Trick r Treat Xbox Live download review

A scary treat, or a film that's rightly sat on the shelf for too long? Christopher checks out Trick r Treat...

Like a particularly blackly comic ghost story on Halloween, Michael Dougherty’s Trick r Treat is a fresh but almost comfortingly familiar tale of what can happen when the barriers of reality drop for that one night in October when things ALWAYS go bump in the night. Although, in this film, they also go squelch, and crack and scream!

An extension of Dougherty’s short film Season’s Greetings, the film had a troubled release. Originally set for early October 2007, its release was delayed by Warner Bros. Watching the film, it is clear to see why they had such a problem with it as it looks to be a nightmare to market a film that so gleefully twists the rules of horror films. No age bracket is safe from wickedly gruesome death and no trailer could possibly cover the events of the film without giving away one of its devilish twists. Michael Dougherty proves an adept director on this, his first film in the job, with producing duties by Bryan Singer (Dougherty co-wrote Superman Returns and X2).

Essentially, the film is homage to 1950s horror comics like Tales From The Crypt, and is similar to films like Creepshow and Tales From The Darkside. The story is set in a small town in America that is celebrating Halloween on a massive scale. Trick or treaters of all ages roam the streets in wild costumes. But one particular costume stands out, a small figure wearing a burlap pumpkin mask. Meet Sam (full name Samhain, the Celtic name for the festival of the dead, which has become Halloween), the character that links all these stories together, and a punisher of those who break the Halloween rules.

So to the stories…

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Well, the first story, the opener of the film, is a couple, Emma and Henry (Funny People‘s Leslie Bibb and Battlestar Galactica‘s Tamoh Penikett)  returning from a night of trick or treating. Disregarding the rules of Halloween, Emma blows the jack-o-lantern out before midnight. Let’s just say Sam makes her regret it.

Following swiftly after a wonderful comic strip-based title sequence we enter the strange world of The Principal, played with unnerving calm by Spider-Man‘s Dylan Baker. This guy wants to teach the kids in the neighbourhood the true meaning of Halloween, but seems to only follow the trick side of things.

Happening at the same time, a group of city girls are getting dressed up for their yearly trip to Halloween to get tanked and laid by any males they deem suitable. One of them, Laurie (True Blood‘s Anna Paquin) is a 22 year old virgin, something her sister and friend are determined to resolve. She is left behind in town as the girls set off to a party in the woods (watched by Sam). Ironically dressed as Red Riding Hood she experiences a particularly nasty predator dressed in black who is stalking the Halloween parade for victims.

As this is happening, a group of kids take idiot savant Rhonda on a trip to the site of an eerie urban legend involving a school bus full of ‘troubled’ teens and a rock quarry on the edge of town. As the kids go down to investigate the legend, Sam watches from the side, almost an audience to what is about to happen.

Finishing the tales is Brian Cox’s Mr Kreeg, a miserly old man who gets a personal visit from Sam. Terrorising the old codger in his own home, Sam shows that he is a particularly mean spirited kid who is determined to teach Mr Kreeg a lesson for scaring kids off his porch and stealing their candy.

Each story is suitably self contained (a nice touch being the comic book-esque “Earlier” that appears in the corner of the screen) but intertwining the characters, which means the film will reward repeat viewing as you try to figure out, Pulp Fiction style, what order the events happen in.

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But the best thing about this film is its ability to pull the rug from under you. Twists and turns and some wonderful misdirection make the film difficult to second guess. Meaning you never know what will happen next and to whom and by what?

Dougherty is obviously having a scream subverting the rules and clichés of horror in a way not seen since the original Scream, and the refreshing cast (mainly filled out by unknowns) perform well. The aforementioned Dylan Baker and Brian Cox are outstanding but also Samm Todd as Rhonda has a very weird, almost Carrie-like, quality.

The effects are effective, particularly Sam, who gets creepier the more he appears (and you just wait till you see what he’s like under the mask!) and Dougherty cleverly uses the mass of costumes and Halloween fake blood to create some effective set pieces, especially in the final story.

Recently, Dougherty has announced that he plans to make a sequel. There is already a graphic novel adaptation to be released at the same time as the DVD. I hope that this gets a greater release as Trick r Treat has neatly slotted into my top five scary movies and as a Halloween film it’s definitely a treat!


4 out of 5