Release Date(s)2007 (October 6, 2009)
- Film/Program Grade: A-
- Video Grade: A
- Audio Grade: A-
- Extras Grade: B+
While there is no shortage of spooky fare to liven up your Halloween, it’s a bit surprising how few movies deal specifically with the holiday itself. After all, you can only watch the adventures of Michael Myers so many times, especially when the desired number of viewings for some of those later installments is less than once. (I would, however, put in a vote for the unfairly maligned Halloween III: Season of the Witch... well worth checking out despite its reputation.) Michael Dougherty attempts to fill the void with Trick ‘r Treat, a movie that was scheduled to be released way back in 2007 and has been in virtual limbo until Warner Bros. decided to push it over to the direct-to-video Warner Premiere label.
Despite its less-than-confidence-inspiring history, the movie built up tremendous anticipation among horror fans thanks to positive festival screenings. Was it worth the wait? Absolutely. Dougherty’s movie is a little gem and an instant new Halloween classic.
The movie is a Creepshow-flavored anthology with a twist. The individual stories bleed into each other, with characters from one story appearing in another and narrative leaps that allow us to revisit characters after they’ve met their demise. Dylan Baker gets top billing as a school principal who hands out more than candy to neighborhood kids. In another story, four kids play a prank on an introverted classmate (Samm Todd) that goes horribly awry. In a third, Anna Paquin dons a Little Red Riding Hood costume and finds herself targeted by a masked and caped Big Bad Wolf. And finally, Brian Cox appears as a Halloween Scrooge tormented by the spirit of the holiday itself, a pumpkin-headed trick-or-treater named Sam (Quinn Lord).
For those of us who grew up loving creature features and things that go bump in the night, Halloween is wrapped up in more emotional childhood memories than any other holiday. The world seemed different on Halloween. If there was even the slightest chance that the fantastic stories we loved could come true, then this was the one night a year it might happen. There’s a childlike sense of play about the holiday, shared by young and old alike, but it’s also extremely ritualized. We might not have understood why we carved pumpkins, dressed in costume and asked for candy from strangers, but deep down we felt that we were participating in an ancient rite. Michael Dougherty gets all that. More importantly, he nails the unique feeling of wonder and excitement that Halloween brings. Trick ‘r Treat is unadulterated spooky fun and the most purely enjoyable horror movie I’ve seen in years. The genre has been unrelentingly grim for too long. I think these dark and grimy horror flicks have a place but I’m delighted to see someone rediscover the lighthearted pleasures of simply telling a well-crafted scary story.
On Blu-ray, Trick ‘r Treat looks spectacular, with crisp detail, sharp contrast and amazingly deep colors, especially the vibrant, saturated orange and red tones. The Dolby TrueHD 5.1 sound also impresses, creating an active soundscape without losing dialogue or the subtleties of Douglas Pipes’ score. You also get a handful of fun bonus features, starting off with a feature-length commentary from Dougherty, Pipes, concept artist Breehn Burns and storyboard artist Simeon Wilkins. The track pulls off the difficult task of being both entertaining and informative. You learn a lot but the guys keep things light and amusing throughout. More than anything, they sound like they would be great people to work with. You also get some additional scenes and the nifty animated short Season’s Greetings that introduced the character of Sam, both with optional commentary by Dougherty. There’s also a brief fx comparison for the school bus sequence, as well as a fun featurette on The Lore and Legends of Halloween. Finally, for those who like their movies “fast, easy and portable”, a digital copy disc is included.
Trick ‘r Treat has been a long time coming and I hope it is finally able to reach the audience it deserves. Horror fans, skittish at having been burned once too often, may not be willing to believe the hype produced by two years of anticipation. Everyone else might not be eager to take a chance on a direct-to-video horror flick. None of you have anything to worry about. I look forward to enjoying Trick ‘r Treat every October for many years to come. No matter what your Halloween traditions are, Trick ‘r Treat will make you want to carve jack-o-lanterns and get dressed up.
From all of us here at The Bits, Happy Halloween!
- Dr. Adam Jahnke