, while this approach works well in furthering the narrative and bringing the town to life, I felt it also distracted the viewer from the quality of the four tales. The first time I saw this (a couple of weeks before Halloween) I loved everything about it but after watching it again recently, I realized that two of the stories are far superior, in my opinion. It’s not that the other two are terrible but they weren’t as good as I remembered and just didn’t have enough going on to keep me invested in the characters.
Of course, since this is a horror anthology, we usually have our personal favorite story, so this is a minor gripe against an otherwise fine Halloween film. There was one other thing that I didn’t like involving Sam but that would ruin the last part. Most importantly, though, this is a film that was made by someone who loves Halloween and horror movies, someone who’s probably a lot like you and me but has a knack for storytelling and a dark comedic sensibility – this is horror that doesn’t take itself too seriously but is still satisfyingly creepy.
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