Review: Trick ‘r Treat

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 I know I’ve harped on this before, there are so few good horror movies these days. Exacerbating matters, it seems that whenever a film comes out that the genre community heralds as great (High Tension, Paranormal Activity), it’s never half as good as it’s been hyped up to be. I swear, sometimes it feels like the horror community is pulling my leg. Frailty? The Strangers? COME ON!

So please forgive me for being a bit hesitant about Trick ‘r Treat. I first saw it on a few “Top Horror Films of the Decade” lists, usually among such greats as Battle Royale and Shaun of the Dead, but never quite mustered up the interest to check it out. In my defense, the Netflix synopsis doesn’t sound particularly promising. The DVD artwork certainly didn’t help, either. Most sources feature a more classy cover, but this is what I was greeted with at the video store: Yech! It just screams “cheap, crappy straight-to-DVD horror movie”, and after working at a video store I know to avoid those like a Jerry Bruckheimer production. Not only that, but it spoils a major reveal in the film! Using this…

  I know I've harped on this before, there are so few good horror movies these days. Exacerbating matters, it seems that whenever a film comes out that the genre community heralds as great (High Tension, Paranormal Activity), it's never half as good as it's been hyped up to be. I swear, sometimes it feels like the horror community is pulling my leg. Frailty? The Strangers? COME ON!

So please forgive me for being a bit hesitant about Trick 'r Treat. I first saw it on a few “Top Horror Films of the Decade” lists, usually among such greats as Battle Royale and Shaun of the Dead, but never quite mustered up the interest to check it out. In my defense, the Netflix synopsis doesn't sound particularly promising. The DVD artwork certainly didn't help, either. Most sources feature a more classy cover, but this is what I was greeted with at the video store: Yech! It just screams “cheap, crappy straight-to-DVD horror movie”, and after working at a video store I know to avoid those like a Jerry Bruckheimer production. Not only that, but it spoils a major reveal in the film! Using this wretched close-up is yet another example of distributors going for the lowest common denominator, even if it means crafting horrible artwork that completely misrepresents the films themselves. In any case, I've now seen the Trick 'r Treat and I'm delighted to report that it's… pretty good! A strange potpourri of Halloween-themed stories, Trick 'r Treat's format is a little bit Creepshow and a little bit Crash (the Paul Haggis one, not the Cronenberg one). I really appreciate the way the it relishes the feeling of Halloween. It's far more focused on conveying the mood of the holiday than anything else, and the result is all the better for it. In fact, it's really less a full-on horror film and more of a Halloween film. A nice little mythology is built in its wonderfully breezy 82 minutes, and nothing is ever lingered on for long enough to be dull. Pretty much every horror trope is touched upon in at least one storyline, be it werewolves or zombies or vampires. The intertwining tales are largely consistent in quality, a rarity for this type of film. I also appreciate that they each take unexpected twists, and none take themselves too seriously. Everything is dark and grotesque while remaining fun and buoyant, a difficult tightrope act that first-time director Michael Dougherty walks with finesse. My only complaint with the storytelling is that the connections between the threads can feel a little contrived at times. I understand that keeping things connected makes for a more cohesive viewing experience, but at times it felt that the filmmaker was stretching it a bit. In a low budget film featuring mostly unknowns, major actors like Anna Paquin, Dylan Baker, and Brian Cox definitely stick out. Trick 'r Treat seems to exist in a strange realm between a studio theatrical feature and a straight-to-DVD release, and the amount of “major” actors is in line with that. Dylan Baker is fantastic (as usual), stealing every scene he's in. Seriously, folks, why doesn't this guy get more lead roles? Originally intended for theatrical release, Trick 'r Treat sat on the shelf for a full two years before being quietly dumped onto DVD. It should have been released, and it should have made a decent amount of money. This is a sad example of just what's happened to the genre today. Countless sadistic, hateful, lifeless garbage horror movies come out every year, but fun films like this get swept under the rug. “Fun” is the key word here, at the end of the day. Trick 'r Treat isn't a work of genius, it isn't even particularly clever or original, but it's entertaining and fun to watch. That's good enough for me. 7.00 – Good. 7s are good, but not great. These films often have a stereotypical plot or are great movies that have a few minor flaws. Fans of this movie’s genre might love it, but others will still enjoy seeing it in theaters. Trick 'r Treat is a very enjoyable, if slight, Halloween flick.