If I can use the word "finally" twice: finally, this bloody gem of a movie got released into widespread media, and finally, an R-rated horror movie that has stories to tell instead of just a reel of splatter and menace. So many people forgot that Tobe Hooper had a sense of humor when he changed the face of horror with Texas Chainsaw Massacre. But not Michael Dougherty, first-time director, and writer of Trick 'r Treat, the movie I just giddily sat and clapped through. (He also wrote X2, the second best superhero movie.) As a horror, it doesn't travel past tense, and as a comedy, it doesn't have any jokes, but as a multi-threaded amalgam of genres, it takes the cakehole. Think of it as Are You Afraid of the Dark, Motherfucker? And now, submitted for the approval of Cinemablend, I give you...
So this movie was produced by Brian Singer, and it was perhaps due to the disappointment of Superman Returns, also written by Dougherty, that Trick 'r Treat sat on a dilapidated shelf for the last two years. Well, maybe the shelf wasn't dilapidated, but Warner Bros. sure fucking is. Have they watched the last four/five (depending on your reading) Saw movies, or maybe the donkey punch of Godawful remakes that are popping like popping corn, including one called Donkey Punch? Smart people are begging for something original. Anna Paquin, in all her ehh glory, is in this. What kind of idgit studio isn't smart enough to capitalize on her mainstream horror fame? The same ones who made Looney Tunes: Back in Action, I suppose.
There are several stories interwoven into the burlap fabric of Trick 'r Treat, all of which take place on the same Halloween night. I will logline them for you now. Keep in mind that there's a time-shifting storyline that allows characters to intersect into other stories. Dylan Baker plays a Halloween fancier named Steven, whose son also fancies the holiday, albeit more for the treats than Steven's tricks. Sounds good, right? Dylan Baker is an amazing actor, as goofy as that is to say. He never gets the steak roles, but he pounds the shit out of the ground meat. He treats a little bugger named Charlie to a chocolate bar or 12, and immediately, the movie's tone is well spoken for. This isn't a Shaun of the Dead-style horror comedy. There's literally no sunshine, and there's not a lot of metaphorical light to be found. You only laugh if you want to laugh, but you're supposed to laugh.
Actually, the movie begins/teases with a fairly generic "girl (Leslie Bibb) does something alone while guy (Tahmoh Penikett) waits for nookie" scene. While it sets a horror tone, silly as it is, Dougherty displays his directorial style for this flick, which isn't original, but is epic shots, in the Hollywood style. It doesn't look indie in the least. So tell me why it's direct to...okay, okay. Next up, we a group of young teens who attempt to play a prank on a semi-slow "pumpkin-carving savant" girl in the neighborhood. It consists of a ghost story involving a bus crash killing eight children. These really all sound straight out of the Alvin Schwartz "Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark" series, but those were the best of the best, and so is this. Urban Legend was a pathetic take on the always interesting folklore angle of horror. "And in her hand, a spot of blood resting below, was the tinsel he gave her." Or something like that. Awesome.
Next, there's a small group of sexy 20-somethings who are all out to get Anna Paquin's Laurie a guy to get her groove on with. But maybe that's not what she wants to do with her groove. The girls are dressed as fairy-tale heroines, but they couldn't be farther from it. Specifically, some of the wordplay that goes into these scenes plays out much funnier later, when all is said and done. It's refreshing to not hear "Bon Temps" vomited out with Paquin's shitty Southern accent. The gals attend a party, and the party gets some kind of hairy there for all the fellas.
Lastly, there's the most horrific/hilarious section, devoted to an almost unrecognizable Brian Cox as Mr. Kreeg, a codgerly asshole neighbor of Steven. He takes on something beyond his wildest imagination for treating Halloween as something to dread. He maybe has a reason to dread it. It's so strange to see Cox playing this haunted ghost of a real human being, and the ridiculousness of everything that plays around his Scrooge-like face.
Great production values with this movie. I can't think of any effects that would have been done digitally, and the practical gore is top quality. Not the largest amount of blood is shed, but the blood that arrives is never gratuitous. Well...anyway, I can't wait to see Dougherty do more, and while I'd love for his work to stay within the genre, I'm sure he's going to go on to bigger, brighter things. The score, as well, is just spot on. A lot of strings, both bass heavy and streak-streak-streak! Light piano work really does wonders in accompaniment. It looks good, sounds good, reads good, plays good. And isn't Halloween, outside of Rob Zombie's destructive fingers, a more delightful celebration for horror than say, Friday the 13th or Prom Night? Bloody hell it is.
The disc is bereft of further original entertainment. It's a shocking thing, considering everyone has been sitting on it forever and a day. The movie itself is top quality, and so is the Dougherty short film, "Season's Greetings," an animated bit he made 10 years previous. But I'd already seen it online before the movie was supposed to have come out two years ago. Incidentally, it's still online, making a disc purchase relegated to only hardcore fans, of which I am, but I can wait until it's in a $7 dollar bin. I'd pay $7 easily.
Just to mention it, the short film is really good and creepy in a cute, childish dark-shaded way. It features the sack-headed boy, Sam, who's on the cover of the DVD. He plays majorly in the movie, but I didn't want to say where. He's always afoot. The animation pegs the boy's intentions, and the movie pulls out all the stops using the same tone. Watch it with a group of your likeminded buddies, and chug and chortle along to the spook-naughty that is Trick 'r Treat.