At the Movies with Alan Gekko: Trick ‘r Treat “07”

MPAA Rating: R/ Genre: Horror-Comedy/ Stars: Dylan Baker, Anna Paquin, Brian Cox, Quinn Lord, Lauren Lee Smith, Rochelle Aytes, Britt McKillip, Jean-Luc Bilodeau, Samm Todd, Alberto Ghisi, Isabelle Deluce, Moneca Delain, Leslie Bibb, Tahmoh Penikett, Brett Kelly, Connor Levins, James Willson, Patrick Gilmore, C. Ernst Harth, Keanen Schnoor, Christine Willes, Richard Harmon, Laura Mennell/ Runtime: 82 minutes

I think it is safe to start this review off by saying that although it has been over by about a week-plus for this year, Halloween really is one of my favorite times of the year and it always will be. I mean it’s not just all the spookily delightful festivities that occur around that time that really intrigues me so much as it is the general vibe that seemingly permeates the air once the month of October decides to pop back up on my calendar like a jump scare in a really over the top horror film. I mean be it the Jack-o-Lanterns all smiling at you with freshly carved faces, the kids and adults all in costume and engaging in Halloween parties, the mountains of candy sold by the stores, the gorgeous leaves falling from the trees in a breeze that is refreshing yet slightly cold, listening to spooky music in my car for a month straight, and of course, for me anyway, the scary movie marathons happening on TV or at my house every year, I strongly feel that this truly timeless and iconic holiday has most assuredly got to have a special spot in the hearts of most if not all of us even if the reasons are just on a nostalgic level. Yet for a holiday that all but requires you to watch movies during the month that are either horrifying, thrilling, or both in nature, there really aren’t that many that either take place on Halloween itself or that choose to celebrate just what makes this holiday so special. Thankfully for all of us dear reader it is my strong, and sneaking suspicion that film helmer Mike Dougherty is one of those people who holds this holiday near and dear enough to do both of those aforementioned things in a film. Indeed I say this because nowhere is the evidence for this more apparent than in Dougherty’s remarkable horror anthology film from 2007 Trick ‘r Treat. Indeed here dear reader is a film that has managed to something that is truly remarkable and actually, for all intents and purposes, become the cinematic representative of that truly eternal quality that made the holiday of Halloween such a riveting and, dare I say it, haunting holiday for scores of both kids and adults in equal measure. Thus what we are given is not only a delightfully spooky film, but a true love letter to a lot of what makes this night where spookiness abounds and darkness roams the land near and far a holiday that kids and adults alike will cherish and enjoy being scared silly on now and always.

The plot is as follows: Now as stated previously, this film is an entry in the category of horror anthology films. As such we are treated, in the same vein as iconic films like 1982’s Creepshow and 1990’s Tales from the Darkside: The Movie, to a series of independent yet also interconnected in some way nightmarish stories with the twist being all 5 of the stories in this one all occur in the same small town on Halloween night as well as the presence of a costumed, and tiny little….kid by the name of Sam, who does nothing but his absolute darndest to remind people why they really should take care in respecting the traditions put down for this very special day in each one. Indeed contained within we see what happens when the wife of a husband and wife team finds herself learning the hard way to really respect the traditions of this storied night, a group of girls head to the woods for a killer party only for one to be stalked by an actual killer, the local school principal has a trick or two up his sleeve for a dastardly neighborhood kid stealing his candy and not leaving any for the other kids, a quartet of kids trying to pull off a truly horrific holiday prank learn too little, too late that sometimes leaving the dead alone really is a better option as compared to the alternative, and a crotchety and grumpy old man finds himself being visited by a special holiday guest who is there on behalf of other parties to take care of some long unfinished business….

Now that is all the information which I shall give you in regards to this film’s plot dear reader. That is because I feel that to give you any more information would do the worst thing of all and actually spoil a lot of the fun that comes with viewing this film. A claim I can make on the basis of the fact that the tales that this film showcases for us are best taken into one’s system when watched with as empty of a mind as possible. Reason of course being that, unlike the vast majority of entries in the horror genre nowadays, the twists are nowhere even close to being predictable thus keeping you on the edge of your seat as you wonder just what in the heck is going to happen to the characters in this film. Also of note is the fact that this film is absolutely soaked in the best way possible in tradition as it manages to do a wonderful job of trying to remind each and every one of you just why we celebrate Halloween to begin with. By that I mean this film is creepy and bloody in equal amounts yet in regards to the latter category the film thankfully never goes too far with the gore and instead gives you just enough to get that chill down your spine, but there is also a delightful, very much in the vein of Creepshow, amount of dark comedy thrown into the mix which, again like in Creepshow, thankfully never devolves into self-parody and instead manages to just add to the delightfully macabre madness on display in the film.

