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Trick ‘r Treat

tn_trickrtreatTRICK ‘R TREAT got a little bit of the ol’ internet hype when it came out last Halloween. It’s a Halloween-time horror anthology written and directed by Michael Dougherty (co-writer of X2, SUPERMAN RETURNS and URBAN LEGENDS: BLOODY MARY). It was made for a 2007 theatrical release but then it got bumped and fell behind the shelf and got misplaced for a while. I believe it got shown at one of the doll collecting conventions or something so some of the internet websights got behind it, but ultimately it got released DTV. But it’s “Warner Premiere,” kind of a respectable DTV outlet, actually. According to their websight they “develop and produce quality, direct-to-consumer content including feature-length entertainment for the rapidly growing direct-to-DVD market,” which is press release talk for “sequels to THE LOST BOYS.” But they’re pretty respected for not having done any movies starring Cuba Gooding Jr.

TRICK ‘R TREAT is four different stories I guess, but not with title cards, and in fact they overlap and skip around in time a little, like PULP FICTION but with helpful comic book style “EARLIER…” or “LATER…”

They did up the opening credits like a comic book too, so I guess it’s adapted from a pretend comic book, like CREEPSHOW. There should be a best original screeplay not really adapted from another medium Oscar. Not that this would deserve such an award, but it would be a good category for it not to be nominated for.

mp_trickrtreatIt’s a pretty enjoyable movie though. What’s good is the Halloween atmosphere. They have trick-or-treaters, Halloween parties, decorations, costumes, pumpkin smashing. They talk about poisoned or razor bladed candy. They got murderers, town legends, ghosts and/or zombies, werewolfs, just not swamp monsters. They got all the age groups – trick or treat aged kids stealing pumpkins, teens looking for sex partners, a grown couple coming home from a party, and an old weirdo (Brian Cox). There’s a little guy with a bag over his head who seems to be nearby whenever anything happens, even in a long ago flashback. So he’s kind of the host, a mercifully pun-free Crypt Keeper.

The cast includes Anna Paquin, etc. One of the stories has Dylan Baker as a homicidal principal. I don’t know about anybody else, but I can’t see that guy in any movie without thinking “pedophile.” It’s not his fault, it’s just that he was so memorable in HAPPINESS. Sylvester Stallone will always be thought of as Rambo or Rocky, and Dylan Baker will always be thought of as a child molester. I mean honestly that’s probly why he got cast in this anyway. But it’s upsetting to see him poisoning Thurman Merman from BAD SANTA.

The way the stories overlap and intertwine is pretty clever. My favorite is during the Dylan Baker story, he’s hiding a body and gets yelled at by his neighbor through a hole in the fence. It didn’t occur to me that we’d later see that scene from the other side of the fence, or that the voice I was hearing was an actor I could’ve recognized, or that the character is the older version of another character we see in a flashback.

There’s a jack o’lantern burning during the opening credits, and that got me thinking about HALLOWEEN and how after part 2 Carpenter wanted to turn it into a series where each installment was an unrelated Halloween story, not another Michael Myers story. But that made me realize, in case HALLOWEEN III didn’t already, that that wasn’t a very good idea.

Anthologies can be fun, but are they ever great? I don’t think so. The ones people remember are mostly for one particular story. For example, I forget what was in TRILOGY OF TERROR besides that killer doll. Anybody remember off the top of their head?

Anthologies are almost always inconsistent.  The filmatists know one part of an anthology isn’t expected to be THE SHINING, so they’re never trying to make it that good. Would it even be possible? Probly not. And there’s usually gonna be at least one kinda stupid one that goes too silly or is just based around a pretty obvious groaner of a gag. In this one I’d nominate the Dylan Baker epsiode.

More importantly the format of an anthology just doesn’t allow a real deep scare. There’s not time to develop the characters so you feel like you know them, or to build a decent amount of suspense or tension, or to set up the pieces for a big thrilling climax. It’s a couple of quickies with a wraparound, usually just a misdirection setting up for an ironic/darkly humorous twist ending. It’s more like telling a joke than telling a real story. But that’s okay when you’re in the right mood.

