Directed by Michael Dougherty [Other horror films: Krampus (2015)]
Perhaps one of my favorite horror anthologies, Trick ‘r Treat is a pure treat every time I see it. I love the way the multiple stories here interweave yet also have their own strong individual feel and engage with different genres (whether it be serial killers, zombie children, killer principals, werewolves, what have you). A very strong film, Trick ‘r Treat sets the bar very high.
Following the jumbled timeline throughout the movie can be fun, though it’s not even necessary in some cases. If you missed the couple from the opening bumping into a young woman looking for safety from a serial killer, you didn’t miss anything important, but it was a nice little scene (and the pair also pop up in a smaller cameo later).
The film has a very comic-book influenced feel (not too dissimilar from Creepshow), which goes well with the style and multiple subgenres the movie deals with. The atmosphere is top-notch (especially during the Halloween School Bus Massacre segment as it takes place in that creepy quarry, and the flashback in that segment had a great mood too), and while the special effects aren’t generally special, I do think the music is quite note-worthy at times (such as during the werewolf transformation), and the whole of the film has a fantastic Halloween vibe that few movies (aside from, of course, Halloween, Halloween III, and Halloween 4) can really match.
It’s hard to pin-point the best performance. I was always partial to Anna Paquin (X-Men, Blue State, and as for horror, Darkness and Scream 4) as I really loved her character, finding her so much more attractive than her sister and friends. Playing her sister is Lauren Lee Smith (who was in the terribly dated show Mutant X that I actually saw a handful of episodes from), who’s character was a bit of an annoyance, but she did share a few good moments with Paquin’s character. Samm Todd and Jean-Luc Bilodeau were solid.
Dylan Baker was a lot of fun in his segment, and while I can’t say if I recognize him from the weaksauce comedy Head of State, the great Spider-Man 2, or even Fido, but I do recognize him, and his role here is great. Britt McKillip was bratty, but fun (and her eye roll after being chastised for using a bad word is totally a mood). Of course Brian Cox (The Autopsy of Jane Doe, The Ring, and most memorably for me, X2) was great here (and his character had some nice depth to him).
As for the best segment, I personally lean toward the Halloween School Bus Massacre, as that back-story behind the massacre was both brutal and interesting, the atmosphere at the quarry is fantastic, and the fact that you can’t at all fault Rhonda (Samm Todd) for her actions. I enjoyed the Surprise Party, though some of the dialogue is a bit on-the-nose (which may not be that noticeable on a first-time watch, but there you go). The Sam-centrict story with the demonic thing fighting Cox was fun, and even more fun was Dylan Baker’s segment (with some quality humor added), but neither one had that oompf Halloween School Bus Massacre did.
Which isn’t to say that those segments bring down the film, because as everything here is interconnected in some way, the whole of the movie is pretty solid. It would have been sort of nice to get a little idea of what Sam actually was (I’m leaning toward a vengeful personification of traditional Halloween), but it definitely wasn’t necessary in order to enjoy the film.
Special effects throughout are great, with the spotlight really going to the zombie kids at the bottom of the quarry. The werewolf transformation sequence (matched with that music) makes for a great time, and the long fight between Sam and Brian Cox had a lot of solid stuff going on. What makes all of this better is how digestible it is, as the story goes for just 78 minutes (with credits, the movie’s listed as 82 minutes), and it’s done so beautifully.
Trick ‘r Treat is a fantastic film. It amazes me just how good it actually is, and for a Halloween night, or any night, it’s a great choice, with fun, interwoven tales that really carry with them the essence of the holiday.