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"During the spookiest time of the year there are a few guidelines all ghosts and goblins should follow. Always stay on sidewalks. Never go to a strangers house, and never go out alone."
–Halloween Safety Film Announcer.
Hello one and all.
Just one more post to go before the final movie reveal. I think I got all the basics covered. Ghosts. Killers. Comedies. Classics. Vampires. Werewolves; but one horror film hadn't been done yet. Though it wasn't for lack of trying: The Horror Anthology.
One of my favorite routines as a kid was watching on Saturday evenings was "Tales From The Darkside," on NYC's Channel 11 WPIX. The brilliant show always had an episode that mixed everything from the darkly macabre to black comedy humorous. One episode in particular was about a cruel curmudgeon on Halloween, who got off on pissing off trick-or-treaters, until one in particular (a ghoulie disguised as a trick-or-treater) got nasty revenge on him afterwards. I got a real kick out of 80s horror stories on television; but was hard-pressed to find a really terrific horror anthology movie to watch for my 'Thon. Like The Twilight Zone or Amazing Stories, anthology series seem to play better on television than the movies.
There were a few decent horror anthology films released in the 80s. Sure, I could've done Creepshow, or Twilight Zone: The Movie, or even Stephen King's Cat's Eye; all good choices to be sure, but I decided upon one that reminded me of my Saturday night television ritual. Michael Dougherty's Trick 'r Treat was released in 2007, but I caught wind of it in 2013. I hadn't heard much of it, but was pleasantly surprised when I saw it for my first Halloween Horrorthon that year. It's pretty clear Dougherty had an affinity for 80s trashy horror movies all the while mixing pitch black humor into the proceedings. He blatantly riffs Stephen King, George Romero, Joe Dante, Wes Craven and Tobe Hooper and manages to tell it with a straight face, while keeping its tongue firmly planted in cheek.
It's a four-part story all told from the POVs of citizens from Warren Valley, Ohio. The film's motif seems to be about keeping Halloween tradition alive and well, or indeed suffering the consequences. All horror anthologies seem to have a common thread. Creepshow had the naughty-son-angry-father-comic-book-voodoo-doll story arc. Twilight Zone: The Movie had the two-guys-car-talking-trying-to-outscare-each-other (Albert Brooks and Dan Aykroyd) connecting thread. Cat's Eye, was... pretty obvious; a cat. Trick 'r Treat ties all its stories together with, what else? A trick-or-treater named Sam. Sam seems no older than about five-years-old, wears pajamas and a burlap sack over its head with buttons for eyes and can do awful things with a half-eaten Jack O' Lantern lollipop sucker. We meet him first in...
The 2007 Movie Poster
The Prologue (Opening)
A cute couple (Leslie Bibb, Tahmoh Penikett) are done with their Halloween festivities for the night. The girl hates Halloween (a fact she doesn't keep to herself) and unflames a Jack O' Lantern, much to the chagrin of Sam. He decides to teach her a lesson, by mutilating her and sticking that lollipop sucker to the back of her throat, shocking the poor boyfriend to pieces.
An annoying fat kid (or rather, overweight child; sorry, didn't mean to be un-P.C., here) gets a rather macabre, even fatal lesson in treat-or-treating breach of etiquette when he makes the mistake of messing with his school principal (Dylan Baker) one last time. His tainted, poisoned candy only gets half the job done. The principal's son demands that his Dad carve out the Jack O' Lantern and we then learn, he's not using a pumpkin at all — but the kid's severed head!
The School Bus Massacre
As the story progresses, we are learning that narrative is very non-linear and that past events are interwoven into the episode. A group of trick-or-treaters; mostly middle-school age, think it'd be cute to scare a young autistic savant peer with a scary (and sick) legend about a group of special-needs kids who are lead to their death by a horrible bus driver who flees the scene. Their trick backfires and they learn all too well, not to fuck with seeming "retarded" people.
A quartet of pretty masqueraders (Anna Paquin being one of them) are all boy-hunting at their Halloween parade for the single purpose of their lone Little Red Riding Hood (Paquin) to lose her virginity. What the men do not realize is that they are... for lack of a better phrase, far from human. They're all she-werewolves and Riding Hood, just needs her first kill.
...and, in a story that bears striking similarity to the "Tales From The Darkside" episode that I saw as a preteen; a nasty coot of an asshole (Brian Cox, always a delight to watch) who mistreats trick-or-treaters for breakfast, lunch and dinner, finally gets a dose of his own medicine when he meets Sam face-to-face. We soon learn that Sam is far from being a kid at all!
All stories tie neatly together as a few things about the school bus massacre are revealed; most particularly, the bus driver who drove that fateful bus to its doom. Sam seems to be an almost demon-of-mercy sent to teach all the denizens to respect the ancient customs pertaining to Halloween... even the cute couple who finally make it home after their fun night out.
In closing, Trick 'r Treat, is a fun, scary, gory, gut-wretching, horror treat that is wrapped up neatly in its fast 82-minute time length. Michael Dougherty would continue the scary/funny holiday motif with his 2015 horror hybrid: Krampus. A film I may do in my next 'Thon...or maybe perhaps Christmas.
Fun Little Fact
The film was shot entirely in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. Bryan Singer, of The Usual Suspects and X-Men and X2 fame, produced.
Next Up: A Halloween surprise!