Each year we see the box office fight for control of the Halloween weekend as a way to ensure instant profits. While this formula has worked great for the Saw movies over the last few years – and to a lesser extent Paranormal Activity — it’s nothing more than a hare in the race to become this generation’s memorable Halloween movie. As time has gone on, it’s been more and more clear that Trick r’ Treat is that turtle destined to sit on the holiday throne and be remembered.
If you take four interesting short stories set on the night of Halloween that all interweave with each other nonlinearly and add a great cast, then you’re looking at a good film. Add flawless cinematic direction to the mix and the perfect blend of humor and horror, and you have a great movie worth many rewatches. As someone who severely dislikes most Halloween or horror movies I’ve ever seen, I can say with ease that Trick r’ Treat is a damn good movie even though it doesn’t take itself too seriously. If there’s one film to watch each year with friends during this month, this is surely the one.
If I had enough time and space in this review I could find something nice to say about every one of the dozens of characters who revolve in and out of the orange tinted spotlight of this film. The serial killer principle (Dylan Baker) who’s light-hearted as he offs his students, the one who hates Halloween (Leslie Bibb), the innocent tease (Anna Paquin) and her slutty guardian(Lauren Lee Smith), the child mystified by Halloween lore (Samm Todd) and the child (Britt McKillip) mystified by a boy, and also the crotchety old man who hates children (Brian Cox). All of these people have their own scenes that are delightfully dedicated to them, with an oligarchy of characters that could qualify as main characters. That’s more than most horror stories can boast, yet there’s still a dozen other great side characters I’m skipping over.
The solid cast and setup is backed by great writing, with this movie giving several great examples of how even just one believable and well written line can kickstart a scene and instantly keep your attention. We see kids actually acting likes kids and adults actually acting like adults, with none of their inappropriate and totally human moments get swept under the rug. While many films falter with their use of camera and storyboarding, this horror tribute movie knows its genre in and out from start to finish. It’s also so exciting to see some scenes from more than one angle that it reminded me of how little we see this effectively done in movies these days. Did I mention that this movie went straight DVD? It’s impressive even for a blockbuster hit – such a shame it wasn’t given the money it deserved.
Trick ‘r Treat is a film that’s about Halloween through and through. Candy and jack-o-lanterns aren’t just mood setters, but are instead part of the plot. The movie effortlessly speeds through unique scenes and then manages to be a benchmark when it delves into tropes we’ve seen before. Spooky landscapes? Check. Spooky urban legend? Check. Wes Craven, want to explain to us why you should be taking notes from such a flippant film? When a story that focuses on entertainment first and foremost still delivers more serious versions of scenes your film relied on, then your career is likely plummeting.
Instead of a simple “Monster/psycho kills everyone” plot we’re given a much more robust story that gets fleshed out before getting its flesh ripped off. We have killers come at us in more directions than we expect from the onset, but more than enough humor to balance things out. You never feel truly scared but there’s more than enough blood and horror to put the squeamish at unease. As for the one villain that’s meant to be the iconic symbol of the entire movie, he’s good but not legendary, which is one of the only things holding this movie back from being an elite film of its genre. It feels like the movie never intended for him to be anything more than a grim reminder to those who break Halloween traditions, but I think it was a mistake to not push him as far as possible on the audience’s vulnerable state.
I was expecting the use of color in scenes and their lighting to play a big role and I wasn’t disappointed. Grayish blue foggy quarries, houses glowing with orange ambience, and yellow bleached flashbacks that juxtapose calm moods with calamitous actions. One of the most surprising aspects of this film is how well the audio enhances every scene in the movie. There are often two sound effects for every one you expect to hear, with flames, smooches, blood, and growls being more felt than heard throughout the film.
On top of all this praise it even does two more things exceptionally well. I hate how some films will tease you with a sex scene only to have the woman turn out to be an evil succubus and go berserk and tear people from limb to limb. I get that these movies like to be a killboner, but at least Trick ‘r Treat has the decency to add a new twist. Likewise, people aren’t dumb enough to only shoot their pursers dead just once. Why that hasn’t become a precedent yet in all horror movies is beyond me.
I dare anyone to find a better direct to DVD movie. No, I’ll do you one better. I dare anyone to show me a better Halloween movie, because most of them suck and I’ll gladly watch anything as good as this over the weekend. This is an instant Halloween classic. There’s only about five scary movies that I don’t despise, and this is high on that list. The ONLY reason someone shouldn’t see this film is if they’re too young and not ready for its many adult themes. There are certain Christmas movies we’ll watch every year with our family until we die, and it’s great that we finally have the Halloween equivalent that everyone can love.
Overall Score: 7.00 — Trick ‘r Treat is an enjoyable, if slight, Halloween flick.You can read his full review here!