John’s Horror Corner: Trick ‘r Treat (2007), blowing away critics’ expectations
MY CALL: 77 minutes of impressively nuanced Halloween anthology goodness with diverse effects and expertly interwoven stories. This movie blows away expectations. MOVIES LIKE Trick ‘r Treat: Some other fun, decent and/or clever anthologies include (in order of release date): Black Sabbath (1963), Tales from the Crypt (1972), The Vault of Horror (1973), Creepshow (1982), Twilight Zone: The Movie (1983), Stephen King’s Cat’s Eye (1985), Creepshow 2 (1987), Tales from the Dark Side: The Movie (1990), Necronomicon: Book of the Dead (1993), Campfire Tales (1997), 3 Extremes (2004), Trick ‘r Treat (2007), Chillerama (2011), Little Deaths (2011), V/H/S (2012), The Theater Bizarre (2012), The ABCs of Death (2013), V/H/S 2 (2013) and The Profane Exhibit (2013).
This fun little Halloween romp includes several interwoven stories. Unlike most anthologies, all of the stories herein share the same writer and director (Michael Dougherty; only feature film as director). So, also unlike most anthologies, there is a more consistent level of quality as we move from one short story to the next and there is no obvious beginning or end to each segment–instead they all overlap one another quite well. So much so, in fact, that some would even argue that this isn’t really an anthology film. Like in Creepshow, comic-book text boxes flag-post story shifts as light comedy and some downright silliness shine through to keep us smiling. After all, who said Halloween couldn’t be both gory and light-hearted? Mixed among the stories is a nice variety: vampires, werewolves, zombies, serial killers and midget monsters.
Here is a brief summary of the stories:
1. Four girls in cleavage-rich fairy tale costumes go out on Halloween night seeking manly fare. The girls are played by Anna Paquin (True Blood, Scream 4, Darkness), Rochelle Aytes, Moneca Delain (Lost Boys: The Tribe) and Lauren Lee Smith (Pathology). Paquin plays the shy virgin among a pack of experienced man-eaters.
Well, as we know, Disney always has been generous in the cleavage department.
Whoa. There’s a change up. From innocent school girl (above) to R-rated Van Helsing extra (below).
2. A bus driver attempts to kill a bus full of mentally disturbed children and sort of succeeds. This event (which is told as a scary story) is linked to a mean prank that some kids pull. The kids include Britt McKillip (Mission to Mars) and Jean-Luc Bilodeau (Piranha 3DD).
What’s down there? I’m guessing a trick.
3+. The overarching intro-to-closing story observes trick-or-treating and trick-or-treaters or all ages in a pleasant neighborhood. Pleasant, that is, until people start dying at the hands of a strange diminutive murderer and a kid-killing school principal. This “story” features really more than one story of its own and the cast features Leslie Bibb (Hell Baby, 7500), Dylan Baker (The Cell, Fido) and Brian Cox (Zodiac, The Ring).
Dylan Baker is pretty handy with a carving knife. Check it out, fat kid from Bad Santa.
While not “maturely” or seriously presented, the writing felt sound, credible and free of any flaws that would provoke criticism. Great, in fact, for this kind of movie. A finer detail in this film is the effective use of jack-o-lanterns as a symbol of death. Pay attention to what happens after someone blows a jack-o-lantern’s candle out. Also note that the bus driver and the principal each find themselves in more than one story. Also pay attention as a murderer’s child dresses as the murder, complete with a blood-stained shirt after murdering someone earlier in the film! Now that is META!
A fine job was done with the special effects. There’s no CGI (that I can tell) and every nuance worth showing got plenty of skillful attention. The gore includes geyser-like vomiting, bloody bodies, severed heads, rubber guts, broken legs with exposed bones, stacks of corpses and a breasty flesh-stripping transformation scene. I really dug the artistic license taken on the werewolf transformation scene! It may seem a little dumb to horror fans at first glance, but it was done VERY well and it mingled fantastically with the “girls in slutty costumes” theme; they literally “stripped” off their human skin to reveal the wolf within. Given the tone of the movie and the scene, it felt perfect.
It saddens me that Michael Dougherty (the man behind this tactful movie) hasn’t done anything in years. I’d like to think he’s working on his next horror masterpiece. But I fear he’s fallen into obscurity.
This is far more worthy than any anthologies of the last 20 years in terms of overall quality. So take the time this Halloween to enjoy this light-hearted masterpiece.