If you actively follow the goings-on of the horror film community, I’m sure you are aware of the phenomena I’m about to describe. You hear about a movie well before its release, websites tout exclusive stills and set visits, and then the glowing early reviews start to trickle in from the festival circuit. We’ve all been burned by high expectations set for a film that is undeservedly praised. Thus I approached Michael Dougherty’s much-anticipated Trick ‘r Treat with a healthy amount of skepticism. The reviews I had heard had just been too good to be true.
Trick ‘r Treat deserves it. The film is fantastic. Now there is still a lot of hyperbole surrounding the film that will undoubtedly sour some people to it. So let me clearly state what it is not before I proceed to gush. What it is not: it is not a “serious” horror film. In fact there is quite a bit of gallows humor thrown in. I’ve read backlash from people on Amazon who (while obviously having poor taste) had no idea the kind of film they would be watching and once it was clear that this wasn’t a slasher film, went on to berate the film for not being one.
What it is: the first real attempt to make a movie for the holiday we all love. Think of Trick ‘r Treat as the Miracle on 34th Street of Halloween. You’ve probably heard similar descriptions in other reviews but this film is really a “for us, by us” kind of thing. A film that really gets what we like about the holiday in the first place. The folklore and the commercialization, the innocent joy we feel as a kid and the sleaziness we recognize as adults, if it’s part of Halloween it shows up here.
The comparisons to Creepshow and Tales from the Crypt that you’ve heard are accurate. The film even tries to produce that same EC comics aesthetic, but I would suggest that Trick ‘r Treat is better than those, in fact it is my favorite anthology film ever.
To categorize it as an anthology is also a bit of a cop-out, because it does not follow the traditional narrative structure for an anthology. There is no framing device and then three separate short films. The stories in Trick ‘r Treat are interconnected and at times intercut, a tactic that greatly improves on the old format and alleviates what is a constant detractor in all anthologies: some stories are better than others. The intercuts ensure that even if a particular story is not your cup of tea, you wont have to stay with it until you are board and taken out of the film as a result.
The cinematography is gorgeous and slick. You can almost smell the pumpkins and dead leaves. The film was obviously made with a wide release in mind and it shows. The FX and production design are top notch. The cast is equally impressive with great turns from two of my favorite actors Dylan Baker and Brian Cox who both camp-it-up while still retaining their dignity and believability. There is also an appearance from the stunning Anna Paquin, who will hopefully sell some DVDs on her new found True Blood fame alone, and Battlestar Galactica‘s Tahmoh Penikett.
But to every white puffy cloud there is a touch of gray. Warner Brothers treatment of this film has been abominable. First they let the film sit on the shelf for over a year only to unceremoniously dump it on their “Warner Premire” label where they release such “gems” as the straight-to-disc sequel to the remake of House on Haunted Hill. Not only that but they release it on a disc that has one three minute animated short and NOTHING else (which, despite being the only extra, is very cool). To add insult to injury there is a whole slew of extras available on the Blu-ray disc. Whoever made that decision should be fired. I can see the reasoning behind rewarding people for switching over to the new format by leaving off maybe one or two extras, but to release a bare-bones DVD only to punish fans is just odious.
So if you have a Blu-ray player be sure to pick up Trick ‘r Treat on that format. If you don’t I still highly encourage you to vote with your dollars and buy this disc. You will be supporting quality work and telling the studio what a stupid decision they made in not giving this a theatrical run. Don’t let the extremists on either side ruin it for you. It’s not the “best horror film evar” but if you love the holiday season, I know it will become a yearly staple in your home.
…It’s just a pity Warner Bros. had to release it in such an undignified manner.