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October 7, 2009

Trick 'r Treat

2008, Dir. by Michael Dougherty.

As you've probably noticed (and it should at least be evident by my posts over the past week), most of us horror nerds identify the entire month of October as a month of terror. But the real night of demons is Halloween, the night when the boundary between the living and the dead is said to be the weakest - the night when evil just might be able to make a stand against the living. This is the night horror films are made of. And Michael Dougherty's deliciously macabre Trick 'r Treat knows that all too well.

Most are qualifying this film as an anthology, as it weaves multiple stories together, but it's more along the lines of a twisty Tarantino film than something like Creepshow. The film introduces us to characters that range from a school principal with dark secrets (Dylan Baker of Spider-Man 2), a reclusive old man (Brian Cox of X2), a girl who's sick of the dark holiday (Leslie Bibb of Iron Man), and a young woman who's scared about her first time out partying with her sister and their mutlicultural and demographic pleasing friends (Anna Paquin of the X-Men series). Was anyone in this movie NOT in a Marvel comics adaptation? (If it makes y'all feel better, Dougherty co-wrote X2 AND Superman Returns, and little Quinn Lord who appears in each if the film's stories appeared on Smallville; so DC got some alumni in. Needless to say, there are comic book elements to this film.) The characters all inhabit a small Ohio town on Halloween night and their Halloween experiences, which each have their own horrific effect on others, aren't likely to let them through the night without facing some kind of terror.

What I absolutely loved about Trick 'r Treat was how it managed to bring together so many horror favorites in one place. There's talk of vampires and werewolves for the monster fans, and there's talk of next door serial killers and creepy town murder legends for the realists. There're things that could be seen as zombies or demons, too, but it's all up to the viewer to put the pieces together as they go. It's not likely you'll have a full picture of the film during your first viewing, but by the end things will tie together beautifully. I watched the film again after I'd finished my first viewing, and loved seeing things that I didn't understand the first time become more relevant. Believe me, this is a horror film you'll want to see more than once.

I wouldn't necessarily say it's a scary film, but there are elements that are definitely surprising and the character that ties everything together (which the credits calls "Sam", probably for the Samhain origin of Halloween, of course) is a fantastic creation that I'm guessing will be an iconic image in horror before long. It's also got some gore and a bit of nudity, but these aren't the focal points of the film. In fact, I'd say this is as close to an old-school/pre-slasher craze horror film we've gotten in a long time, and the moments that fit these recent horror cliches don't detract from the film's purpose at all.

That purpose, in my eyes, is presenting the power of Halloween as a cultural phenomenon and reminding us that, just maybe, there are some unexplained things out there that we better not taunt. And it succeeds in every regard. Trick 'r Treat is one of the most gratifying new horror films I've seen in a long time, and I don't doubt it'll build a strong following leading up to this year's Halloween...and hopefully into future Octobers, too. This is a can't miss film that definitely earns a spot in The Mike's Legends Series.


Hey! Look Behind You! said...

Wow, I totally didn't even pick up on the X Men/Superman theme going there. I know a lot of the actors from other things. Dylan Baker will always be the tuna fish guy in Happiness to me.

The Mike said...

Yeah, I only went with Spidey for Baker and Iron Man for Bibb to fit with the X-Men connections. I'd have gone with Fido for Baker, but I haven't seen Happiness yet.

Braden said...

Yep, freaking loved this one. I really can see it becoming a Halloween classic.

: said...

Yeah, this "love letter to Halloween" was a big hit in my house. Can't wait for the sequel!

(BTW: am I just incredibly weird, or was the scene in the woods with the "coven" sexy as hell? OK, yeah, I'm weird)