Trick 'R Treat

April 18, 2010
It's surprising that, throughout the history of the genre, there haven't been any horror movies that specifically focus on Halloween, a holiday which screams for attention from the horror film audience. Granted, there is John Carpenter's Halloween, but this has little to nothing to do with the actual traditions of the Halloween celebration. So, leave it to newcomer Michael Dougherty - who previously wrote the script to X2 - to direct a feature film regarding the holiday.

The film follows several groups of individuals, from trick-or-treaters to college girls to a serial killer principal, during Halloween night. However, as we learn very early on, Halloween isn't just a night for partying, sex, and costumes. No, Halloween is a night for respecting the dead and following the old traditions, lest you become a victim of the old spirits that still roam the dark corners of the earth. As these individuals go through their own respective horrors, they all realize (one way or the other) that these ancient rules weren't meant to be broken.

In many ways, Trick 'R Treat is just as entertaining as it is disappointing. I definitely liked the style of the film, which took a sort of dark graphic novel feeling. The pulpiness, the 'comic book' opening, the twist endings - the film bears many similarities to works such as Tales From The Crypt or Goosebumps, both of which were meant to serve as horrifying entertainment for younger readers. This isn't to say that the film's childish or fit for a young audience, as it's completely not, but the film feels like a shout-out to those older works as well as a shout-out to those who read and enjoyed those works.

As far as characters go, they're all about as deep as a puddle. Each is meant to serve their purpose for the story, plus a surprise twist, before moving onto the next gruesome tale. These tales are interesting and quite original, but their characters are so dull and boring in comparison. It's a shame, as it really takes a lot of the steam out of the film and makes it difficult to care about any of the major characters. What's that? One of the kids just got run through with a knife? Who cares...?

However, while we're on the subject of characters, I'll admit that I really did enjoy the character of 'Sam' - hinted as being the spirit of Halloween. He never utters a single word, yet his presence is felt more strongly than any other throughout the film. His look, his movements - he's dementedly cruel and mysterious enough to make him as fascinating as he is. That being said, I absolutely detested that they revealed Sam's face near the ending of the film. The character's *supposed* to be a mystery, and revealing his face makes him feel more vulnerable. As H.P Lovecraft once said, "some things are better left to the mind's darker imagination".

Another fault I had with the film was its use of typical "cheap horror" scenes. I like pulpiness as much as the next guy, but the predictable jump scenes and unnecessary nude shots felt incredibly streamlined. It's as if the director went out of his way to make the film more mainstream, which makes sense financially but distorts the artistic vision. If compared with Dougherty's original short film (which inspired this film), Holiday's Greetings, one can see the obvious thematic differences. Where as the film was dark and twisted, Trick 'R Treat feels more like a more modern horror film - cheap thrills and no depth.

Overall, the film's a bit of a mixed bag. It's got an interesting and visually-pleasing style, but its depth and cheapness degrade the film to a lower standard of horror. It's not a bad film by any means, but I'm not sure if it was necessarily a good film either. Trick 'R Treat is a cheap and pulpy horror movie, but an entertaining one nevertheless.

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zombivamp said...
May 8, 2010 at 8:41 pm
Very interesting review. I've heard nothing but good things until I read your review (granted, I stick to reviews from die-hard horror fans). I haven't seen this flick yet, but your review might make me take a step back when I do see it, rather than watching it through rose-tinted glasses. 
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