|The Plot: Trick ‘R Treat is a anthology film that covers five different stories and takes place over one Halloween night in Warren Valley, Ohio. A young married couple head home after a night of Halloween partying, but soon find out that it is always better to leave their Jack O’ Lanterns burning until the clock strikes midnight. The local school principal shows off his darker side as he treats a young boy to a poisoned treat and he must then dispose of the body without being caught by his neighbors or his own son. At the big Halloween bash in the middle of town a young virginal girl, on the search for a boy to take her to a Halloween party, is slowly stalked by a man who may just be a vampire. A group of kids gather up Jack O’ Lanterns in order to head down to the local rock quarry in order to summon forth the ghosts of several mentally handicapped children who were drowned in the water below the quarry, many Halloweens before. In our final story we follow a crabby old man that hates Halloween who finds out just why the season should be celebrated… because the young pumpkinheaded creature child Sam will come for you if you do not! All five stories are connected through various cameos and editing techniques and all tell the story of one very dark and horrifying night!|
Trick ‘R Treat is an exercise in retro storytelling mixed with today’s contemporary “twist” oriented culture. Although that might sound like a rather odd mix, it really isn’t when you sit down and watch the movie. There have been plenty of films out there recently that have employed big “twists” in their conclusions and the popularity of such devices have left many film fans rather cold. This is no doubt due to the fact that so many bad movies out there have used big twists in order to make up for their rather bland material. Myself, I take the center ground, if a twist is established and set up well then it can and will work. Trick ‘R Treat does not employ any singular twist that changes the direction of its script, but instead focuses on a seemingly endless series of twists throughout that never allow you to actually get your feet cemented on solid ground. Feeling much more like five stories ripped straight from a Twilight Zone script rather than the work of M. Night Shyamalan, Trick ‘R Treat continually keeps you off balance. The opening moments show a couple returning home from a night out on the town, but what is beautiful about the sequence is how Dougherty establishes this sense of unease by continually throwing faux-scares at the audience. He avoids simple jump scares in lieu of musical buildups that make the seemingly most mundane of actions seem spooky. Is that hand hanging in the tree a real human arm or is it simply a prop? What is underneath that sheet covering the mannequin? This opening segment perfectly encapsulates the endless series of bumps, scares and twists that are soon to be delivered.
Even though I hate for this review to turn into endless gushing, I can’t help but point out the difficulties in making a very solid anthology film. Few times do you see anthology films ever rise up to anything more than a good way to waste some time. While I love the Creepshow movies, Tales From the Dark Side and Twilight Zone: The Movie, these titles are not what I would call the very best of the horror genre. They are extremely fun pieces of campy entertainment, but I don’t think any one is what I would call “essential” or something I go back and revisit on a yearly occasion. They are the movies that if you catch them on cable, you’ll probably stop, watch and have a good time. Trick ‘R Treat, in the short time since I first watched it (a year now? a little longer maybe?), has become somewhat of a new classic in my eyes. It perfectly encapsulates the feeling and creepiness that Halloween can bring upon those who celebrate it. It is a movie where seemingly anything can happen and it isn’t afraid to ask you to participate and let your spookiest thoughts run free. If there is one thing that the movie takes from traditional horror classics, it is that. Trick ‘R Treat actually tries to scare you! It isn’t so conceded or post-modern that it refuses to sink down and ask you as an audience to believe in ghouls, ghosts and vampires. The movie instead takes its content very serious and even though there are humorous bits here and there, it isn’t afraid to simply try and be a scary movie.
On a technical scale, you really can’t fault the film. It is beautifully shot, features great actors putting in well received performances and also features a laboriously well crafted script that puts together these five stories throughout one night in such a manner that you and friends will find yourself discussing the linearity of the project for hours. What scene came first in the course of events over this one night, who was tied with whom, what is the reason for any one particular character’s reaction… it is certainly a horror movie with lofty goals and in my opinion it achieves them. I mentioned playing devil’s advocate earlier and I suppose I’ll go into that now. I think if there is anything that could draw someone out of the movie, it would be the number of twists and the very modern post-Tarantino style of editing. Horror purists could potentially find this slightly contemptuous, but I wonder if that wouldn’t be more a problem of their own rather than a problem within the film. For my own cinematic preference, I loved the witty script and the wild ride that it takes us on.