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Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Trick 'r Treat: "It's a Wonderful Life" for Horror Fans

The reviews just keep on coming here in the VoH. Today I'm taking a look at a movie with a baffling backstory that has finally made its way to DVD this week. I'm talking about Trick 'r Treat, the amazing debut of writer/director Michael Dougherty. I mean, has anyone given this thing a bad review yet? Well, you're not going to find one here, either.

In one of the most infamous boardroom mixups of them all, this flick was bumped from an intended October 2007 theatrical release, and it isn't until now that it's finally made it's way to a highly undeserved direct-to-video release. There's lots of speculation about the reasons, but I'd rather talk about why every single person who considers himself a horror movie lover needs to see and fall in love with this movie.

Dougherty, who started his career working with Bryan Singer on the screenplays to X2 and Superman Returns, has crafted what can only be described as an unqualified holiday classic. From here on in, let it be known: You watch It's a Wonderful Life on Christmas, Darby O'Gill & The Little People on St. Patrick's Day, Yankee Doodle Dandy on the Fourth of July... and Trick 'r Treat on Halloween. It's as simple as that.

The film revolves around four different stories, all taking place in the same town on Halloween night. The tales are loosely interwoven, although not directly connected. And if the picture has any weakness at all, it's the somewhat disjointed pacing that arises due to the fact that the movie was originally intended as an anthology and was later re-edited. The connections between the tales, and the cutting back and forth, are a little awkward at times. But this is a minor quibble.

It's part Twilight Zone, part EC Comics, with a dash of Season of the Witch thrown in for good measure. Dylan Baker and Brian Cox are outstanding, as they always are. Baker in particular is an absolute joy--as I stated a few days ago, this guy deserves a ton more recognition. I've been onboard ever since Planes, Trains and Automobiles, and who didn't love him in flicks like Fido and Happiness? For my money, he's the best thing about Trick 'r Treat, tearing into his devilish role with delicious malevolence. A pre-True Blood Anna Paquin also turns up, but isn't really given enough time to shine.

What I truly love about this film as well, is the fact that most of the tales deal directly with the terrors of children, or are in some way tied into Halloween from a kid's perspective. This connects to something primal in all of us--that kernel deep down inside that is still afraid of the dark from when we cowered under the sheets and watched the closet door intently as we tried to fall asleep. In modern times, Halloween has been a decidedly child-oriented holiday, which is fascinating considering it also deals in matters of the horrific and supernatural.

Trick 'r Treat plays on the connection between children and the horrors of Halloween. This element is literally embodied in that creepy-as-hell little sack-headed scarecrow kid who is basically the centerpoint of the flick. Forget Jigsaw or The Creeper--this little bugger is without question the iconic horror movie icon of the decade.

It's dark material, but at the same time, never gets so heavy as to lose it's sense of fun. That's a tough balancing act to pull off, but Dougherty does it with style. Whatever stuffed shirt made the decision to keep this gem out of theaters deserves a visit from that little scarecrow dude. In the meantime, see Trick 'r Treat sometime between now and October 31 at all costs. And so do every single year from now on.

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Looking to kill a little more time? Then I urge you to jump over to Day of the Woman, and read my very own contribution to BJ-C's fascinating "Halloween Hijinks" series, all about those old school Ben Cooper costumes. Also, check out the last big list BJ and myself put together for Bloody-Disgusting...


Anonymous said...

I can't wait to see this, of course, there is a LONG WAIT on Netflix :(

Stuart Conover said...

The absolute worst part about this not getting a wide release- he could have made a franchise out of it. A franchise that didn't get old.

When I saw the screening in Chicago he had a little Q&A. He was thinking this was a series he would want to revisit every 2 years in different small towns. Apparently he had at least 3 movies worth of ideas still. The whole idea was that he wanted to make this in regular suburbs / small towns with various local horror stories as part of the theme for each of them.

Until the whole release debacle.

deadlydolls said...

I was already excited to see this but had no idea it starred Dylan Baker and Brian Cox! This just made my day. Netflix better have shipped it and not randomly put me on the Long Wait list when it's been my Number 1 for two months!

Steve Ring said...

Wow, I was just looking at Dylan Baker's IMDB and they're bringing The Pitts back. I don't think I've ever heard of a show lasting half a dozen episodes and then only being renewed six years later.

And I loved Trick 'r Treat but the Anna Paquin segment was pretty disposable I thought. A couple episodes of Tales from the Crypt have pretty much the same plot. I guess I could never leave a gift horse unexamined. Otherwise, magic.

Seth Canes said...

I think I might be the only horrorfan who didn't like this movie at all... ah well, what to do.

phantomcreeps said...

Couldn't agree more with your review. They had this on my Charter On Demand and watched it last night with a few friends. What an awe-inspiring Halloween flick. This is an excellent movie, the Warner Studio should be ashamed of themselves for not releasing this in theaters right before Halloween. They would have a new Franchise on their hands. I almost don't want to buy the DVD, just to Punish Warner, but I will to support the director. Happy Halloween!

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