This series of reviews counts down some of the best Halloween films of all time – not just scary movies, but ones that feature Halloween as a central theme. The entries will be counted down each day, with the number one pick published on October 31st. No star ratings, just consider all these films highly recommended.
It’s hard to believe that one of the most beloved horror films of recent years, a film that has developed a dedicated and enviable cult following, almost didn’t see the light of day.
Whether you buy the theory that there were vindictive forces at work within the studio, or whether you believe it was merely due to confusion and incompetence at the corporate level, the fact is that Warner Bros. dropped the ball when it came to TRICK ‘R TREAT. The film was set for theatrical release in 2007. Then it was pushed back a full year to 2008. Then it was being considered for limited release during early 2009, far away from the Halloween holiday altogether. During this time, it was shown at various film festivals, winning raves at every screening.
It was finally released as a straight to video product in October of 2009, with at least a little bit of an advertising push. It was a shabby way to treat a wonderful film. Seeing the success TRICK ‘R TREAT has achieved even given these modest circumstances, they probably feel pretty stupid for dumping it. They should.
TRICK ‘R TREAT is an anthology with a difference. Most anthologies are mixed bags. They are episodic by definition and some of the stories tend to work while others don’t. Remarkably, Michael Dougherty has created an anthology in which not one of the stories can be considered weak. Unlike others within this sub-genre, the film keeps up a frantic pace, only gaining momentum as it progresses. One of the ways he does this is in the ingenious way each segment is intertwined. Every story takes place on Halloween night and characters weave in and out of each other’s stories in a way that connects everyone’s fates.
A suburban area on Halloween night is the setting for TRICK ‘R TREAT. Children are trick or treating, adults are going to parties and others are dealing with unspeakable things behind locked doors. We’re treated to stories so filled with twists and turns that it would be difficult to even begin to explain them without giving away several juicy bits.
Despite the Halloween night in general, each story also focuses on legends regarding the customs of Halloween and the need to respect the dead. It brings old folklore seamlessly into the modern age. And like modern folklore, there is a bit of Old Testament-style justice doled out on wrongdoers.
Dougherty has crafted a perfectly delightful treat for the holiday. The film is great fun and brings a smile to your face, even as it gets gruesome as hell. Don’t assume that being attractive, naïve or even a child will mean you make it out of this one alive. This film is wonderfully and professionally shot. He gives each segment it’s own flavor while connecting it with the rest of the film. One segment that takes place at a foggy rock quarry is particularly gorgeous. Give kudos to Dougherty’s slick work and the interesting compositions from cinematographer Glen MacPhearson.
This is not a B-movie. TRICK ‘R TREAT has some serious pedigree behind it. Bryan Singer is listed as producer. The cast includes such luminaries as Dylan Baker, Brian Cox, Anna Paquin and Leslie Bibb to name a few. Not a one of them phones this one, everyone seems to get it. It should also be noted that several newcomers, such as Samm Todd, also turn in exemplary work. Nevertheless, this pedigree did not buy the film the respect it deserved.
Regardless of the reasons, what’s past is past. The fact is that TRICK ‘R TREAT is out there for everyone to enjoy It’s an endlessly inventive film that is essential viewing for anyone who loves Halloween for both its tricks and its treats.
– Rated R for horror violence, some sexuality/nudity and language.
– Running Time: 1hr 22mins.