I guess what I’m saying is that I want a whole meal out of my horror movies, but during October I don’t mind a couple snacks. TRICK ‘R TREAT is fun-sized horror. It tastes good, but then it’s gone so fast, and what is so fun about a smaller size anyway, I don’t consider that to be more fun at all, doesn’t seem like a very accurate name for that particular size.

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.

This entry was posted on Friday, October 8th, 2010 at 2:43 am and is filed under Horror, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

61 Responses to “Trick ‘r Treat”

  1. I thought that it was an interesting flick in that at least it tried to be different than a lot of modern horror movies that are extra cynical cash grabs in an industry that is already filled with cynical cash grabs…

    …the story with the kids in the bus was memorable in that it strayed into territories that most horror flicks won’t go into.

    It definitely exceeded my expectations and maybe only because I felt that the filmmakers were sincerely trying to do something good, which in today’s movie business is not always the case.

  2. if you want an utterly great Anthology movie, check out the anime movie Memories, even if you don’t like anime you’ll still love it

    it’s three unrelated stories and they’re all very strong and memorable

    I would also make the claim that Creepshow is a great movie, it’s one of my favorite horror movies anyway, the final story with all the cockroaches never fails to scare the shit out of me

    lastly there’s the Twilight Zone Movie, which is definitively not great, but a lot of fun (let’s not turn this into a debate over Vic Morrow’s death though)

  3. I actually remember the other stories in Trilogy of Terror pretty well, but only because I watched it again a few years ago with the specific intention of finding out what the other stories were. The whole movie was designed to show off Karen Black’s skill as an actress, which I think was probably a bad idea. So, she plays a chick with multiple personalities in one, and in the other one she’s a college professor who uses her psychic powers to seduce and murder her students. Neither is particularly good.

  4. I got a pretty good anthology horror movie most people haven’t seen, Necronomicon, which has stories loosely based on HP Lovecraft stories and has a wraparound featuring Jeffrey Combs as HP Lovecraft himself

  5. and speaking of Jeffrey Combs, a movie you should watch this October Vern is The Frighteners

    I re-watched it about two years ago having not seen it since it came out on video in the 90’s and it was actually a much better movie than I had remembered, it was not only Michael J Fox’s last theatrical movie, but also Peter Jackson’s last horror related movie

  6. it does however feature a painfully obvious New Zealand standing in for California

  7. I’ll still say that MURDER PARTY (2007) is the best Halloween flick after HALLOWEEN and the best urban horror movie since CANDYMAN. It’s got a great atmosphere – sorta like the opening TRICK ‘R TREAT story – and really ups the ante in the last 20 minutes or so.

  8. Um, can’t believe no one else is mentioning this but BLACK FUCKING SABBATH. Three stories, all of them great, each one progressively better then the last (at least if you watch it as Bava intended, as opposed to Corman’s hack job) and all three deliver at least as fright stories, and the Wurdalak has one of the most fucked up permutations of the vampire story ever. Plus crazy blue tinted Boris Karloff.

    The best is saved for last though with The Drop of Water, a super short but unbelievably affective chill scene that every horror fan should see just to know where Raimi got both the “Ash strangling himself” gag in Evil Dead 2 and several of the visual cues in Drag Me to Hell.

    Here’s a great write up of the film’s credentials by Messr. Quint of Ain’t it Cool: http://www.aintitcool.com/node/38189 Also I think the movies actually on Hulu if you have an hour and half or so to kill and really want the creeps piled on. Tis the season.

  9. CREEPSHOW is perhaps the only anthology movie with more than one memorable story – there was THE CRATE and… er-r… some other good ones. Have to look it up on Wikipedia, I guess.
    But my personal favorite is the BISHOP OF BATTLE segment from NIGHTMARES(1983). Emilio Estevez with a Walkman vs an arcade videogame… the eighties encapsulated!

