I thought it would be appropriate to end the 2009 Halloween Party with a flick set on the big night itself, and Trick ‘r Treat fit the bill nicely. One would be justified in approaching this movie cautiously — after all, it was originally scheduled for a 2007 release, got pushed back twice, and finally went straight to DVD on the Warner Premiere imprint this year. “Straight to DVD,” in the past, has been as good as a code phrase for “utterly worthless.” But this film, written and directed by Michael Dougherty, totally defies the odds to be one of the best Halloween movies in years.
The movie is a sort of hybrid between the old-school “anthology” horror film like Creepshow and the sort of artistic ensemble film with several sets of characters and concurrent storylines that touch on each other once in a while (such as Short Cuts or Love, Actually). There are four separate, interweaving stories told over the course of the movie, plus a few other grisly tidbits that make for a lot of fun. Dylan Baker plays a principal who takes out some of his frustrations on a few trouble students. Anna Paquin is a young woman looking for a special companion at a Halloween party, only to run across a bloodthirsty man in a mask. A group of kids decide to explore a local urban legend about a Halloween massacre, and Brian Cox plays a grumpy old man who has no Halloween spirit of his own — until a true spirit shows up to teach him a lesson.
The movie works on so many levels. Each of the stories would be perfectly effective on its own, but the moments of connection are very effective. You’ll find yourself wanting to re-wind and watch the movie over and over, looking for the points where each story comes into contact with the others. There are a lot of surprises, a lot of points where the film defies convention, and other points where convention is adhered to nicely.
It isn’t the greatest Halloween movie ever made, but it’s certainly the best in recent years. Since the DVD finally came out, response has been almost universally positive, so that bodes well for the chance of Dougherty making a sequel. If he does, I hope it gets the theatrical release it deserves. This really was a surprisingly good little film.