Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Day #5 Trick or Treat comes two years late!

Day five of the Halloween Horror Challenge we did some Trick or treating...

TRICK 'R TREAT (2007 released 2009)
D. Michael Dougherty
Warner Brothers


This unusual horror anthology/ dark comedy has been buried by the studio for almost two years without explanation only to finally surface in the coming weeks on straight-to-DVD. With the same studio giving the same fate to the also fairly decent THE HILLS RUN RED it kinda makes you wonder if Warners is ashamed of their horror film output and considers them bastard offspring? But after doing some digging, I found that with TRICK 'R TREAT the reasoning is much more personal. The studio was punishing the creative team behind the film (writer director Michael Dougherty and producer Bryan Singer) for their failure on SUPERMAN RETURNS (which Dougherty wrote and Singer directed. They lost so much goddamned money on that project that they buried this small pet project of theirs in retaliation. Sad because this is actually a quite good little movie with a lot of fresh ideas, solid direction and satisfying frights that probably would have been a modest hit had Warners not been pricks about it.

The movie doesn't play out like a typical anthology film - instead it is more like, say, PULP FICTION, where several stories begin to play out simultaneously with interlocking characters. The narrative even jumps back and forth through time occasionally, making certain scenes that we witness early on make more sense as the film plays out further. A technique I wholeheartedly approve of when it works well. And it does here. One story deals with a school principal who loves the Halloween holiday for all its original pagan origins and happens to be a rather sarcastic serial killer. Another deals with a quartet of very sexy teen girls looking for guys for a local Halloween party so the one virgin can score. Then there's the most effective story has a group of just barely teen kids visiting the site of a massacre involving mentally handicapped kids so they can play a cruel trick on the local autistic girl, only to have it go a little more intensely than they planned. And finally the last story is about the town old man who hates trick-or-treaters getting a non-human visitor who helps teach him the real meaning of the holiday. All of these stories manage to intertwine by the end, mixing together and crossing over in some pretty satisfying ways.

The movie is sometimes gruesome, and has some very unnerving imagery (the kids on the school bus about to be killed is VERY unsettling) but it also has a very black sense of humor that is thankfully very funny too. The humor isn't in spite of the horror, but works well with it, settling in with the playful mood of the holiday the movie is celebrating. The movie is awash in homages and in-jokes, like with the whole opening scene being a reference to John Carpenter's HALLOWEEN, or the opening credits and last story being heavily indebted to CREEPSHOW (in fact this movie would have been a MUCH better sequel to CREEPSHOW than either of the films that were ultimately made) and a host of others. Featuring Anna Paquin, Bryan Cox, and Dylan Baker.

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