  10. hey now, who doesn’t remember Stephen King himself playing a cartoonish hick who farm gets covered in fast growing weeds from space? or Ted Danson buried up to his head in sand?

    fun fact, the little boy who gets his comic books thrown away by his dad is Stephen King’s son Joe Hill, who’s also a horror writer (and a good one to boot)

  11. He’s getting better on a book by book basis. 20th Century Ghosts was really fun, then Heart Shaped Box was an incredibly well done ghost story (although it sort of faltered towards the end, just like his Dad’s stuff) and then Horns, Horns was amazing from beginning to end. Such a great concept, so wonderfully executed.

  12. If you put THE RAFT story from the second CREEPSHOW in the first one, you’ll get a pretty much perfect Stephen King movie.
    Joe Hill’s stories are decent but his novels kinda suck in a King-lite way, though.

  13. Uh, somebody actually liked Horns?

  14. I watched TWO EVIL EYES a few months ago, and you’d think an Edgar Allan Poe anthology directed by Romero and Argento and starring Harvey Keitel would have potential for greatness, but in the end, it’s really not all that memorable. I’d go as far as to say that Savini’s work on the zombie makeup is the only decent thing about the Romero part.

  15. Roachboy- Yes, yes I did.

  16. caruso_stalker217

    October 8th, 2010 at 4:27 am

    Wait… THE FRIGHTENERS was supposed to be set in California?? I thought it was just some weird part of New Zealand where everybody has American accents.

  17. Yeah, but THE BLACK CAT segment from TEE is among Argento’s best work, in my opinion. Great gore effects riding on Keitel’s profession (a macabre crime scenes photographer?), a nice Hitchcock homage, an awesome bat-shit insane ending (how do you hang a guy in modern times?).
    (Sorry about the river of posts – got absolutely nothing better to do right now.)

  18. caruso_stalker217

    October 8th, 2010 at 4:33 am

    CREEPSHOW is pretty damn good, as anthologies go. Not a stinker in the bunch.

    “I can hold my breath for a long, long time!”

  19. I saw THE FRIGHTENERS a million times and can’t remember that they ever mentioned where “Fairwater” was supposed to be.

    I gotta admit that I love anthology movies, BECAUSE they are so inconsistent. You’ll never know what you get and many of them feature very interesting failures. (Like the first and last episode of FOUR ROOMS).
    I also agree about BLACK SABBATH. Awesome movie.

  20. CJ Holden – I’m almost positive it was supposed to be California, but I am positive it was supposed to be set in the U.S. because the town was stated as being the “murder capital of the USA”

  21. “Mama let me in, I’m cold, Mama please…” Chills every time.

  22. oh yeah and the Frighteners was definitely set in the USA, that was supposedly a big deal that Jackson insisted on shooting the film in New Zealand even though it was set in America. Even with that said, there’s a whole lot of the Dead Alive type community pumping in that film’s veins.

    How come there aren’t more Halloween-themed horror films? You’d think there’d be a ton, but really there’s only a couple ‘serious’ ones, with the vast majority of Halloween movies being Disney Channel produced crap like Halloweentown or that one where the kids have a pet mummy.

  23. Never heard of Halloweentown, so I looked it up. Turns out the first one is directed by Duwanye Dunham, who edited Blue Velvet and Wild At Heart, the second one was directed by Mary Lambert, who directed Pet Cemetary and the third one was directed by Mark A.Z. Dippé, a.k.a. the man who gave us Spawn. Just…weird.

  24. Ace Mac Ashbrook

    October 8th, 2010 at 5:02 am

    Cats Eye, was that an anthology job? Just remember James Woods trying to stop smoking (or was that The Hard Way?), some guy kicking a pigeon off the ledge of a building and a little gremlin getting mashed up in a fan in a kids bedroom.

  25. Yeah, Cat’s Eye was another good one!

  26. Ace Mac Ashbrook

    October 8th, 2010 at 5:27 am

    Was it good? I don’t remember. The thing that stuck with me was a pair of boots under a rack of coats in a closet while James Woods was having a crafty smoke at his desk.

