Trick ‘r Treat is a film I have wanted to talk about for a while, but, for some reason or another, I have never gotten around to. Sometimes I will watch a film with the intent of summing up my thoughts, only for it to fall between the cracks, until so much time has passed I know I will have to watch it again in-order to write an insightful and thoughtful review about it. This has been what has happened the last five or so years for this film, but I decided now would be when I write about it definitively.
The 2007 anthology horror film was written and directed by Michael Dougherty and produced by Bryan Singer. I have developed some admiration for Dougherty’s work as a director, with Trick ‘r Treat serving as a gateway, so to speak. Since then, he has went onto direct the charming holiday horror film Krampus and the visually enticing, but otherwise average film Godzilla: King of the Monsters.
Bryan Singer is a filmmaker I am familiar with as well, largely due to his involvement in the X-Men franchise. Unfortunately, I am also familiar with the largescale allegations made against the individual himself, which makes for a badge of dishonor for this film. The fact is, looking at the credentials behind the scenes, it feels clear that Trick ‘r Treat likely would not have come to exist had Bryan Singer and Dougherty not worked with each other on X-Men and Superman Returns.
Trick ‘r Treat is a real anomaly of a horror film. The horror film was met with setbacks and delays and did not even receive a worldwide theatrical release, opting, instead, for a video on-demand approach. And yet, it holds a special place in the heart of many horror fans. As a matter of fact, I even walked past a “Sam” collectible toy at Wal-Mart only a couple days prior. It is crazy to think a decade old direct-to-video release would still be receiving merchandise at major, mainstream retailers.
The involved cast is comprised of Dylan Baker, Rochelle Aytes, Anna Paquin and Brian Cox, and intertwines four horror stories brought together by a comment factor, a mysterious trick-or-treater wearing orange footie pajamas and a burlap sack over his head.
Anthologies are a wonderful concept in principle, and yet, more often than not fail to come together in a effective fashion. Sometimes you will see a fledgling filmmaker overzealously mash as much content into a film as they can, making it difficult for each story to breathe. Sometimes the stories are not related, and are independently created short films spliced together for improved marketability.
Trick ‘r Treat is able to largely sidestep those obstacles, benefited by clever craftmanship and nostalgia. The cinematography deliberately harkens back to a foregone era, with visuals and style that pays homage to and celebrates the horror genre and what we attach to the Halloween season. The score vaguely calls back to John Carpenter and other iconic sounds, and the iconography of Sam walking around with his lollipop offers an important wraparound framework.
The storylines are all deceptively simple and feel inspirit with the overall themes of the film itself. All of them feel tongue-and-cheek and familiar enough to feel nostalgic, but different enough to feel unique in their own way. The acting is commendable, as mentioned, it is comprised of a cast of actors and actresses you might be familiar with, and the budget itself is considerable, especially given the circumstances of its release.
The moments when it feels like the film does ham it up or draw logic into question, it feels deliberate and inline with its influences.
The special-effects are worth singling out, especially the ones involving the Sam character himself and the culmination of the “Surprise Party” segment. The effects drew me back to some of the more outlandish scenes of the Evil Dead series, and that certainly is not a bad thing at all.
I consider Trick ‘r Treat as a classic Halloween film in the same vein as a lot of other horrors that I watch in the holiday season. If you look at it and analyze it, you will find criticisms and, in truth, it does not do a whole lot of things we have not seen in some way. All of the segments are, really, average, but delightful storylines that celebrate the spirit of the season. They remind me of Goosebumps or Full Moon Features (in its heyday), or something of that ilk. They don’t set the world on fire, necessarily, but they do satiate and they are entertaining to watch.
I feel like what sets Trick ‘r Treat apart from a lot of anthologies and nostalgic-induced feature films is the presence of Sam. Similar to Jason or Michael, or Freddy, or, ahem, Slappy the Dummy, what stays with us is the semblance of something and what we choose to have it represent. As fun as the film is, I think that is more likely the reason it has stood the test of time and been so marketable, is because how easy it was to accept Sam in as a new Halloween figurehead. When I watched Krampus, as interested as I was in the film itself, I was eagle-eyed, watching to see if Sam might make an appearance. And, I think that is what it comes down to for Trick ‘r Treat. I like the film, but I am more drawn to it by what I feel it represents and what I would like more of in the genre.