During the month of April, a few of us will be outlining some of our favorite anthologies. Jesse Bartel starts us off with his thoughts on one of the most hyped films of the decade. Was the long wait worth the end product?
There are few anthologies that I really enjoy, ones that hold me from start to finish and really invite me back to see again and again. That seems to be the problem with anthologies, you might like most of the stories but there may be a couple that you could do without. With Trick r’ Treat, every story is great and every story leads up to an amazing ending that really packs a punch. I want to show appreciation for this wonderful film by talking about its origins and how it came to be. I want to briefly touch on the stories themselves and finally bring it around to the wonderful character of Sam. Let’s all sit back and appreciate the greatest horror anthology ever created (well, so far).
There was a lot of hullabaloo surrounding the release of the film that caused it to be a Direct-to-DVD movie. The film was completed by 2007 and was given some initial screenings. The reviews were great (outstanding even) and it was really big with the online horror community. No one had a bad word to say about the film, which is due mostly to the fact that it’s fantastic (my opinion). For reasons that I could not discover, Warner Brothers and Legendary Pictures pushed the commercial release of the film back two years. There were a few screenings here and there but no nationwide theater release. The movie did not see the light of day till 2009 when it was silently handed out to the public; I assume the production companies were hoping to make just a few dollars to cover costs. This is not the kind of handling that would expect a great film to have but it happened nonetheless.
The director also was a unique choice, Michael Dougherty, the guy who wrote 2006’s Superman Returns was able to create the best Halloween film in years. The idea of Trick r’ Treat came from an animated short he made years earlier entitled Seasons Greetings. The short depicts a Halloween night and a very “Sam” looking character is passing himself off as an innocent kid but something more devious lurks and the short becomes bloodier than you ever thought. Sam has a sort of stalker and it’s not the stalker that instills horror into your heart but its Sam showing who he truly is at the end. As you can see, Trick r’ Treat actually has a very interesting history as to how it eventually got to be on our movie shelves. I am amazed at how much trouble it really went through, I mean, the reviews were great and the movie itself is so well made. This is just another example of horror getting the ax because it does not “appeal” to the “mainstream” of filmgoers.
The film consists of four different stories or vignettes that surround a single amazing narrative. That’s also why I really dig this anthology because each story stands on its own but yet you pull back and there’s a bigger picture. There is both an opening and conclusion that are little stories in themselves but they just serve to further push the narrative. Every vignette sticks out as its own section, from the beginning we are hit with some nice imagery, like a bitchy girlfriend getting a razor sharp lollipop shoved into her mouth and semi-crucified or the great opening credits scene with the graphic novel touch. Dylan Baker plays a serial killer who is a principle as well, named Principle Wilkins. Principle Wilkins corners a horrible fat kid (that mute Bad Santa kid) who is knocking over pumpkins and sits him down. As he talks to him, the fat child throws up gallons of gooey blood because he has swallowed a razor blade hidden in a candy bar. This is a play on that old saying of “always checking your candy,” it really does not get any better than that. Brian Cox plays a great role as being the crotchety old man next door who has a darker past. His part in particular really holds the whole movie together because of all the complexities it has. There’s a quirky story that seems (but it’s not) to be about a girl (True Bloods, Anna Pacquin) who is being taken out by her friends to find a man, to what the viewer assumes means to have her virginity taken. Of course, the only virginity she is losing is to eat her first male as a werewolf and that person is no other than Principle Wilkins. You see! The movie continually lets you know that it’s all a part of a single thread of narrative. I could probably write a whole paper connecting all the events and characters. I’ll save you from that lengthy adventure though.
The main draw for the film; would have to be Sam. The burlap/footy pajama wearing mascot that turns himself into a real icon by the time the end credits roll. Sam’s name comes from the word “Samhain” that relates to winters solstice or all souls day, so this adds to the mysterious nature of the ghostly little creature. Underneath that burlap sack is a pumpkin like devil-head that makes Sam a lot less cute and gives him a more menacing edge. But there is something so very cute about him, walking around and dragging his bag looking for the next batch of trouble. Sam is a god-like figure; he easily encompasses all things Halloween and will murder/destroy/slice any of those who do not play by the rules. The fact that Sam is so small and childlike is very interesting as well because Halloween brings out the child in all of us. There’s a dichotomy here, the childlike idea and novelty of Halloween versus the strict rules that need to be followed. Not at any point in the film am I NOT rooting for Sam to destroy the defilers of Halloween. Especially the scene with Rhonda, Rhonda (the geeky witch girl) wants to obey the rules of Halloween and ends up being the butt of a nasty joke. So when she leaves those horrid kids to their doom and exits the lift, we see her come very close (physical distance) to Sam. Sam leaves her alone because he knows that she defended the idea of Halloween and her heart was pure on the matter. There is a slight acknowledgement there and its almost touching in a way, Sam somehow became one with her. Sam is now (in my mind) the new icon for horror and especially the new icon for Halloween.
This is an appreciation and I hope that you too are looking back fondly on this film and thinking about all the little things that make it so great. There has not been a Halloween film since Halloween, which I can watch year after year as a sort of ritual. It is like the demented version of Its a Wonderful Life, something that you watch every year around a particular holiday. Dougherty has gone on record saying that he will be creating a sequel and to this I am not excited. To me, this was a film that stands all by itself. It does not need a sequel to express anymore ideas; we got them all from the first. I am interested to see what he does though and I have faith because he did such a bang up job on the first. They also created a graphic novel based on the movie as well, I love comics and it was great to see Trick r’ Treat put into that format. If you haven’t had a chance to see this, SEE IT NOW! NETFLIX IT! Because it will amaze you and capture your heart, then read this again so that it makes even more sense to you.
Happy Stabbings-Jesse Lee Alan Bartel