Trick 'r Treat ReviewJoe Shaffer
Halloween is the one time every year in which you to dress like a maniac, demand food from your neighbors, and litter your frontage with all manner of paranormal decor. It's also not uncommon to purchase a certain kind of squash, remove its innards, carve a face into it, and place it on your doorstep with a candle, originally in the hopes of driving way vicious spirits and other mischievous monstrosities. If you've ever desired an educational video on why society observes these peculiar customs, I can think of no better specimen than Legendary Pictures' venture Trick 'r Treat, a horror anthology with four intertwining short stories and a brief wraparound narrative all focused on the odd traditions of Halloween.
According to the film, failing to keep your jack-o'-lantern lit could result in an attack from a swarm of zombie children. A similar fate also awaits those who refuse to hand out goodies, except in the form of a miniature demon named Sam, whose murder skills are only matched by his ability to blend in with other trick-or-treaters.
I would regale you with the premises of the other tales, but I think it would be better for you to discover them for yourself. Besides, the best part about the movie isn't just the stories that are on display, but the manner in which they unfold. Think of movies like Love Actually and Valentine's Day. Trick 'r Treat flows in a similar matter to them, only replace all the lovey-dovey elements and humping with nightmare fuel and supernatural beings. For instance, a story may pick up, deliver its premise, then cut to another tale at just the right time. Mostly, this occurs during a story's exposition, so you're not blue-balled, so to speak, when the terror begins. What's more is that the tales overlap in such a way as to facilitate little Easter eggs. For instance, Anna Paquin's character Laurie bumps into one of the characters from the introductory story, who also runs afoul of the major antagonist of the final tale, who in turn pops up in the primary entry, seen in the background attacking a crotchety old man. It's little touches like these that facilitate a sort of horror movie viewing zen: just sit back and enjoy the ride!
In some of ways, Trick 'r Treat is a throwback to horror flicks of the '90s. It's not afraid to shed a few gallons of blood, though it doesn't inundate you with an opulence of grue and gore. Best of all, it sports impressive, practical makeup and costume designs. While there is a tiny bit of CG, it's mostly limited to scenes where it's necessary. To wit, there's a very brief moment in a werewolf transformation in which you see the creature's spine begin to take shape in a quick, fluid motion. This isn't a phenomenon you could easily replicate with practical effects, and works wonders here with computer animation. The rest of the transformation, though, which involves the wolf in question shedding her fraudulent flesh as though it were a costume, is all accomplished with good old fashion latex, editing, and an actual lycanthrope suit.
The question that's probably on your mind, though, is whether or not Trick 'r Treat is scary. I'd say it's more of a fun film in vein of morbid anthologies like Creepshow and Tales from the Darkside: The Movie, with obvious nods to EC horror comics and their ironic climaxes. Sure, there is a bit of edge-of-your-seat tension, especially during one story involving a group of pre-teens pulling a savage prank on one of their peers by masquerading as undead creautres. Little do they realize, though, that the ghouls they're aping are actually within their vicinity, and still fairly pissed off about being dead... As the tweens attempt their escape they find their way barred, with only their semi-catatonic victim to rely on for assistance. There are a few other nail-biters and bits of creepiness, but the movie on the whole isn't as scary as it should be. Thankfully, it is an entertaining romp full of mayhem, and that's really all it needs to be.
Bolstering the experience is the use of decent actors and cleverly-written lines, and even some that are fittingly puerile. While those fired off during Anna Paquin's segment may not seem very intelligent, a return watch showed me that I had missed scores of implications as to what the story was really about. It made returning to that particular tale a second time all the more amusing. There are also a few fairly immature lines that I couldn't help but snicker at. For instance, a father attempting to hide a dirty secret in his backyard asks his son, who almost catches his father in the diabolical act, to "go inside and watch Charlie Brown." The kid, who couldn't be much more than nine or ten, shatters his belied innocence with, "Charlie Brown is an asshole." Something about the line delivery, the kid's attitude while spouting off unexpected profanity, struck my funny bone just right.
Trick 'r Treat is a very pleasant surprise. Based on its title, which features one of those "edgy" misspellings we've been seeing over the last decade or so, I wrote the movie off. After putting my discontent for any product that pluralizes itself with a 'z' or idiotically puts numbers in place of letters (damn sk8er bois...), what I found in Trick 'r Treat was a perfect love letter to old school horror and the lost art of producing horror anthology films. It was great enough of a film that I begged for a sequel right afterwards--me of all people! I usually detest the idea of taking a horror story further than its premise allows, but an experience like Trick 'r Treat is worth undertaking again with a collection of fresh tales. Thankfully, it seems Legendary is game for another flick. Good god, October 2015, will you get here already!?
Disclosure: We are provided copies of games from the game companies for some games that we review.