  27. I would rate Cat’s Eye as one of the very good anthology movies!

  28. I don’t know, Vern, I thought this one was surprisingly kinda scary for what it. I hear what you’re saying about letting the suspense build and all that, but sometimes long-form horror does the opposite and lets the suspense leak out. Sometimes it’s scariest when you just get thrown in there and you don’t know what to expect. I would point to some episodes of Tales From the Crypt or even to the Bryan Cox segment of this one.

  29. Also, the Tales From the Darkside movie has at least two good segments: the killer cat one and the big winged demon one.

  30. Ace Mac Ashbrook

    October 8th, 2010 at 7:47 am

    Brian Cox makes most things better!

  31. So you would say you’re a fan of Cox?

    Like, out loud?

  32. What can i say, i really like this movie.

  33. Black Sabbath has the scariest ghost ever, even more than Sadako and the ghosts of The Grudge.

  34. True, but to be honest, even I am scarier than the ghosts of The Grudge.

  35. I might be alone on this, but I like Tales From the Hood. Heavy-handed 90s social commentary mixed with killer dolls and Clockwork -Orange stuff. Who knew David Alan Grier could be intimidating?

  36. Jareth Cutestory

    October 8th, 2010 at 8:27 am

    CJ Holden: The jury will be out on that until we hear you make that cat noise that the GRUDGE kid makes.

  37. Okay, the noise IS scary (although I can make some fucked up noises too), but the ghost in Black Sabbath is silent and scares the fuck out of you just by how it looks like.

  38. Jareth Cutestory

    October 8th, 2010 at 8:42 am

    You mean like Gary Busey?

  39. Ace Mac Ashbrook

    October 8th, 2010 at 8:44 am

    Mr Majestyk> Yeah, out loud and proud, I love cocks! Er I mean I like Brian Cox.

  40. Jareth Cutestory

    October 8th, 2010 at 8:47 am

    CJ Holden: For the record, a buddy whose opinion I trust tells me that BLACK SABBATH is totally awesome. I’ll check my video store this weekend. And as much as I like the structure of the GRUDGE movies, “scary” isn’t a word I’d use to describe them. But Sadako totally freaks me out, especially in RINGU 0.

  41. I have to admit, Dylan Baker always makes me think he’s a pedophile – and I haven’t even seen Happiness. There’s just something about him that screams Kiddie Fiddler.

    On the other hand, the Paquin arc in this one was pretty good.

  42. Just wanted to say I got vern’s new book, and it’s huge and fatter than I expected. So go buy it, it’s def worth the price.

    Also, vern should review Anguish. I’ve not seen it yet, but i have it on vhs, and have heard good things. Anybody seen it?

  43. ANGUISH is great. It has definitely been recommended to him in the past by numerous individuals.

    Do you have the Anchor Bay VHS with the clamshell case? I remember when those things used to be the cornerstone of my collection.

  44. No. I ordered that version of the ebay, but was stiffed. Lucklily, I found it at a flea market with a shitty cardboard cover plastered with rental stickers.

    In my flea market browsing I’ve noticed there are an awful lot of Alien rip-offs I was unaware of. Perhaps there’s already a prequel out there and we just didn’t know it! :P

  45. I think The Grudge is a really scary movie, I tend to prefer the suspense…and once you figure out how loose the structure is, it can be any one at any time going down. Seeing that movie in the theater was scary as shit. I loved it, it’s just a string of scary scenes.

    Black Sabbath was pretty great. I think the first story is kind of forgettable though, the one with Karloff is awesome, and he last has the only genuinely scary shit…but it gets a little boring. Basically it’s a pretty great movie though.

    Trick R Treat was fine…I think people who say they love it tend to be meaning they loved the atmoshere and the look. That movie could have won an Oscar for cinematography. Everything else about it was fine enough, not great, but good. The Paquin story was my least favorite, werewolves and vampires is just like some tired Tales From The Crypt story.

  46. Black Sabbath is the best one (bonus points to it for inspiring that band Earth to change its name to something more memorable), but those old Amicus movies are generally very good anthologies, too.

