Trick ‘r Treaters
As you can imagine, I fucking love Halloween. (I’m already decorating and working up ghoulish craft projects and have several parties to figure out costumes for, and it’s still almost a month away.) So every time October rolls around, it pains me to think just how few great Halloween-set horror movies there are.
Well, the end to my pain has arrived in the gory, twisted, and wonderfully wicked candybag that is Trick ‘r Treat, quite possibly the awesomest Halloween movie ever made.
All apologies to Laurie Strode, but there’s a new sheriff in town!
Smashing together a series of interrelated stories in one small Ohio town on Halloween night, Trick ‘r Treat manages to cover just about every Halloween trope (evil kids, poisoned candy, trick-or-treat terror, pranks, vampires, werewolves, ghosts, pumpkin fetishists) in 82 brisk, lollipop-colored minutes. And although the movie decidedly is NOT for kids, it has the smarts to admit that children are an integral part of the holiday … for better or for worse.
Spooky kids on a bus to hell? Sweet!
The main stories – each of which is wonderfully ghoulish on its own – involve a suburban serial killer (Happiness‘s Dylan Baker brings the creepy yet again), a gaggle of girls out to party (including True Blood’s Anna Paquin, minus the blonde hair and accent), a group of kids out to collect jack-o-lanterns for a ghostly purpose, and a town legend involving a schoolbus full of kids who died on Halloween.
While each of the stories holds up on its own merits (like the best of your Creepshows or Tales from the Crypt rightfully should), half of the fun of Trick ‘r Treat is in seeing how the various threads interconnect, which they do in very clever and unexpected ways. The result is an anthology that feels not just like a series of independent stories set on Halloween, but a complete picture of what makes this holiday so beloved, so dangerous, and so much damn fun.
Sam he am.
And I shouldn’t leave someone out here (at my own possible peril), as he also serves to connect the various tales: A little trick-or-treater in a burlap pumkin head and orange pajamas who may very well be the true spirit of Halloween. Meaning: Don’t cross the little bastard, or it’s tricks for you.
Aside from the ghoulish goings-on in the actual stories, what I loved most about Trick ‘r Treat is just how well it nails the atmosphere of a classic small-town Halloween night. There are jack-o-lanterns galore, candy rains from the sky and everywhere you turn there are costumed kids, false scares and surprises among the blowing autumn leaves. The production design and visual style of the film are pure, classic Halloween, which gives a great foundation for the twisted stories that are to follow.
And trust me, they are twisted. Brutal, bloody deaths and an alarming number of dead kids are just two of the things that set Trick ‘r Treat far apart from the Goosebumps! specials that have been the closest thing to real Halloween horror that we’ve seen for – oh, a few decades? (I think Lady in White was the last good Halloween horror movie, and even that feels a bit Hallmark Hall-of-Fame.)
Really, when you hear a kid shout “Charlie Brown’s an asshole!” in the first ten minutes, you know you’re not in Dolly Madison-sponsored country.
Dylan Baker and friend.
The only thing wrong with Trick ‘r Treat is that it has been dumped onto DVD, two years after it was supposed to be released theatrically by Warner Bros. I have no idea what the hell happened there (I can only imagine that the edgy subject matter and gleefully wicked tone posed some problems for marketing), but it’s a damn shame. Seriously – this is a fun, great-looking movie that has more right to be on screens every Halloween than whichever chapter of the fucking Saw franchise happens to be shat out that year.
Aside from Paquin (who, thanks to True Blood, is the biggest star in the cast) and Baker, Popular vet Leslie Bibb and Battlestar cutie Tahmoh Penikett show up in one segment, and the always-awesome Bryan Cox (L.I.E., Rushmore) plays an important role in the film’s final act. But appropriately enough, this movie – like the holiday that inspires it – belongs to the kids, and all the young actors do a great job playing out their incredibly disturbing storylines.
Tahmoh Penikett finds a trick
I had high hopes for Trick ‘r Treat (I’ve been hearing about how great it is for years now) and I’m thrilled to say that I wasn’t disappointed. As wicked as the worst witch and as much fun as the funnest funhouse, Trick ‘r Treat is an instant Halloween classic.
RATING (OUT OF 5):
Trick ‘r Treat is rated R for horror violence, boobies, harm to squash, and serious disregard for the safety of children and Popular alumns. It’s also fucking awesome and is available on DVD as of October 6th.