Saturday, October 1, 2011

Trick r’ Treat (2007) (Movie Review)

    Of all the holidays I enjoy, I love Halloween the most. It’s more of an adventure than any other holiday, a time when you journey out into the dark, and escape into the role of someone else for a night. It’s spooky, mysterious but also fun and theatrical. So, throughout the month of October, I’ll be reviewing nothing but horror and Halloween related material. It only figures that I kick things off with arguably the most Halloween-esk horror movie ever made, the 2007 film "Trick r' Treat". While 1978’s “Halloween” is the more iconic scary film, it only used the holiday as a setting, while the premise really had nothing to do with the holiday at all. “Trick r’ Treat” on the other hand literally breaths and glows Halloween. It’s basically a tribute to Halloween legends, and focuses on some of the darker tails of the season. However, while this is the ideal scary movie to watch during the season, is it actually a good horror film? Let’s peal back all the treats and see what kind of tricks this film has up its sleeve. 

    The concept is ingenious, as it all takes place on a single Halloween night, and focuses on several frightening tails all happening at once. Basically, the film is laid out like an anthology, with various spooky stories, except there all being told at the same time, as opposed to one after another, and they occasionally crossover with each other. We have a group of girls dressed as their favorite princesses, unaware that their being stocked by a masked killer. An old miser fed up with the holiday, who’s attacked by a mysterious entity that resembles a trick r treater. A small group of kids aiming to pull the ultimate prank, revolving around the legend of a group of masked kids that died on a school bus. Some of the tails are more grounded and revolve around suspicious neighbors. Other tails revolve around supernatural entities like Werewolves. The film is masterful with how it weaves all these different tails together, and sprinkles little clues throughout, which all come together in the end. One of my favorite touches is that the film jumps around to different times of the night and it allows us to see certain events from different perspectives.

    The movie effectively begins with an opening credit sequence done in the style of a comic book strip, which only adds to the flavor of various tails all weaved into one. Speaking of comics, the film was produced by one Bryan Singer, who’s probably best known for directing the majority of the live action “X-Men” movies. There’re even some notable X-Men alumni among the cast, including the grumpy old man played by Brian Cox, who previously played the main villain in one of the “X-Men” movies. There’s also Anna Paquin who played Rouge in those movies, now playing a teenage girl dressed as Red Riding Hood. The film is also gorgeous, probably the best-looking horror movie I’ve ever seen in my life. Like, this is Halloween taken to the max, with Atom scenery that glows, and Jack O’ Lanterns everywhere you look. The movie is set mostly at night, but the Halloween colors are always shining. There’s so much Halloween on display that I literally feel like my eyes are feasting on the season.

    So, with this film’s stunning visual esthetic, and brilliant premise, this could have easily been one of my absolute favorite Horror movies, as well as one of my favorite films to watch around Halloween, … but unfortunately ... it’s not. This film sadly has a lot going against it, because while I love its anthology structure, I can’t say that I like any of these individual stories. I think the film could have explored more interesting Halloween myths, or had better twists then what it gave, so as a result, the film really doesn’t have much else going for it, other then it’s visual design. Also, being brutally honest, I find nothing actually scary or exciting in this film. There’s definitely old-school horror tropes and suspense utilized, but I can’t get into the terror when I hate every single character in the film. Seriously, there isn’t a single good person in this movie, as every player is either evil, cruel or has a secretive dark-side. Obviously, the tone goes for dark comedy, and one of the films main gimmicks is to subvert expectations. For example, the movie sets up the Red Riding Hood girl and her clan of princesses as possible victims to a masked killer, but the twist is that they were actually leading their stockier into an even bloodier death trap. There’s also an extremely distasteful side plot revolving around an odd-ball neighbor who takes Halloween traditions way too seriously, and the lengths this segment goes to be exploitative is just unbearable and sickening to watch.

      The film mostly proceeds with an onslaught of savage horror violence, but again, I’m not cheering for any of these characters to get out of peril, so I’m not at all excited or full of suspense while viewing any of this. It just makes the whole film come off as empty and lifeless. Instead of going for dark horror comedy, I would have liked this more if it focused on a series of adventure horror. I could be cheering for one group of kids going on a ghostly adventure, while simultaneously being thrilled by teens in the midst of a Werewolf attack. 

The possibilities are all there, but not taken advantage of. The closest the film gets to holding my interest is the tail revolving around the masked kids that come back from the dead as zombies. This sequence starts off almost like a “Goosebumps” episode, as we follow this group of kids, who seem to be paying respect to the lost souls of a Halloween school bus massacre. In reality, they aim to play a cruel prank on this one socially awkward girl dressed as a witch. Naturally, we get another dark twist that plays with our expectations. Not only do the real zombie kids come back from the grave to attack the group, but the cute, innocent girl that got pranked-on isn’t too sympathetic to her friends.

      The absolute best and most original thing this film has going for it is the mysterious Trick r' Treater named Sam. This mischievous entity is what ties all the tails together, as he’s the enforcer, the guardian of Halloween traditions, the one who silently observes everything around him, and the one who terrorizes those that don’t celebrate the holiday. It’s also a unique concept to have a Trick r’ Treater as the main villain, as opposed to a victim like in most other films. Sam’s design is also brilliant with its simplicity. He has an oversized burlap sack on his head with a cute little smile, and the rest of his body is covered in shabby orange footie pajamas. His face underneath the mask looks like a rotting vegetable, yet he still expresses a lot of personality through that monstrous design. On that note, despite the creatures evil and mischievous nature, he’s actually kind of lovable in his own bizarre way. This character was originally created by the films director in an animated short back in the mid 90’s titled “Seasons Greetings”, so it was cool that he got to bring his figurative baby child to the big screen. Personally, I’d like to see this character as the official Halloween mascot, along the lines of Santa and the Easter bunny.               

     In the end, there’s a lot I love about this movie, and just about as much that I hate too. It might just be the most divisive Horror or Halloween movie I’ve ever experienced. While I find the content and events of the film to be very forgettable, the look and feel of the film has always stuck with me. Over the years there have been other Horror anthology films that have tried to continue what “Trick r’ Treat” started, but again with mixed results. Still to this day, I don’t think I’ve seen a horror anthology that I’ve liked more then 1945’s “Dead of Night”, which didn’t have the memorable look and design of many of its descendants, but was far more consistent and creepier with its delivery. Maybe one day I’ll get a horror anthology that combines the elements I loved from both “Trick r’ Treat” and “Dead of Night” into one perfect package, but until then, this is what I’ve got. 2007’s “Trick r’ Treat” is unmistakably a guilty pleasure Halloween film, as its content is nothing special at all, but it’s visual aesthetic gets me in the mood for the holiday more then any other film I’ve seen.

I give 2007’s “Trick r’ Treat” ... 2 ½ stars out of 5.     

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