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TRICK ‘R TREAT

The resurrection of the horror anthology film format was kicked off in part by this Halloween-set five-parter from 2007. It’s garnered a strong following, although in actuality the film is only medium-strength (sorry: the truth hurts, I know, but truth it is).

The Package
     The attempt here seems to have been a Halloween-themed variant on CREEPSHOW, complete with the animated comic book overlay of that film.
     The inception for TRICK ‘R TREAT was writer-director Michael Dougherty’s 1996 animated short SEASON’S GREETINGS, which featured the same protagonist, a freaky orange pajama clad kid named Sam. The feature version was produced by Bryan Singer, for whom Dougherty scripted X2 and SUPERMAN RETURNS.
     The film was quite popular upon its DVD bow in October 2009, having been held off the market for two years and foregoing a theatrical release. A sequel was reportedly in the works but (as of 2013) has yet to materialize.

The Story
     After unwisely blowing out the candle in a jack-o-lantern before midnight on Halloween, a woman is stabbed to death by an unseen someone in a sheet outside her house.
     From there we segue into “The Principal,” centered on the creepy Principal Wilkins. Catching the portly young Charlie stealing candy, Wilkins gives the kid a candy that turns out to be poisoned. After vomiting up the equivalent of a small puddle Charlie dies, and Wilkins buries the corpse in his back yard. But Wilkins’ son Billy wants help carving a jack ‘o lantern. Wilkins obliges, helping Billy carve up Charlie’s severed head.
     In “The School Bus Massacre Revisited” a bunch of kids revisit the site of an alleged school bus accident that occurred years earlier, when eight severely retarded children, cast off by their parents, were driven into a lake--a tragedy only the bus driver survived. The kids visiting the site play a mean trick on the mentally challenged Rhonda by dressing as ghouls and scaring the you-know-what out of her. But the tables are turned when the ghouls haunting the area turn out to be real, with Rhonda holding the key to her friends’ survival.
     “Surprise Party” features the 22-year-old virgin Laurie out on the town with her more experienced girlfriends. Fed up with their sexual banter, Laurie breaks from the crowd to walk on her own through a dark forest. She’s stalked by a creep dressed as a vampire, who kills one of Laurie’s friends but is in for a surprise when she rejoins her surviving companions. The girls, it turns out, all harbor a macabre secret.
     In “Sam” the mean old Kreeg, who hates Halloween, is terrorized by a pudgy guy wearing a sack over his head. During the struggle Kreeg rips off the sack, revealing an inhuman jack-o-lantern faced creep, apparently the personification of the festival of Samhain. “Sam” (taken from Samhain even though the correct pronunciation of the word is Sah-win) is punishing Kreeg for his lack of Halloween spirit, and for the fact that, as we eventually learn, he was the driver of the aforementioned deadly school bus.

The Direction
     A generally good film, this: it’s fast moving (a necessity considering the 79 minute running time) and quite slick given director Michael Dougherty’s amateur status. The film also boasts some first rate actors, including Dylan Baker, Anna Paquin and Brian Cox (thanks no doubt to the clout of producer Brian Singer).
     Dougherty’s scripting is strong and imaginative, with a definite EC Comics flavor. This gives the film a curiously schizophrenic vibe, torn as it is between determinedly old school comic book origins and a very modern grunge overlay (with a soundtrack featuring The Raveonettes and Marilyn Manson). Another oddity is the structure, which interweaves its five segments rather than presenting them in linear fashion. An interesting idea, but it fractures the time stream in a PULP FICTION-ish manner, resulting in various characters reappearing in different segments and often seen walking around after they’ve been killed.
     Also, I cold have done without the final shot of a TRICK ‘R TREAT comic book, a none-too-subtle advertisement for the actual tie-in graphic novel.

 
Vital Statistics

TRICK ‘R TREAT
Warner Bros/Legendary Pictures

Director: Michael Dougherty
Producers: Bryan Singer
Screenplay: Michael Dougherty
Cinematography: Glen MacPherson
Editing: Robert Ivison
Cast: Dylan Baker, Rochelle Aytes, Brian Cox, Anna Paquin, Quinn Lord, Lauren Lee Smith, Tahmoh Penikett, Moneca Delain, Brett Kelly, Britt McKillip, Isabelle Deluce, Jean-Luc Bilodeau, Leslie Bibb, Patrick Gilmore, C. Ernst Harth, Christine Willes

     

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