TRICK 'R TREAT
Let's start by saying that there has not been a horror movie made to truly capture the creepy feeling of Halloween since, well, John Carpenter's Halloween (1978). And even that film took place on this special day but hardly focused on the nature of the holiday itself. There is a certain connection to October 31 that we all share - the crisp breeze in the air, the leaves that begin to change color and fall from the trees, people's homes transformed into houses of horror, neighborhood kids dressed as ghouls, and of course, enough candy to send our family dentist to the Bahamas for a month-long vacation. For horror fanatics like myself, Halloween is more important than Christmas and we needed a film that encompassed all the elements of this time of year . . . in that respect Trick 'R Treat certainly delivers on all fronts.
Growing up I would ride my skateboard to the local comic shop to grab the latest EC reprint of Tales From The Crypt, The Vault of Horror, and the Haunt of Fear, which originally hit the stands in the 1950's. The presentation of these stories fascinated me, with creepy hosts like the Old Witch cackling one-liners and telling tales of murder & terror in friendly comic format. When HBO launched Tales From The Crypt as a TV Series in 1989, I abandoned my Nintendo and sat religiously in front of the tube for my weekly dose of horror. The voice of John Kassir as the Crypt Keeper and the brilliant intro music of Danny Elfman is forever stained in my brain. Trick 'R Treat plays out like an old Tales From The Crypt comic and is actually an anthology of four Halloween-related scary stories. We're even treated to some comic artwork in the film, and a comic book based on the film will be released this month, along with a slew of awesome movie merchandise. The marketing campaign behind this film is incredible. It is obvious that director Michael Dougherty was heavily influenced by these aforementioned EC classics and pays homage to them in his film, which is sure to please any life-long genre fan yearning for that "old school" horror feel that has been lost in a vicious cycle of big-budget Hollywood remakes and watered-down teeny bopper terror that emerged in the late 90's.
Back to Sam: Trick 'R Treat uses Sam as the bridge between the four intertwined stories, and his sole purpose in the film is to remind the characters the importance of honoring Halloween tradition. I don't want to spoil the film for anyone reading this, but the un-masking of Sam is probably one of the cutest yet most terrifying moments of the film. The stories within the story (The Principal, Surprise Party, The Halloween School Bus Massacre Revisited, and Meet Sam) are gory, campy, humorous, and fun. You have to watch the film more than once to catch all the tie-ins and plot overlaps - it is the kind of film that gets better every time you see it. The obvious strength of the movie is the setting and the plot / character development - the audience feels like they are trick or treating right there in the neighborhood. Capturing the feeling you get as Halloween nears could not have been an easy task, but Dougherty and his crew succeeded with flying orange and black colors.
If Halloween had an anthem, Trick 'R Treat would be the band that played it. The film was a cult classic before it even hit the shelves at Blockbuster, which is quite an achievement for any film in any genre. Horror fans are obsessive and dedicated, and I'm certain they will find satisfaction in this "little film that could." I hate to use the phrase "there's something for everyone" but in Trick 'R Treat this definitely rings true. I can't think of a better way to celebrate Halloween than watching this movie with a bowl of popcorn and a garbage bag full of candy . . . just make sure you check that Snickers bar for a razor blade first . . .