Trick 'r Treat
Director: Michael Dougherty
Trick 'r Treat is one of the most enjoyable Halloween-themed movies that you're likely to ever come across again in a long, long time. This film is just drenched in the haunting holiday spirit, lambasting you with images from your childhood when you stalked the night in search of tricks or treats. Lovingly, director Michael Dougherty revels in the celebration that is All Hallow's Eve and the atmosphere that this cryptic holiday provides. Using all of the staples and visual cues that you'd expect from walking the streets on Halloween night, Dougherty creates a film that is an instant classic and one that should be watched each year before donning your costume and consuming your pillowcase full of candy.
This town really knows how to throw a Halloween bash.
Surprisingly, this is director Michael Dougherty's first feature film and man is this a great way to start out a hopefully long career in the film industry. The expertise that is on display within the storytelling alone for this film is quite astonishing and one that allows you to just fall into this world that he has created. The first thing that you'll notice is that there is no real traditional structure to the narrative. Dougherty treats the film as if we are a ghost or spirit, voyeuristically dipping in and out of various main characters lives as they experience their own personal stories on Halloween night. The technique is flawless and makes the story feel that much more interesting as the individual stories begin to overlap in random places. You'll begin to notice that characters from previous stories begin showing up in other segments of the movie and in a few delightful sections, the characters even physically interact with each other. These moments are pure genius and make the town that this is all happening in, feel real and lived in and most of all gives us a great sense of community for this town that literally goes all out for Halloween.
Girls night out!
Thinking on it, I'd have to say that the main character of this film has to be the town of Warren Valley, Ohio, where the film is said to be placed in. There's so much color to both the visuals and the inhabitants of this town that it really provides the breadth of the films atmosphere while generating a perfect feel to the wildness and unadulterated wonder that Halloween stands for. The nostalgia that you'll experience while watching this movie is heavy to say the least and Dougherty leaves no stone left unturned as he breaks out the familiar visual icons of the holiday. Candy corn laden bowls, razor-blade filled candy, overstuffed pillowcases filled with goodies, ghastly carved pumpkins, and creepy masks covered by anonymous faces, compile the screen in practically every shot, celebrating the one night where people can be whoever they want. The tone is pitch perfect and Dougherty needs commended for what he has accomplished in this film.
Halloween really is a great holiday for families to bond.
The film is very deep in its execution and it ambitiously tackles a number of independent stories that intertwine as the film progresses. Among the stories there is a short tale about a couple that extinguishes their pumpkin before midnight and the consequences that result, then there is a segment about an unlikely serial killer and his eventful Halloween night, also a story about a young girl who isn't as she seems as she searches for her first love, another story about a group of kids dabbling in a local legend that is beyond creepy to say the least, and finally a segment on a hermit who has one hell of a night. All of these stories relate to each other in some way and when each relation is revealed it begins to join the movie together and sustain a concrete foundation that allows the film to really morph into something special. The technique seems random at first, but as you start to notice the connections within each story, the payoff really is something to behold.
Worst class trip ever.
What makes this film so remarkable is the stellar cast and the convincing characters that they portray. There isn't a weak persona in the bunch and everyone seems to be treating the material with great respect, even when they are dealing with far fetched situations such as in the hermit segment where Brian Cox is battling a pint sized attacker armed with a candy bar stuffed razor-blade. Brian Cox is a pro and that's an understatement and he provides a great character that though despicable, you feel for and sort of root to come out the other end of this tale unscathed. His segment provides the most comedic aspect of this film, yet he's able to tame the ludicrousness of it all and respectably convince the viewer that this outlandish event is all but natural in the world of Trick 'r Treat.
The line for the new Harry Potter book wasn't as long as previous years.
