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 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.
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’
“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
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.
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
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.
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