Year of Release—Film: 2007
Year of Release—DVD: 2009
DVD Label: Warner Premiere
Considering that Halloween is the celebration of all things frightening and horrific, it’s remarkable that, save for the franchise launched in 1978 by John Carpenter’s HALLOWEEN, relatively few Horror Films are devoted to our favorite holiday. Halloween might get a toss-away nod here and there, but I’m talking about using the day as the central theme of the film, as does Carpenter’s masterpiece of Holiday Horror. One recent film not only took All Hallows Eve to heart, but it did so in spectacular fashion. So much so, that it quickly became the Unimonster’s second favorite Halloween movie. That film is Michael Dougherty’s 2007 movie TRICK ‘r TREAT.
Written by Dougherty, TRICK ‘r TREAT is a cinematic vision of the lore, wonder, and fascination that surrounds Halloween, crystallized into a series of four vignettes interwoven into one story centered on a demonic trick-or-treater named Sam. Sam (short for Samhain, the Celtic festival of the dead that is the ancestor of our modern Halloween) is the personification of the holiday, watching over the festivities, and punishing those who lack the proper respect for the holiday and its customs and traditions. He’s present in each of the four stories, as well as visible throughout the framing sequences.
As in most anthologies, some of the tales are better than the rest, but that variation is not nearly as marked here. The opening sequence features a young married couple named Henry and Emma (Tahmoh Penikett and Leslie Bibb), who are returning from the evening’s festivities and their argument over the disrespect that Emma demonstrates towards the holiday’s traditions. The four vignettes that follow are, in order: The Principal, starring Dylan Baker as the principal of the local school, who has an odd way of celebrating the holiday; The School Bus Massacre Revisited, about a group of kids visiting the site of a mysterious tragedy thirty years before; Surprise Party, concerning a young woman’s (Anna Paquin) efforts to lose her “virginity;” and Meet Sam, in which a cantankerous, Halloween-hating old man (the always enjoyable Brian Cox) receives his just desserts. The film’s conclusion ties the segments together nicely, as well as provides a very satisfying finish.
Technically speaking, the film is remarkably well-done, with photography by veteran DP Glen MacPherson. Produced by Bryan Singer, director of films such as X-MEN, THE USUAL SUSPECTS, and SUPERMAN RETURNS, TRICK ‘r TREAT has a smooth, polished look that belies its $12 million budget, due in large part to Singer’s experience and guidance. One factor in that look that I especially enjoyed is the paucity of CGI; almost all the effects work was practical. The Unimonster is an old-fashioned kinda guy, and much prefers the magic of latex and rubber to pixels and megabytes. CGI, when perfect, can be spectacularly effective. Films such as STAR TREK and SUCKER PUNCH demonstrate this. However, perfection is both difficult to achieve, and tremendously expensive. If the result is anything less than perfection, then our eyes simply aren’t fooled. It may seem counter-intuitive, but often a $200 latex appliance can be more convincing than several thousand dollars worth of computer time.
The DVD, from Warner Premiere, is okay—skimpy on special features, but acceptable. The only bonus is the animated short Season’s Greetings, upon which the film is based. The disc does include subtitles, something I always appreciate, but the lack of a commentary track on the feature (oddly, there is one for the animated short) is an unfortunate oversight on Warner’s part. More information on the difficulties the producers had in finding distribution for this movie would be greatly appreciated.
For the Unimonster, there are certain movies that just define Halloween, movies that must be watched before the holiday ends or it’s just not Halloween. Carpenter’s HALLOWEEN, Lugosi’s DRACULA, the original THE THING FROM ANOTHER WORLD—these movies say “Halloween” to me. I do believe that TRICK ‘r TREAT will be joining that list this October … and for many Octobers to come.