When I first heard that there was a movie called Trick ‘r Treat in production my first thought was “are they really making a remake of that heavy metal horror film that Ozzy was in?” As it turns out, they weren’t. The movie is actually a horror anthology consisting of four independent but occasionally intersecting stories all taking place on the same Halloween night. That’s a lot more respectable than a remake of the lamest horror film of the 80s, but apparently the powers that be didn’t agree, which was why this ended up going straight to DVD. This destiny has less to do with the film’s actual caliber than it does to do with quirks of the release schedules. The film has been largely accepted by horror junkies in festivals like Austin Butt-Numb-a-thon, Toronto After Dark, Fantastic Fest, and Screamfest, because of this I decided to give the film a watch in spite of its stigma as a direct to DVD horror title.
As previously mentioned, the film consists of four separate stories and while they subtly intersect every once in a while they are mostly independent. One of the stories deals with a psychotic elementary school teacher (Dylan Baker) who poisons his trick or treat candy, one deals with a group of children investigating the haunted wreckage of a crashed school bus, one deals with a group of teenagers (Anna Paquin, Lauren Lee Smith, et al.) who are staked by a vampire, and the final story deals with a cranky old man (Brian Cox) who’s attacked by a pint-sized sprite with a gunny-sack over his head. The gunny-sack-headed thing actually turns up in all the stories, if only as a background figure. Think of him as the movie’s crypt keeper, but without the winning personality. Not all of these stories are quite what they appear, pretty much all of them have a twist to them at the end.
Of the three stories, the one with Brian Cox is easily the strongest. That story comes the closest to be a legitimate piece of horror and Cox (an eminently overqualified actor) chews the scenery nicely. The rest are pretty problematic. I found the crazy principle story to be particularly weak, mainly because it was devoid of suspense and was generally a weak opener to the film. The story of the four kids also suffers, first from the illogicly short walk the kids apparently need to make in order to reach a ravine in the middle of nowhere and also because it probably had the least inventive twist of the whole film. The Anna Paquin story fares a little better than those two, it feels like that story get the bulk of the film’s budget and Paquin also elevates it a little, but its twist opens it up to a fairly big plot hole.
The biggest problem this film has is that it isn’t even remotely scary. It also isn’t suspenseful, it isn’t chilling, it isn’t creepy, it isn’t eerie, it doesn’t even have jump scares, or even a noteworthy amount of gore. If you go into this expecting a full on horror movie you will be sorely disappointed. Many will counter that this is meant as a horror-comedy, but this doesn’t impress me either because this isn’t really very funny either. What this is, is a lark of a movie that’s playing around with the traditions of Halloween and some traditional horror material. The film’s occasional adoption of comic book text boxes implies that it is trying to operate within the confines of the EC comics horror tradition that inspired Creepshow, “Tales From the Crypt,” and to some extent this year’s Drag Me To Hell, but as silly as Creepshow was it at least had some legitimate creepiness in the E.G. Marshall segment.
This is one of those movies that has become a cause for its fanbase, because it got stepped on by Hollywood people feel the need to stand up and “support” it. Is the movie worthy of this kind of grassroots support? No. There is more skill on display in it than in the average direct to video movie, but if I think Hollywood might have had the right idea on this one. For one thing the movie is only an hour and seventeen minutes long and I would have felt a little ripped off if I had to pay full price for it. That’s not to say that it should have been longer, the pacing probably wouldn’t have allowed for that, but it’s a problem nonetheless. Pretty much the only way I can see this really working is if you rent it on a weekend and watch it on a night with your friends when you all probably aren’t paying a particularly large amount of attention and are possibly a bit tipsy. If you’re looking for something to fill an evening like that, this will probably satisfy, but in a context that involves more scrutiny I’d skip it.
** out of Four