Sunday, 14 November 2010

A Belated Halloween Trick ‘r Treat Treat

Okay, so I’m a bit late with this one seeing as how Halloween is a few weeks gone now. But better late than never I guess.

If you haven’t seen it then Trick ‘r Treat is a little gem of a film; a heartfelt ode to the lore and myth of the 31st October, to the elements of that day which we are all familiar with. It’s an anthology, a portmanteau horror movie similar in vein to the likes of Creepshow and the lurid films made by us Brits in the 60’s and 70’s (Tales from the Crypt, Dr Terror’s House of Horrors, Torture Garden, The Vault of Horror, Asylum, From Beyond the Grave etc.) But Trick ‘r Treat differs in that the four main stories are not separated and are all interconnected, taking place on the same night, in the same small Ohio town. If you watch one story carefully you will see elements of the other stories unfolding in the background as the timelines of the four tales are rather twisty and turny with the film ending essentially where it begins.

The four stories are:

The Principal
Child hating Principle Wilkins (Dylan Baker), gets up to some sadistic business on Halloween night involving poisoned candy, bloody murder and the carving of icky jack-o-lanterns with his impatient young son.

The School Bus Massacre Revisited
Five kids, Macy (Britt McKillip), Schrader (Jean-Luc Bilodeau), Sara (Isabelle Deluce), Chip (Alberto Ghisi), and Rhonda (Samm Todd), head for to the local quarry where Macy tells the local urban legend of "The Halloween School Bus Massacre". But as the group investigates the quarry, a ghoulish prank soon turns deadly for the terrified kids.

Surprise Party
Laurie (Anna Paquin), a young, self-conscious "virgin", goes into the woods after deciding to separate from her group of promiscuous friends. But deep in the woods a scary man in black attacks her, while her sister and her friends’ party nearby with various men they’ve picked up along the way.

Meet Sam
Mr Kreeg (Brian Cox), a cantankerous, Halloween-hating old man who lives alone with his dog, is trapped and stalked in his own home by a weird and creepy childlike figure with a burlap mask and a fiendish love for candy.

My personal favourite of these is Surprise Party as it is the most fairytale of the lot and ends with a great twist while also connecting effortlessly with one of the other stories. Oh, and Anna Paquin is in it and she’s great. But The Principle gives Surprise Party a close run, mostly for Dylan Baker who gives a deliciously sick yet charming performance as the evil Mr Wilkins.

All four stories are intertwined by location but what binds them all together is Sam, the childlike, burlap masked little devil who appears somewhere in each but features most prominently in the pre-title sequence and in the final story. Sam is essentially the spirit of Halloween, a creepy little sprite who lurks and watches and waits for people to make a mistake in their Halloween traditions and who then pays them out in the nastiest of ways. He’s a great little character who has no dialogue but is played with scary, malicious glee by child actor Quinn Lord.

Writer/director Mike Dougherty (X2, Superman Returns), who made his directing debut here, is a talented graphic artist with darkly playful sensibilities that remind of a young Tim Burton. He is also a friend and protégé of director Bryan Singer having written X2 and Superman Returns for the man with regular co-writer Dan Harris. Singer produced Trick ‘r Treat and as a first time director Dougherty must have studied his mentors directing style in great detail. For Trick ‘r Treat, like all of Bryan Singer’s own films, is beautifully made with excellent actors such as Brian Cox, Dylan Baker and Anna Paquin, and shot and edited with a steady, deliberate pace. It is also one of the most beautiful looking films of recent years. Glen MacPherson’s gorgeous photography bathes the film in a lovely Autumn gold hue which helps add to the fairytale feel along with the classy, detailed and stylised production design of Mark Freeborn and art direction of Tony Wohlgemuth.

Trick ‘r Treat was made in 2007 for theatrical release but for corporate reasons was eventually released straight to DVD late 2009 despite it already winning awards and critical plaudits. A crying shame as this little gem, along with John Carpenter’s Halloween, is the quintessential Halloween movie and deserves to be seen on a big screen with an enthusiastic audience cheering on little devil Sam in his gleefully sadistic mission.

In the end the best thing I can say about Trick ‘r Treat is that it is fun. It’s a lot of ghoulish, black humoured fun. It’s not especially scary. It’s not meant to be. It’s meant to be a celebration of the traditions and the fun of Halloween, a cautionary, spooky fairytale. And I reckon it gets it spot on.

Long live Sam.

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