Starring : Anna Paquin, Brian Cox, Dylan Baker, Leslie Bibb
Director/Writer: Michael Dougherty
Rating : R for horror violence, some sexuality/nudity and language.
Here’s the perfect example of an overlooked gem. This film had a real tough time making its way into the hands of the public. Though it was supposed to be released on Halloween 2007, Warner Bros decided to withdraw it and reschedule it. Two years had passed and still no release date, so the studios decided to dump it as a direct-to-DVD release. And since Halloween was just a couple of days ago, this reviewer decided to get himself into the spirit of All Hallows’ Eve.
The plot interweaves four separate stories that take place on Halloween night, in a tight narrative similar to “Pulp Fiction”. There is the murderous principal Wilkins who enjoys Halloween perhaps a bit too much, five teenagers who bring an homage to the victims of what is known as the “School Bus Massacre”, Laurie, a 22-year old virgin dressed as Little Red Riding Hood, on a mission to find boys, and Mr. Kreeg, the old man that hates Halloween in a very “Scrooge” kind of way, and is about to get a close encounter of the painful kind with the Halloween spirit. I will not go to more detail about the plot, since A) there’s too much fun to be had from discovering the story while watching the film, and B) there are complete and very spoilerish synopsises on Wikipedia or IMDb.
Why am I so enthusiastic about this film ? Well, probably because the horror genre is so hopelessly taken with torture porn (see “Saw”) nowadays that it’s refreshing to be confronted with such a charmingly twisted and original entry in the genre. It’s a nostalgic look on how we used to be scared when listening to boogeyman stories. A return to basics. It’s about those sleeping-with-the-light-on-and-making-sure-the-closet-door-is-closed kind of frights that fill the darker side of our imagination. The film is not particularly scary (although, for some, I might not be a reliable source on this), but builds plenty of suspense and a constant atmosphere of dread. There is some gore, so squeamish types beware, but carnage is not the main focus here. It’s also very reliant on practical FX which I personally thought was a very nice touch, so no CGI here, thank god.
The story is pure Halloween love affair. As I understand, Michael Dougherty already made an animated Halloween short in 1996 called “Season’s Greetings”, so the man was just burning to get this one out. All four stories will be a familiar taste to fans of creepy TV show like “Tales from the Crypt”, but able writing and excellent visual handling help freshen up the standard material with style. Some might even identify a slight comic-bookish approach in the narrative. The one thing that I felt was missing was witty dialogue, but it’s not something you’ll necessarily miss. It’s a lot of fun to watch the stories unfold and tie-in into each other, making the chronology of events pretty jumbled but kept in order by familiar character run-ins so there’s no confusion. Also, the short length keeps the pacing running smoothly without any boring moments that might encourage a closer look at possible plot holes.
Overall “Trick ’r Treat” is definetly more treat than tricks. Everything is in place for a new Halloween classic, and there’s a good chance that not only fans of the genre will find it worth watching. So, Amelie, I’m saving money for you electricity bill, ‘cause you have to see this one.