Chris: For the last month we’ve covered almost every horror movie genre, from creature features to werewolves to zombies and back again. The one that we’ve left out–until today–is still one of my favorites: the portmanteau (or anthology, if you like.) Making interconnected short story horror films has been part of the genre for as long as I can remember. Any horror fan of a certain age had their childhood terrorized by the Trilogy of Terror and poor Karen Black and that evil Zuni doll. I’m just as fond of Creepshow, which seemed to be on a constant loop on cable back in my teenage years. For today’s final entry in our survey of the golden age of horror films, we’re finally doing one of these movies, an underrated and gloriously enjoyable entry from 2007. (Yes we moved it out of order to save it just for today. What harm is there in messing up the order of things?)
After the jump, be careful, there are rules
Chris: Somehow last year we inexplicably ran out of movies on October 30th, and I was determined to set that right this time around. I mean, what’s Halloween without a good scary movie? Especially one that’s this much silly fun? I don’t know how in-depth we’ll want to get with a movie that’s clearly a Bernie Wrightson-inspired comic book brought to life. This set of interconnected stories is interesting, surprisingly well-acted (if in an over-the-top, comic book-ish way) and marvelously entertaining. While it feels almost like a kids’ movie, the R rating it carries tells me it’s meant for us nostalgic adults who still give great sway to our inner 14 year olds.
Grandy: In the lands I hail from, discussion of Trick ‘r Treat would begin with a very specific focus: has Dylan Baker never played a serial killer before? How is this even possible? For my money he’s a pretty terrific character actor. Looking over his IMDB list he’s played the asshole corporate/bureaucrat type less than I thought but it’s a testament to him that when I think of those types he’s one of the first guys that pops into my head. Him as a killer just seems like a match made in heaven. The second thing my people would discuss is that the balance between horror and comedy is difficult to get right. Regardless of the type of horror a movie is aiming for.
Bill: I love this movie’s ’80s sensibilities. Its total embrace of cheesy dialog and situations. Its sincere attempt to put the fun back into Halloween. But mostly, I love Sam. He’s a demonic enforcer who shows up in a town every October 31st to ensure that the rules of Halloween are followed. He brings with him other supernatural events (hence the other stories in this anthology), and punishes those who fail to live up to his beliefs as to what Halloween is all about. He appears as a small child in a Jack o’ Lantern costume, and he’s adorable…until you cross him. If it were up to me, Sam would be the official Halloween mascot. I mean, come on. Easter inexplicably has a rabbit, and Christmas has an obese elderly dude in a red coat and pants. Halloween needs Sam to balance out the universe.
Grandy: this is one of the most ’80s horror movies I’ve seen in ages (note: I have a copy of The Hole – not the adaptation of the Guy Burt novel, the other one – to watch and I hear the same thing said about it). Words will not explain how much this pleases me. Trick ‘r Treat would be right at home in a movie marathon featuring The Gate, Gremlins, American Werewolf in London, Fright Night. . . I could go on. I think what makes horror comedies work is that they tend to be fun, and they usually go for that over everything else. There’s no question this is a movie that’s enjoying itself. Sam certainly lends it some great character, though I was less wild about the mask coming off (the custom is super creepy, particularly once he starts getting into “mischief”). It was a small issue, though, and certainly didn’t detract from the movie.
Bill: The Hole would be the perfect pairing for Trick ‘r Treat. It’s another film that utilizes old school special effects, and a ton of charm, to achieve a sense of nostalgia without relying on it.
Grandy: Another thing this movie does that I’m fond of is the seamless way it’s tales are woven into each other. The framing device is simply Halloween in a small town famous for having outlandish Halloween celebrations. We see the principles from each of the segments interact with each other here and there and call back to these scenes elegantly as we move from story to story (and sometimes back again).
Chris: That last bit where everything is circled back to the beginning is terrific, right? Even a fun horror movie like this needs some fake comic book gravitas, and I think the shot of poor Mr. Wilkins’ son on the porch in dad’s shirt, and sad, confused Rhonda pulling her wagon did that extremely well.
Bill: Michael Dougherty’s directorial debut sat on the shelves of Warner Bros. for almost two years for some reason. During that time, a handful of folks had a chance to see it, folks like Harry Knowles from Ain’t It Cool News. And they almost universally praised the film for being pure, Halloween fun on celluloid. I wish I knew the reason for Warner Bros. reluctance to release the movie, though. I’m betting it was Anna Paquin’s (one of the stars of the film) sudden popularity after the first season of HBO’s vamp series True Blood that caused the studio to finally release it. But whatever the reasons, I’m just glad it saw the light of day…or the dark of night, as it were.
Chris: Trick R Treat is the perfect Halloween movie, which is why we bumped it out of order and saved it for today. Once you’ve finally got the kids to come down off their sugar rush enough to put to bed…or once you’ve gotten home from that party…or once the doorbell finally stops ringing…go ahead and grab this delightful movie. Make a tub of popcorn, turn out the lights and snuggle up under a blanket and be thoroughly entertained.
I want to thank Barac, Bill, Grandy, Jason, and Rob for their terrific insight, time, and writing skills. It’s been an absolute joy to yap about horror movies with them–and with you–for the last month and we appreciate you for reading! Happy Halloween!
(Trick ‘r Treat is available to rent or purchase from the usual VOD outlets. Support Qt3 and use the Amazon link on this page!)