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Watching Hour Preview: Trick 'r Treat

Michael Dougherty’s Trick ’r Treat is the best horror anthology movie, period, and if you don’t agree U R DUM. Seriously, this little known direct-to-DVD movie is the most thoroughly consistent and enjoyable anthology movie and Halloween-set movie I’ve seen. If you’re not among the growing ranks of this movie’s word-of-mouth fanbase, it’s time to join. What the Rankin/Bass movies are to Christmas, Trick ‘r Treat is to Halloween. The movie has fused itself to the holiday in my mind. Woe is the year I don’t watch Trick ‘r Treat on Halloween.

Trick ‘r Treat is set in a fictional Midwest town that goes totally bonkers every Halloween. We’re talking the biggest shindig this side of Carnival, with homemade costumes that will make you and your homemade costume-making buddies totally eat 'yer heart out. Everything goes topsy-turvy, but as long as you follow ‘The Rules’ you should be okay come morning. What are ‘The Rules,’ you ask? Wear a costume, hand out treats, never blow out a jack o’ lantern, and always check your candy. Naturally, the gruesome results of not following the rules are revealed in short order. From an evil principal with razor blade candy apples to werewolves to urban legends to home invasion by a demon spirit, Trick ‘r Treat delivers a cornucopia of Halloween archetypes with style to spare. Weaving in and out of all the stories, a little trick or treater (or is he?) named Sam, the apparent ‘guardian angel’ of Halloween, witnesses all and makes sure that breakers of the rules get their just desserts.

The behind the scenes story of Trick ‘r Treat is a horror story of a different kind. In the early 2000s writer/director Michael Dougherty was riding high from the one-two punch of X2: X-Men United and Superman Returns, both of which he wrote the script for. He’d been toying with the idea of a Halloween anthology for over a decade. An early version of the Sam character appeared in Dougherty’s fun and devilish animated short, Season’s Greetings, which hints at Trick ‘r Treat’s wicked but tongue-in-cheek vibe. Take a look:

Brian Singer came on as producer, and Trick ‘r Treat was filmed and slated for a Halloween 2007 release. It was pushed back. No big deal. That stuff happens in Hollywood all the time. It was pushed back again. And again. And again. Finally, after Trick ‘r Treat had sat on the studio shelf for over two years, it was released with no fanfare straight-to-video last October. I’d say the studio bosses deserve a visit from Sam for what they did to this awesome little movie. Luckily Trick ‘r Treat is slowly but surely finding an audience. As someone said recently about box office failure Scott Pilgrim, even though the release was a letdown, you can’t unmake the movie. It will always be there for us true believers to cherish.

Those who enjoy really terrifying movie can get kind of frustrated with anthologies like Tales from the Crypt and Creepshow. They may be entertaining but they’re rarely scary. Like I wrote in my preview for Nightmares from a couple weeks back, the disconnect some people have with horror anthologies stems from confusion over how to approach them. Are you looking to be scared out of your mind? Or are you looking for an ooky-spooky, kooky good time? If you’re looking for a fright fest, you may have just signed up for the wrong movie. Trick ‘r Treat is decidedly in the ‘good time’ camp. If you can give yourself over to a little bit of macabre fun, Trick ‘r Treat will worm its way into your Halloween-lovin’ heart.

Even more than for horror fans, Trick ‘r Treat is for fans of Halloween itself. In the Venn diagram of life, ‘horror fans’ is a little circle inside the bigger ‘Halloween fans’ circle. Trick r’ Treat straddles the line between these spheres. It reminds you of all the great things about Halloween – trick or treating, dressing up, Bacchanalian parties, and ghost stories – while maintaining just enough danger to be really wicked.
-Ben

The Watching Hour is a weekly film series at the Starz Film Center, highlighting new and old cult, genre, or otherwise bizarro movies. Quite simply, The Watching Hour is usually the best thing to do in Denver on a Friday or Saturday night. From Giallo to schlock, Blaxploitation to Aussiesploitation, zombies to martial arts to who-knows-what, and everywhere in between. This is good ol’ rock and roll cinema spectacle. Not to be missed. (See the schedule, buy tickets, get directions, etc. here.)

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