“Charlie Brown’s an asshole!”

Completed in 2007 and unable to find release until 2009, Trick r Treat has since become a critical and seasonal cult hit. Made in homage to the horror comix of yore, these interwoven tales capture the essential October 31 like few films in history.

Title: Trick ‘r Treat

Written and directed by Michael Dougherty

Cast

Dylan Baker as Principal Steven Wilkins
Anna Paquin as Laurie Rutherford
Rochelle Aytes as Maria
Brian Cox as Mr. Kreeg
Lauren Lee Smith as Danielle Rutherford
Britt McKillip as Macy Rutherford
Isabelle Deluce as Sara Perry
Samm Todd as Rhonda Curran
Jean-Luc Bilodeau as Sam “Schrader” Hader
Alberto Ghisi as Chip Winslow
Moneca Delain as Janet
Tahmoh Penikett as Henry
Brett Kelly as Charlie
Leslie Bibb as Emma
Connor Levins as Billy Wilkins
Gerald Paetz as the Bus Driver
James Willson as Alex
Patrick Gilmore as Bud the Cameraman
C. Ernst Harth as Giant Baby
Keanen Schnoor as Matthew
Christine Willes as Mrs. Henderson
Richard Harmon as Vampire Kid
Laura Mennell as Allie
Chloe Smeltzer as Little Pig #1
Kiah Mortison as Little Pig #2
Livia Mortison as Little Pig #3
and
Quinn Lord as Sam1

Available on Blu-Ray and Amazon Instant Video.

Premise:

Several interwoven tales of terror unfold on Halloween night in a small community with a rate of mysterious deaths that Buffy’s Sunnydale would envy.

Spoiler: people die in horrific ways.

High Point:

“The School Bus Massacre Revisited” not only stands as the strongest of the tales (with a clever epilogue that also closes the movie), it features stunning cinematography, and above-average performances from young actors. Samm Todd beguiles as child savant Rhonda.

Low Points

I enjoyed “Surprise Party,” but (even in a film steeped in the often low-budget history of pop horror) I wish its climactic special effects had been stronger.

While the brief nudity in that sequence makes perfect sense; the shot of a pornographic tape in the film’s prologue feels gratuitous, like it’s only there to assure us the film carries an R-rated.

The Scores:

Originality: 3/6 Trick ‘r Treat captures the essence of old horror comix, campfire terror-tales, and even old faerie tales without slavish imitation.

Effects: 4/6 These vary quite a bit, and have been referenced under “High” and “Low” Points. The filmmakers did well with a limited budget.

Acting: 5/6 The acting varies, but the best is excellent. Dylan Baker gives a hysterical performance as a murderous elementary school principal, setting the tone for much of the film. I have to admire a man who can get paid for having this much fun.

Production: 5/6

Story: 5/6 You have to view this film in its intended spirit. Trick ‘r Treat is twisted, without going overboard on gore as many contemporary genre films do. Seasonal spooks exact appalling revenge and, as in a haunted house, we’re invited to gasp, shriek, and laugh aloud.

Emotional Response: 5/6 Trick r Treat isn’t perfect—it’s certainly not realistic— but it knows exactly what it is. Serving equal doses of the horrific and the ridiculous, it will prove hugely entertaining to anyone who understands they’re watching less a horror movie than a Halloween Movie.

Overall: 6/6 Dougherty made this film for repeated viewings, and many elements become more meaningful that way. Pay careful attention, for example, to the young women’s dialogue in the changeroom. 2

Assuming you’re 18 or older, the definitive Halloween Night Double-bill would be the original Halloween and Trick ‘r Treat.

In total, Trick r Treat receives 33/42

Notes

1. The young actor had doubles, including Suzi Stingl, a small adult gymnast who handled much of the fight scene.

2. With reference to another of the film’s many Easter Eggs, Dougherty confirms that Brian Cox was deliberately made up to look like a bedraggled John Carpenter.