WARNER BROS. PICTURES (2007)

Director: Michael Dougherty

Starring: Dylan Baker, Rochelle Aytes, Quinn Lord, Lauren Lee Smith, Monica Delain, Tahmoh Penikett, Leslie Bibb, Anna Paquin, Brian Cox

Trick or treat. The phrase heard up and down streets everywhere just once a year – Halloween.

 

It’s a time to bask in the spooky traditions of old, a night where the dead are freed from their eternal prison, where kids and adults alike dress up, pumpkins are everywhere and the orange and black festivities are rivalled only by Christmas. In the small town of Warren Valley, Ohio, everyone is joining in the parties and having a great time – if they’re not, they might just get a visit from Sam, and with five interconnecting stories, he's going to be busy tonight...

Taking the concept of different stories occurring on the same night at the same time is a fun idea that Trick ‘r Treat handles wonderfully. At first, everything seems standard, nothing jumps out as connective tissue but by the end, everything is brought together very cleverly. Sitting alongside slashers, gore flicks, torture porn and rehashes and redos, this movie stands alone simply by being original, not relying on the schlock to sell the film, more about the storytelling and the atmosphere – and that’s what it’s all about.

 

Each individual story is full of great imagery, an engaging story, the right amount of creepiness and an element of fun without straying into camp territory. The great opening scene sets the bar for what to expect and is effective at grabbing attention with the use of the covered crucified manikins and each story would make a good longer-length feature as a stand-alone effort. Nothing is left untouched when it comes to celebrating everything Halloween – there’s pumpkins everywhere, candy, trick or treaters, revellers in costume, orange and black decorations and pretty much every Halloween nasty you can think of, all watched over with a silent menace by Sam, the keeper of Halloween traditions. The movie has created a horror icon with the orange pyjama, burlap sack wearing scoundrel, and has a look synonymous with the season. Respect the rituals of Halloween and you’ll be safe.

 

Not reliant on gore or cheap tactics to chug the movie along, Trick ‘r Treat builds atmosphere via the music, locations, storytelling and great ensemble performance from the cast. The creepy old house, the woods, abandoned quarries, the street parties – all are used as the movie unfolds and each has their own personalities that create a visually lovely movie, the vibrant oranges and costumes offset against the dark night are beautiful.  The score by Douglas Pipes is full of character and hangs above every scene, allowing it to breathe whilst gently adding to it. The cast all club together and give great performances, Dylan Baker is suitably creepy as the murderous principal, Cox puts a lot into his physical scenes and Anna Paquin floats with a subtle grace – until the twist of course. Each character is interesting, and that’s without any unnecessary backstory or exposition.

 

Managing to cram all of the stories successfully into a concise runtime (1hr 22mins) and still create an appealing story is testament to the writing and direction of Dougherty. As mentioned, each story is crafted well and fun to watch, even if some of the beats can be spotted before they happen and there are messages galore throughout – about the traditions, respect, being wary of strangers and also about just having fun – Dougherty brings a passionate, nostalgic look to a loved time of the year.

 

Entertaining, creepy, interesting, well-crafted and fun – Trick ‘r Treat is a love letter to all things spooky and delivers a great Halloween flick and, also, a great horror movie too.

 

Just respect Halloween and you’ll be safe…

October 31st 2016

© 2016 Matt Hudson / What I Watched Tonight / Essex

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