I know some people who flip out over Christmas- people who get excited when the radio stations switch over to holiday music, when it's time to dig the decorations out of the attic, when Rankin-Bass takes over the TV. I get it. Christmas is cool...but come on, let's not pretend for even one minute that Halloween isn't the best. I get jazzed when TV stations show nothin' but the scary stuff, when haunted houses are open for business, when my grocery store has glow-in-the-dark skeletons for sale, and for that one night a year when everyone is a horror movie fan. Mind you, it doesn't feel the same as it did when I was eight- I mean, that's a big doy doy if I've ever written one- but still, once September turns to October, there's a vibe in the air that I adore...and once October turns to November, I get a little bummed. If there's ever been a movie that's captured that feeling, that air of macabre fun I associated with Halloween, it's Trick 'r Treat.
The film is an anthology of sorts, relaying four stories set on Halloween night in the small town of Warren Valley, Ohio- a place that pulls out all the stops when celebrating the holiday. Writer/director Michael Dougherty tells the tales in a fashion more akin to Pulp Fiction than to Creepshow; that is, the stories are interwoven into one narrative that jumps back and forth through time, rather than presented as separate segments. History and some familiar urban legends are explored, from razor blades in the candy to the roots of Samhain- and the film that results is the biggest celebration of October 31st since It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown. Trick 'r Treat is destined to become an annual viewing tradition, much like A Christmas Story is 'round December.
As a pure horror film, it's a bit uneven. It's not entirely scary and there are a few missteps (the climax of the 'party girls' storyline was a let down), but overall there's an exceptionally dark EC Comics tone that's fun and mean. The legend of the children who died on the schoolbus is a highlight, both horrifying and heartbreaking- man, the chubby kid in the bunny suit really got to me. Then there's Sam, the burlap sackheaded boy/monster who ties it all together...he could become a bonafide holiday icon, but I wish in the end we'd seen a little less of him.
The production design is amazing- despite the many instances of child murder, I sort of wish Warren Valley were a real place. It's my Halloween dream town. While it's not the scariest thing you'll see, Trick 'r Treat is perhaps a dream Halloween movie...undoubtedly it's a perfect way to bring SHOCKTOBER to a close.
Ugh, "to a close"! It's over already. I suppose by tomorrow afternoon, stores will take down the masks and put up the wreaths, and all the candy will be wrapped in red and green instead of orange and black. Guess that means I'll just have to stay inside, where the fake gravestones are always out, the wigs are always close at hand, and there are always horror movies playing ad nauseum.