Release Date(s)2007 (October 9, 2018)
Studio(s)Warner Premiere/Warner Bros. (Shout!/Scream Factory)
- Film/Program Grade: A-
- Video Grade: A
- Audio Grade: A
- Extras Grade: A+
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 film that was scheduled to be released way back in 2007 and had 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 film built up tremendous anticipation among horror fans thanks to positive festival screenings. Was it worth the wait? Absolutely. Dougherty’s film is a little gem and an instant new Halloween classic.
The film 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.
Scream Factory gives Trick ’r Treat a second go round in a Collector’s Edition Blu-ray release, which contains a “new 2K scan of the original film elements supervised and approved by director Michael Dougherty” – what those elements are aren’t mentioned, but since the film was shot relatively recently on 35mm film, it would be safe to assume that the original camera negative was involved. The previous Blu-ray was released in 2009, and surprisingly, this new release gives it a bit more punch. Everything appears solid and clean throughout with good contrast and deep blacks. The color palette is varied, but a bit more solid in places, particularly when it comes to reds and oranges. Flesh tones are a little pinker and there are no damage or instability issues whatsoever. The audio comes in two options: English 5.1 and 2.0 DTS-HD, with optional subtitles in English SDH. Both tracks offer up plenty of sonic clarity. Dialogue is clean and clear, but score and sound effects get more of surround push on the 5.1 track, particularly ambient activity. Overall, this is an excellent A/V presentation, and a nice upgrade over its original high definition counterpart.
The extras selection includes a mix of new and old material, including an audio commentary by director Michael Dougherty, concept artist Breehn Burns, storyboard artist Simeon Wilkins, and composer Douglas Pipes; a new series of interviews conducted by Ballyhoo Motion Pictures with Dougherty, Burns, Wilkins, Pipes, and podcaster Rob Galluzzo, which act as an hour-long, pseudo-making of: Tales of Folklore & Fright: Creating Trick ’r Treat (16 minutes), Tales of Mischief & Mayhem: Filming Trick ’r Treat (20 minutes), Sounds of Shock & Superstition: Scoring Trick ’r Treat (11 minutes), and Tales of Dread and Despair: Releasing Trick ’r Treat (8 minutes); Season’s Greetings, the original 4-minute animated short that inspired the film, with optional audio commentary by Dougherty, which is presented via a “new 2K scan of the original 16mm elements”; Trick ’r Treat: The Lore and Legends of Halloween, a 30-minute documentary narrated by Brian Cox about the origins of Halloween and how they inspired the film, which includes interviews with many members of the cast and crew; School Bus FX Comparison, which is a visual effects breakdown of the school bus crashing over the cliff; 17 minutes of additional scenes with optional audio commentary by Dougherty; a storyboard and conceptual artwork gallery containing 229 images; a behind the scenes still gallery with 158 images; an 18-page recreation of the Monster Mash story from the Trick ’r Treat: Days of the Dead graphic novel; all 15 Fear.net promotional shorts; and the film’s theatrical trailer.
Trick ’r Treat is unadulterated spooky fun and the most purely enjoyable horror film 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. Scream Factory’s new Blu-ray release of it is quite solid and essential Halloween viewing. Highly recommended!
– Dr. Adam Jahnke (with Tim Salmons)