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Sunday, 30 October 2016

Review: Trick 'r Treat (2007)

Trick 'R Treat
As we come to the end of 2016's 'Month of Horror' I thought it would be a good idea to review a severely underrated horror movie. Trick 'r Treat never got a widespread showing when it was released instead having it shown in a select few cinemas. The only reason why I know about the film is because James Rolfe of reviewed it two years ago. Trick 'r Treat is also one of the few movies which truly embraces the premise of Halloween; even the Halloween movies, with the exception of the third one, merely had the holiday as a backdrop. Halloween is my favorite holiday, I love horror, I'm interested in pre-Christian belief systems, and I am not religious holidays like Easter and Christmas never had the same effect which Halloween had. As a result I was very eager to see this film, so let's begin the review.

It is not easy to explain the plot of Trick 'r Treat. It is an anthology movie where instead of one story finishing another begins all four stories, (roughly), occurs at the same time. If you look out at times you can hear or see characters from another story in the background. One story, the first and shortest one, revolves around a couple coming back from a costume party. The girlfriend is very dismissive of the traditions of Halloween whereas the boyfriend fully embraces and loves them. It soon turns out that it is a wise idea to respect the traditions. Another story deals with a murderous principal, (played by Dylan Baker), who takes the traditions of Halloween. The third revolves around a virgin student, (played by Anna Paquin), whose friends and older sister are trying to get her to lose her 'virginity' but there is a twist to it. My favorite story deals with a group of kids pranking an unpopular girl from their school at the site where a bus full of mentally ill children crashed into a lake, and it happens to go brutally wrong. The final story deals with the neighbor of the homicidal, Halloween-loving principal, (played by Brian Cox), who loathes Halloween and comes afoul of a figure seen in all the other stories. Seen in every story is a child wearing a burlap sack called Sam who acts as the enforcer of the Halloween traditions.

The overlapping plots of Trick 'r Treat are done really well. They do not get confusing and it is quite interesting to see how each scene fits into the chronology of the story. Each story even has a twist which fits extremely well in the overall narrative. Despite going from cruel pranks, to werewolves, to demonic pumpkin children, to vampires it seems natural. The way the story is structured allows it not to seem overly far-fetched. Director and screenwriter Michael Dougherty did a fantastic job. Surprisingly the murderous principal story is extremely tense which was very effective. My only criticism for the plot is with the prank story, and the virgin story twists it does seem somewhat predictable. I managed to correctly guess from the outset the prank story twist and I almost did correctly guess the virgin story twist, (without giving too much away I guessed it would involve a creature of the night but guessed the incorrect creature).

The acting varies in quality throughout the movie. The more well-known actors like Dylan Baker, Anna Paquin, and Brian Cox did fantastic jobs in their various roles. Surprisingly event the child actors did really good jobs which I was surprised about. Leslie Bibb who plays the girlfriend in the first story is somewhat stale although she is not in the film for too long so it's not a major issue. Similarly Anna Paquin's friends, although not the sister character, do seem overly cliche and boring but they are side characters which again is just me being pedantic.

Sam unmasked
The effects are stunning. I am a huge fan of practical effects which the movie heavily relies on. At only one part could I identify something as CGI, and even then it was not overly bad CGI. The mask for Sam when he's unmasked is fantastic. It genuinely looks creepy and the effect is enhanced through the lighting in that scene. The costumes and makeup for the zombie children are extremely realistic as well and at times were quite unnerving to look at. By far though my favorite effects involved the werewolves. It was a very unique transformation scene which was quite captivating to watch. I would say it was one of the best werewolf transformation scenes in cinema after The Howling and An American Werewolf in London.

Final Points
Trick 'r Treat truly embraces the idea of Halloween. It brings together the modern idea of Halloween, and the ancient idea of Samhein. We have parties and festivals, and then we have sacrificial rituals. We have urban legends, and we have spirits attacking people for removing their wards against evil. Trick 'r Treat embraces the old and the new. Quite literally as well due to the fact that there is a scene which I thought was referencing the fantastic vampire movie The Lost Boys. The demonic child character Sam also appeared in director Michael Dougherty's 1996 animated short Season's Greetings. It just shows that early ideas can be left to evolve and become something better.

For fantastic effects, creating a perfect Halloween atmosphere, with a few mediocre performances I would give Trick 'r Treat a 7.5/10. Thank you for reading and have a happy Halloween!

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