Fifteen years later, “Trick R’ Treat” finally gets the big screen release it so deserves and proves it’s still a bloody fun treat.
Halloween has always held a special place in the hearts, minds, and pumpkin-shaped candy receptacles of horror fans.
One is not likely to forget their first trick-or-treating venture. One is not likely to forget the exhilarating sweetness of that first piece of unwrapped candy at the end of Halloween night. And one is not likely to forget the first film they ever saw that perfectly embodied the spooky season.
Unfortunately, there are so many of them that could attempt to pass that litmus test: Night of the Living Dead (1968), Halloween (1978), Scream (1996), and more.
But more than any of these, no other film captures the unbridled joy of Halloween more than the 2007 anthology film Trick ‘R Treat.
The movie was unfortunately consigned to VOD upon its initial release. Yet, it made so much money for the producers streaming and as a physical release – garnering a tremendously strong fanbase along the way – that it’s impossible that someone didn’t lose her or his job by not giving the film a proper theatrical release.
Now, 15 years after the movie’s streaming release, the motion picture has finally made its way to the big screen with a nationwide release, the perfect spooky season treat many grown children at heart never knew they were missing.
The film – which borrows from the popularity of other anthology films like Trilogy of Terror (1975), Creepshow (1982), and Tales from the Hood (1995) – is a collection of interconnected scary stories taking place on Halloween night in the town of Warren Valley, OH, where the residents possess much love for a spirited evening of candy, costumes, and creepiness.
And on this night, all the Halloween traditions are here to be respected.
Dress up in the most frightening costume you could imagine, cross-examine your candy before you eat it, and perhaps even smash some pumpkins before you call it a night (if you’re brave enough to do so).
Over the course of this particular Halloween night, a school principal will try to reestablish the conventional traditions of the Halloween season; three coeds will initiate their inexperienced fourth girlfriend into the frightening fun of the holiday; a handful of schoolchildren will lure their awkward classmate to the site of a long-rumored, haunted site as a prank; and a curmudgeonly old man will be besieged in his home by a seemingly demonic, pint-sized creature.
On their surface, these narratives may appear truly terrifying.
But written and directed by Michael Dougherty – who would bring family and fear together once more in 2015 with Krampus – Trick ‘R Treat demonstrates the two best and inseparable elements of Halloween and trick-or-treating.
Venture to that spooky neighborhood home, and you’ll be allowed not just one treat but two: a terrifying scream and immediate laughter from the terror that frightened you in the first place.
That’s the joy of Halloween. Halloween is a perfect marriage of horror and humor.
The comic book-based montage of the film’s opening credits establishes the tone like little more could.
Though comic books have now become fodder for some adults who are only discovering them for the first time via the onslaught of superhero blockbusters dominating the multiplex, comic books have historically been associated with kids.
They were a gateway into reading for many growing up, and now – supplanting heroic figures with increasingly disturbing images of the supernatural season and the film to follow – they’re also a gateway to scary movies.
The opening sequence demonstrates Halloween’s perfect dichotomy: fright and fancy.
And the opening credits of the film demonstrate, in the most straightforward manner, that what we’re about to see is one part humor and one part horror, just like Halloween.
Who hasn’t watched a spooky movie and been unexpectedly frightened by a jump scare moment? You scream – and then you laugh riotously like you were the target of a prank. Who hasn’t visited a local haunted house and roared with terror when the faux chainsaw killer noisily erupted from the shadows? It was a great scare, but – better yet – it gave you so much pleasure.
It was precisely why you came, perfectly worth the price of admission. And so is Trick ‘R Treat.
Meanwhile, the film’s ensemble cast – which includes Dylan Baker, Brian Cox, Anna Paquin, and others – brings vicious vibrancy to each of the film’s vignettes.
No single story in the film seems to outshine another.
The overpowering strength of a single story in an anthology film can sometimes become a deficiency for the anthology film as a whole. When you watch an anthology film, you typically must remain patient enough that the next narrative will satisfy you that it ultimately won’t matter when a particular show doesn’t hit the spot. But not here.
Populated with neighborhood serial killers, werewolves, local lore, and the film’s sometimes cute, sometimes sinister star, Trick ‘R Treat is a spooky, sugary trove enough to satisfy every viewer.
Dig in. Take a handful.
You won’t be disappointed with the rewards.
These are seasoned eerily by composer Douglas Pipes, who channels Danny Elfman at times with the haunting voices of ethereal children – the true stars of Halloween – to produce a score that is at times atmospheric and at others altogether terrifying.
If a long walk to a neighborhood front door for irresistible candy is aided by the atmosphere of the front yard itself, then Pipes’ score does the same. It leads the audience to a destination that is both stomach-churning and stunning.
It’s a shame, then, that so many people feel that the wonder of Halloween can only be enjoyed one night of the year.
They may imagine displaying their ghoulish decorations a little earlier every autumn to extend the dangerous discomfort of the season. However, they still somehow believe that the spirit of Halloween can only be appreciated on a single night.
For others, Halloween is a year-long affair: decorations hung throughout the house like family pictures, and every movie night is simply another opportunity to spend some time with a ghoul, a vampire, or a zombie.
TRICK ‘R TREAT offers that year-round occasion to enjoy Halloween on any given night, blending fun and fear, the perfect cinematic witch’s brew that will ensure you’re never that far from the holiday nor ever far from the safety of your neighborhood home.
And for those still wary of sharing their safe spaces with the dichotomous dread of Halloween, recall Orson Welles’ conclusion upon the 1938 radio broadcast of H.G. Wells’ The War of the Worlds.
“Remember the terrible lesson you learned tonight,” Welles intoned. “That grinning, glowing, globular invader of your living room is an inhabitant of the pumpkin patch, and if your doorbell rings and nobody’s there, that was no Martian …