Halloween is a tricky beast. Not the film franchise- but the holiday itself. What it meant long ago, what it has come to mean, urban legends, crass sexualization, fun costumes and – can you balance all of that in one movie?
Bless him, writer-director Michael Dougherty gives it a college try with his debut feature, Trick ‘r Trear– we watched it last night, for the first time.
Completed in time for an October 2007 release, this darkly comic set of interweaving tales was shelved- repeatedly- but got tons of strong buzz from various film festivals and special screenings. Finally released on DVD, it is a welcome respite from the dreary studio horror that we’ve become used to in the last ten years.
By no means a perfect movie, it is nonetheless a fun little Halloween romp. Brian Cox and Dylan Baker both bring their A-Games, and the rest of the cast doesn’t falter- including a few turns from younger thesps.
I really enjoyed Baker- his monologue on the nature of Halloween is so wonderful, and delivered with a fantastic combination of menace and nostalgia. Anna Paquin is also good as the “shy” girl with a bunch of “Woo!” party girls, hoping to find her “first” guy…
The stories are woven together nicely, with some overlapping moments where various characters pass each other en route to or from their own Halloween destinies- and each vignette has a haunting appearance from the same shabby little figure…
The central figure of the movie’s mythology, the eerie little Trick ‘r Treater listed in the credits as “Sam” (yay!) is a wonderfully creepy design- dirty orange footy pajamas, fingerless gloves, and a burlap mask with button-eyes covering his pumpkin shaped head. The idea of Sam as a sort of mischievous harbinger was exciting to us- though we found the reveal as to how hands-on he/it was to be a let down.
On the one hand, I LOVE a mythology based on rules, especially one where the “monster” has to follow them (or chooses to… hmmm) though I feel like Sam works better in the shadows and background than at the foreground- hopefully, the planned sequel won’t cause the usual over-familiarization of a potentially haunting character.
As well as the creepy little guy, there is a vampire (whose finale/reveal I was disappointed by), werewolves (Courtney must’ve hated it; but I am a HUGE fan of the old-school “wolves in human skin- literally” style monster) and water-logged vengeance-bound dead straight out of an EC Comic- the use of EC style art during the credits helped set the town.
Oh, and we totally loved “Rhonda”, the pumpkin carving girl who understands the “rules” of the holiday.
Overall, fun, worth a look- even if it wasn’t quite the home run we had hoped for.