  47. The first two segments of Histoires Extraordinaires aren’t that great, but the last one, Toby Dammit, is probably Federico Fellini’s best movie…

  48. In defense of the horror anthology, I’d like to say that I think it can actually be MORE effective than a long-form horror film if done right. I consider them more of a collection of short stories — elegent, self-contained little nuggets of mood, streamlined and sometimes almost poetic in their ability to cut straight to the chase. Obviously, the downside is that in a collection of short stories or short films you’re always going to like some more than others, but that doesn’t detract from the greatness of those ones which really get right to the heart of things.

    TRICK R TREAT is actually pretty perfect for what it is, IMHO — engaging, clever, a little perverse and a little scary while always maintaining a sense of fun. However, the horror anthology you should all be talking about it Masakai Kobayashi’s KWAIDEN. Now there’s a series of elegantly unnerving tone poems by a true master if I ever saw one — I think its a perfect example of the anthology structure really being used to its fullest potential.

  49. That old woman mannequin in Black Sabbath is going to haunt me ’til the day I did.

  50. I think an anthology with two segments might work. That’s 45 minutes for each in a 90 minute film. That TV length running time worked well enough in shows like TWILIGHT ZONE and THE OUTER LIMITS. Enough to establish characters and introduce the core concept, but not so short you don’t get to know anyone and the whole thing feels rushed.

    So two segments in a film. Maybe one that establishes a point, and the another offers a counterpoint, or something. Like one short story told from the perspective of the victims, then another told from the perspective of the killer.

  51. KWAIDEN has been on my Netflix queue for forever. I guess this is a sign that I should include it with the horror movies I’ll be marathoning this month.

  52. The original Paul

    October 8th, 2010 at 1:17 pm

    This was another weird one for me, I’m afraid. It definitely reminded me of “hatchet” in terms of my reaction to it. I liked what it was trying to do, but “trying” is definitely the key word there. I couldn’t get through it. It felt like some other genre of story that I probably should’ve been familiar with – “Hansel and Gretal”-lite perhaps? It felt like it was going for the “Brothers Grimm” vibe, but it never quite got it.

    It’s odd because I can’t put my finger on what exactly was wrong with it… it just didn’t do anything for me. Put it down to subjective opinion, if you like, it basically comes down to that.

  53. Mr. M – Thanks for the nostalgia rush brought on by Anchor Bay clamshells. Zombie and Army of Darkness (finally with the alt. ending! Remember when you could only see that on Japanese bootlegs). Haven’t thought about those in awhile.

  54. I was rather impressed with this movie an enjoyed it. It is no classic but they do a really good job of tying the separate stories together and delivering a fun experience. It may be a bit uneven but it is worth checking out.

  55. “Anthologies can be fun, but are they ever great? I don’t think so.”

    Are we counting PULP FICTION as an anthology? Or is that in some “intertwined storyline” sub-genre?

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gtOv_dX7DYU

  56. Love how passive aggressive this review is. I’m all for the suggestion of Oscar categories for films that should not be nominated for them!

    As anthologies go, I thought Tales from the Crypt had a good idea making a feature length movie every year or two, the only connection being the label and the Crypt Keeper. Demon Knight was good but then Bordello of Blood ruined it.

    As for anthology collections, you’re right. It’s Ted Danson buried on the beach in Creepshow, The Raft in Creepshow 2, James Woods quitting smoking in Cat’s Eye…

  57. And of course, Woody Allen’s mom’s floating head in New York Stories. What did Coppola and Scorsese even do in that movie?

  58. I enjoyed this movie. It was definitely different.

  59. Anthologies do tend to be inconsistent, but the first example of a great one that came to my mind was Memories. It’s anime, so not really in line with a horror anthology discussion, but it was a really excellent collection of three very different films.

    Also: any films taking place during Halloween gets automatic points from me. I can’t help it, Halloween nostalgia is an incurable affliction I have.

  60. Gingersoll, your anime comment reminded me of The Animatrix. Some good ones there, and some WTF ones that make less sense than Revolutions. Of course Twilight Zone: The Movie is a disaster for reasons other than conception.

    I suppose Pulp Fiction is the greatest anthology ever where all three (four?) are awesome, but I don’t think we consider it anthology because technically it’s all one story.

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