Thursday, October 08, 2009

Trick 'R Treat

If you're looking for something particularly creepy this Halloween season, the new TRICK 'R TREAT is right down your alley. Warner Brothers produced it three years ago, but for some insane reason, stashed it away in a vault somewhere. Why the studio had no confidence in this grisly scare fare is beyond me, because it's a very good horror movie with a great sense of what sends shivers up audience's spines.

Michael Dougherty, who wrote the screenplays for X-MEN 2 and SUPERMAN RETURNS, found obvious inspiration for TRICK 'R TREAT in George Romero's 1982 chiller CREEPSHOW, right down to the comic book panels under the opening titles. Filled with dark humor, gleeful performances, and a sense of style right out of a Sam Raimi flick, TRICK ‘R TREAT is destined to become a Halloween perennial, if there’s any justice for this picture.

Like CREEPSHOW, Dougherty’s film is an anthology, but crosscuts among its five stories, instead of splitting them into separate segments. All take place on Halloween night in the small town of Warren Valley, Ohio (named after the company that published CREEPY, EERIE, and VAMPIRELLA?):

• Young married couple Leslie Bibb (POPULAR) and Tahmoh Pinikett find out what happens when you spit in the face of ancient Halloween superstitions
• School principal Dylan Baker (HAPPINESS) plays gruesome tricks on some neighborhood children
• Five kids visit the scene of a fatal school bus crash thirty years earlier
• Virgin Anna Paquin (TRUE BLOOD), dressed as Little Red Riding Hood, seeks Mr. Right
• Cranky old neighbor Brian Cox (MANHUNTER) deals with a particularly aggressive trick-or-treater

I realize I’ve been a little vague in describing the vignettes, but discovering the twists in the tails is a big part of TRICK ‘R TREAT’s delight. Not that you won’t predict a few of them or the manner in which each intersects with another, but Dougherty has such a delightful way of telling his ghost stories that you’ll be willing to dismiss a cliché or two. Baker is particularly good, and the score by Douglas Pipes (MONSTER HOUSE) will raise some goosebumps. Dougherty is making his debut as a feature director—TRICK ‘R TREAT is based on his short film—and shows a real feel for horror.

I have no idea why Hollywood has room for six SAW movies and remakes of slasher flicks that weren't much good in the first place, but no room for this exhilarating and original shocker. After pulling it from its October 2007 release schedule, Warners dumped TRICK 'R TREAT on DVD and Blu-ray -- not theatrically -- in October 2009. At least it's in time for Halloween, and if there's any justice for this film, it'll become a holiday perennial.

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