Cinema/TV, Film Notes

Film review – Trick ‘r Treat (2008)

My notes on Trick ‘r Treat (2008).

Not quite an anthology horror movie in the Amicus sense, this does offer a handful of interlocking stories which take place over a Halloween night in a small town where the celebration is taken seriously – it leaps back and forth a bit in time, with a prologue that comes near the end of the tale, a couple of moments were we see events from different perspectives, a long narrated flashback about a local Halloween atrocity which naturally brings in its revenges (twice, actually) and a signature creature in the kid-sized Sam (Quinn Lord), whose spherical scarecrow mask closely fits his pumpkin head (and originated in writer-director Michael Daugherty’s short Season’s Greetings).

The major stories involve: a) a mildly irritable school principal (Dylan Baker) trying to bury the corpse of one of his more obnoxious pupils (Brett Kelly, meaner than in Bad Santa) in his back garden before he can ‘carve the pumpkin’ with his sweet and seemingly innocent son and being distracted by all sorts of things, including his crotchety neighbour Mr Kreeg (Brian Cox); b) a group of mid-teens in costumes traipse out to the old quarry, where a school bus driver once got rid of a class of mentally handicapped kids in costumes by driving them over the edge – it’s all a cruel prank played against ‘idiot savant’ Rhonda (Samm Todd), who is suitably terrified but calms down when the dead kids rise from the flooded quarry as bedraggled vengeance-seekers; c) a gaggle of girls in cute costumes chiding most virginal friend Laurie (Anna Paquin – who wears a Company of Wolves-look Red Riding Hood costume and is presumably named after the Jamie Lee Curtis character in Halloween) about her reticence in bagging a guy, especially since they’re all practiced at ensnaring passing horny clod trade for a big party – the set-up and dialogue all make it sound like a girlie American Pie equivalent, but the cherry Laurie has to pop isn’t sexual (spoiler – the chicks are all werewolves!); and d) the Halloween-hating Kreeg’s home is invaded by Sam (for Sam Hain), who chases the grumpy old man around the place in the manner of the standout terror-by-pint-sized-monster episodes of Dan Curtis’s Trilogy of Terror and Dead of Night omnibus films, with a nice late revelation that all the gruesome vengeance can be avoided by simply giving the creature what it wants (candy!).

In addition, vignettes feature a tired wife (Leslie Bibb) wants to take down the decorations too early, which riles Sam, and a masked vampire (or perhaps two) who stalks through the revels leaving drained corpses among passed-out costume-wearers: the ingenuity extends to having double- and triple-payoffs so that miscreants who escape their own stories come to grief in later anecdotes. It has its eerie moments, but is mostly nasty-minded fun, with the worst things happening to horrible people, even if this requires disproportionate EC Comics-style vengeance – unusually for such a light horror film, it’s willing to kill (and dismember) children in a manner which goes beyond the punishments meted out by Oompa-Loompas. With a few standout comic performances (Baker and Cox, especially, manage the fine line between sweet and hateful – while Paquin amusingly destroys her own image as a trembling, hesistant, cleanly sexy monster) and a lot of nice visual ideas, this is an enjoyable throwback to a time when nastiness didn’t preclude entertainment. I hate that ‘r in the title, though – which is presumably there to distance the film in IMDb searches from the clutch of other movies called Trick or Treat.


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