Also giving a great performance is Anna Paquin as the innocent love starved Laurie, who dressed as Little Red Riding Hood looks for a date to the Halloween bash. Paquin has a number of memorable movie roles throughout her career, but personally I've never been a huge fan, yet with Trick 'r Treat, she gives a performance that really made me take notice of her talent on screen. Her segment is rather impressive and wholly demanding, because it asks a lot of her character. The range that Laurie goes through in her individual story gives an unexpected flip that is sure to put a smile across the majority of viewer's faces. What happens really does come out of left field and it just amplifies the spirit and playful nature of the film.
Anna Paquin takes a stroll through Tim Burton's Sleepy Hollow set.
Dylan Baker, who's been in more films and television shows then I care to count, plays a principal and family man who has a pension for blood. The various sequences that he has in this film are really enjoyable to see play out and the dark comedic timing that is asked of his character is remarkable and fits perfectly within the context of Halloween mischief. His character provides another flip on the Halloween lore, replacing the trick or treat notion of kids pranking adults with the fact that adults can also dish out a painful helping of tricks. Baker really adds to the flavor of this tasty treat of a movie and provides a great performance that nails what the film is all about.
Poor Sack Boy had to sit the bench on team hell.
While talking about the big name actors of the film, we can't forget about the little guys, literally. The younger actors of the film really step up to the plate and perform on the same level of their larger counterparts. The segment that tackles the urban legend about a horrible accident that occurred resulting in the deaths of a bus full of school children, is played out with a competent display of professionalism by the younger cast. In retrospect, that is the real beauty of this film. It worships the fact that Halloween is a holiday for all ages that grabs a hold of us in our youth and never lets go through that nostalgic notion that we can be anyone or anything on this day. It's reflected perfectly in the film, when we can flash back and forth between the older actors and the younger ones and never feel like the tone, tempo, or presentation of the film suffers. The younger cast perfectly carry the film for their intended run times and never do you feel like skipping out on their story to get back to the more established cast members. Indeed their segments are a welcomed portion that hit the mark, just like every story in this film, and provide an amazing element that jives so well with the movies overall theme.
A holiday fire hazard just waiting to happen.
Another aspect of this film that really captures the feeling of Halloween is the music. Douglas Pipes composes the original music for Trick 'r Treat and man is it stunning as it vividly paints a picture of this morbid holiday. Listening to the compositions as they're played out can magically transport you back to the days of crowded streets full of trick or treaters illuminated only by the carved orange hued faces of hollowed out pumpkins. The atmosphere that Pipes creates with this soundtrack brings the sights and sounds of Halloween to life. It provides the perfect accompanying presence to the sounds of leaves rustling through the trees and the baying of wolves under the moonlit night sky. The efforts of Pipes truly raises the film up and creates something entirely true to the spirit of Halloween, just like John Carpenter's score did for his classic slasher masterpiece.
These used to be such strong hands.
The true hero that makes Trick 'r Treat the amazing piece that it is, is director Michael Dougherty who has contributed so much to the overall production of this film. He served as director, writer, and producer on this film and his keen eye for detail and impeccable skills at delivering an enthralling narrative have paved way for a film that speaks wonders for his overall ability as a filmmaker. It's been a long while since I've seen a film that thoroughly captures the spirit and essence of a single moment in time. One that has been imprinted on anyone's mind that has participated in any kind of Halloween festivities, but Dougherty does it with style and to that I say, job well done.
He has a face only a mother could love.
Trick 'r Treat is exactly what I would ever want in a movie about Halloween. It captures everything that encompasses the great holiday and is able to do it in both a nostalgic way, yet keep it feeling fresh and new. The technique of providing a plethora of story-lines and merging them all together within the sleepy town of Warren Valley, Ohio, is just masterful. Watching as characters from various stories stumble across each other's segments is both interesting and terribly entertaining to see play out. The moments where this happens gives way to a spark that enlightens the audience on just how truly special and original this film really is. If you want to see a film that accurately and lovingly captures the experience of Halloween, then this movie is for you. I highly recommend it to anyone with a love for horror, Halloween, and the nostalgic feeling of being a kid again.
5 out of 5 stars A Perfect Halloween Film and an Instant Classic