It was beyond ambitious of me to review 31 films in 31 days but I persevered and only dropped two films from the rotation, and this review was only two days behind schedule. Our final film is, appropriately enough, the little seen Trick ‘r Treat. I followed this film through its convoluted “will it go to theaters or won’t it” cycle, I bought it on DVD, and I watch it every Halloween night. Trust me, you should all go out and buy this; you’ll love it! I don’t have a slew of notes because I don’t want to spoil things but let’s take a look at the last film in our 31 Nights of Halloween (is that what we settled on?).
Four stories interconnect, all centered on Halloween night in Warren Valley, Ohio. School principal Steven Wilkins (Dylan Baker) moonlights as a serial killer but still has plans to carve a jack-o-lantern with his son. Twenty-two-year-old virgin Laurie (Anna Paquin) has to find a date to a Halloween party. A group of teens decide to visit an abandoned rock quarry with a dark past in the attempt to pull a prank. Old Mr. Kreeg (Brian Cox) gets a visit from a bizarre trick or treater.
I mentioned back when I reviewed Black Sabbath that I love anthology films and this is one of the best! Trick ‘r Treat has a vibe similar to Creepshow as both open with comic books detailing the events of the film (although Creepshow makes the comic book a narrative device). The film opens with an old PSA about safe trick or treating and from there it’s apparent that no one out on Halloween will be safe. The bookends of the film follow a young couple with the wife (Leslie Bibb) hating Halloween. With her death, literally within the first ten minutes, the tone is set and it’s bloody fun! The film’s interconnected storyline is well done and continues throughout the film with various characters interacting with each other throughout the film. In one scene you might see Laurie and her friends in a car right before they almost hit young Rhonda (Samm Todd) from the school bus massacre segment. I’ve seen this movie at least four times and I still discover new things in the timeline; new characters I didn’t notice in one segment make appearances in another. Since this is an anthology film I guess we’ll break down each segment.
The first story tells of Principal Steven Wilkins and how he celebrates Halloween, mostly by killing people. For all his murderous intent Wilkins respects Halloween, sitting down student Charlie (Brett Kelly) for a lesson in the traditions of Halloween. Of course it involves teaching him not to smash jack-o-lanterns, and oh yeah, “always check your candy.” I have to give Trick ‘r Treat an award for best vomiting scene. The vomit scene within the first ten minutes of this film is up there with Stand By Me! Poor Principal Wilkins’ stairs are never going to be clean again! From there he has to bury his victim, only to be constantly interrupted by his young son. The son is beyond annoying and the film sets things up to make the audience believe the little boy is next, of course you’d be wrong. Dylan Baker makes a second appearance on Halloween; the first being my review of Fido. With this film we seem him murderous but he’s still a totally nice guy with his attempts to befriend his neighbor Mr. Kreeg and giving out candy no matter what. The segment is a sweet story about father/son bonding in a way…over a severed head, but hey, nobody’s perfect.
From there you get my favorite segment about the school bus massacre. The story follows a group of teens who have been scouring the neighborhood for jack-o-lanterns all night. Once they get a complete set they enlist the help of outcast Rhonda to go with them to an abandoned rock quarry. Upon arrival, leader Macy (Britt McKillip) tells of a school bus that went into the quarry filled with deformed children. It’s a shocking story already but more so when it’s believed that the souls of the victims aren’t at rest. The acting from the teens in this segment is fantastic. McKillip excels at playing the bitch of the group, complimented by the sweet Samm Todd as Rhonda and the teen heartthrob Schrader (Jean-Luc Bilodeau). Amongst the bloodshed the film looks at bullying and the idea that you might not want to piss off the kid you’ve made fun of; you never know when a horde of undead spirits will come after you. It’s the best of the series of shorts (although all the others are great) with a strong plot and fantastic acting.
It wouldn’t be a Halloween film without werewolves and we see that in the third section devoted to Laurie and her Halloween party. It’s obvious from the beginning where the story is going as evidenced by Laurie being dressed up like Red Riding Hood (it’s “tradition” according to her sister). While I do love the in-jokes pointing to the story’s conclusion, such as the girls dressed like Princesses and the aforementioned tradition, the film pounds a bit too heavily when Laurie is considered “the runt of the litter.” It’s too spot-on and I would have enjoyed the mystery if it held off a bit longer. This story is probably the thinnest as Laurie simply walks around, moans about not finding a date, before running into a guy and showing him whose boss. The transformation is good but the werewolf effects look weak. Overall it’s not the best of the four, it’s just good. Anna Paquin is passable, really playing another version of Sookie Stackhouse, and the other girls are beautiful but lack depth in their performances other than the surface.
The final section establishes the character of Sam, a mysterious trick-or-treater with a sack cloth on its head. I really wish Sam would become a horror icon up there with Freddy Krueger or Michael Meyers. He’s got the distinctive costume, mysterious origins, and murderous intent of all the other slashers! His story with Mr. Kreeg ties back into the school bus story the strongest but it’s also the most blood-soaked part of the movie itself. Not to mention at the end Mr. Kreeg discovers the true meaning of Halloween…in a way. Although, I do wish that Sam had not been unmasked. You lose the effect of him being menacing when you discover what he is.
Overall, I watch Trick ‘r Treat every Halloween and I don’t see that tradition letting up anytime soon. The film is fun with a sharp story and amazing acting! The studio did it a disservice by putting it out straight to DVD.
Type of Horror: Slasher, Ghosts, Werewolves
Fright Meter: 7
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A freelance film critic whose work fuels the Rotten Tomatoes meter. I've been published on The Hollywood Reporter, Remezcla, and The Daily Beast. I've been featured in the L.A. Times. I currently run two podcasts, Citizen Dame and Ticklish Business.