Yet out of everything that I could put praise on this film for accomplishing, I think the singular most astonishing element that this movie has going for it would have to be just how much attention has been afforded to detail in within the finished film. I say that because darn near every shot in this movie both beautifully framed and majestically composed with the end result often looking like a painting more than a movie. Indeed from the grim interior of Mr. Kreeg’s home, the otherworldly look of the quarry, and a phenomenal sequence set around a huge fire in the woods amongst others this film is truly beautiful to look at. Indeed it is this film’s aesthetic, especially when coupled with the terrific performances of the cast, which helps to make this film feel organic in the best way possible. Plus the work done in regards to the film’s cinematography by one Glen MacPherson (who incidentally also shot 2008’s incredibly brutal and visceral 4th entry in the Rambo series) is so gorgeous that it literally makes you feel as if you are a participant in the festivities. Suffice it to say then for an individual who loves the holiday of Halloween as much as I do, this was an integral thing to see this film get right. That is because it is sadly too often that a film that actually takes place on this particular holiday, it sadly doesn’t have much in the way of depth. Thus I can honestly say that I’m genuinely grateful that for once a film managed to get it right.

Now for a film like this one which has a fairly decent size ensemble all choosing to play in this Halloween-themed sandbox I find myself in a bit of a quandary since everyone that the filmmakers chose to bring onboard for this particular film all understand the material they are getting to play with and as such everyone involved does an absolutely wonderful job par none. Yet with that being noted, I still feel it should be said that if I had to pick a couple of roles that were just a little bit better than the others they would have to be Principal Wilkins and Mr. Kreeg, played truly marvelously by Dylan Baker and veteran thespian Brian Cox respectively. Indeed, for Wilkins, Baker just manages to bring a maniacal glee to the part right down to the glint of his eyes and he does a wonderful job at giving us a character that is both bumbling yet also terrifying though I have to say where his arc ends is also a nice touch as well. As for Kreeg, I love the cantankerous edge that Cox brings to the role though I also love how the look of the character does seem to be inspired by one of my favorite film helmers in John Carpenter which is further lovingly added on to by several amusing nods to Carpenter’s work during Kreeg’s time on screen that I thought were a very nice touch and further proof that this filmmaking team has a love and appreciation that is downright admirable.

All in all, more than any other horror film that immediately comes to mind, Trick ’r Treat is a really unique film in the storied genre that is Horror. I say that because Trick ‘r Treat is a film that is actually about Halloween or to be more precise it’s a movie that deals with the various quirks and peculiarities of that iconic and one-of-a-kind holiday that is Halloween. Indeed this is a film which manages to really conjure up a lot of the typical traditions and superstitions that, by this point, should be quite commonplace to you if you were at some point a member of the fraternity or sorority of childhood in the suburban sprawl that is America of the last 4 decades whilst at the same time also in a subtle manner weaving into this timeless cloth some novel customs and stories that is done in such an organic manner that you will right off the bat feel like they have been around just as long and are just as valid as anything else you’ve heard. I mean example for you dear reader: has it always been seen as a fatal mistake to extinguish the candle contained within a jack-o-lantern before Halloween night is through? I mean I honestly don’t believe that I had ever come across that before sitting down to watch this film. Yet it is presented to us in a way that is an easy to comprehend urban myth and as such not only does it organically insert itself into the oral stories told around this particular time of year, but it also fits itself into long-lasting Halloween spookiness perfectly much like a thin yet deadly razor blade in some sugary and oh so delicious Halloween treats. Indeed if you haven’t seen this film yet then do yourself a favor, hunt down a copy by any means necessary, and watch it. I promise you that, unlike a lot of the characters in this film, it is one tradition you will keep now and always no matter if it’s Halloween night or if it’s just a dark and spooky night in desperate need of some chills to make it even livelier. On a scale of 1-5 I give Trick ‘r Treat a solid 3.5 out of 5.