Sunday, October 11, 2009

Trick 'r Treat (2008)

Oh look what Warner finally bothers to throw on the market. At least they are getting the season right.

Trick 'r Treat consists of four interconnected stories, all taking place at Halloween in a small American town where the holiday is even more dangerous than in Haddonfield. First, we make the acquaintance of Steven Wilcox (Dylan Baker), school principal and seasonal serial killer with a Halloween tic. When he is not busy killing children and hiding their bodies, he also takes care of his little son.

The second story concerns a group of children visiting a rock quarry that is supposedly haunted by the ghosts of a (small) school bus full of children. What starts out as mean way to make fun of a slightly weird girl soon turns a bit more ugly.

The third story tells of the adventures of Laurie (Anna Paquin), a virginal girl pressed into looking for her first time by her big sister. Whatever could go wrong. On Halloween. In this town. When she is dressed as Little Red Riding Hood?

The fourth and final story finds Steven Wilcox' neighbor Mr Kreeg (Brian Cox) confronted with an unwelcome intruder in form of a child (or is it?) with a potato sack mask on its rather pumpkin-shaped head, and let's just say that it is not a friendly visit.

Michael Dougherty's Trick 'r Treat is a fine example of a seasonal horror film. It does not do much that should come as news to anyone even slightly into horror films, but does it with such verve and style that it becomes something heartwarmingly special, in as much as you can call something inspired by the cruel humor of classic EC comics and episodic horror TV heartwarming.

Dougherty (who wrote the excellent second X-Men movie and the problematic Superman Returns for director Bryan Singer, among other big studio things) does a fine job at getting the spirit of the holiday as well as the colours of autumn into his film. Both does of course happen in an idealized way, but I wouldn't want to watch a film about the dreary reality of Halloween or a shitty, grey looking autumn if I could help it. The film is spending much of its energy on getting the feeling just right, and it shows.

Besides the film's merry and very enjoyable acceptance of, and very slight bending of, genre standbys, I did also enjoy the way the stories are interleaved, with small parts of one story drifting into the next and one episode's killer possibly the next one's victim. Excellently, Dougherty manages this without overdoing it to demonstrate his script's cleverness.

Of course, not all episodes in anthology films are created equal. In this case, the Little Red Riding Hood part is the weak one, and this even though Paquin knows how to wear a Little Red Riding Hood outfit and the episode's story is the one playing with genre conventions the most. The problem is the pacing, I think. It's the only part of the movie that takes a little longer than it should and contains some rather useless would-be titilating filler that could have been left on the cutting room floor without the film (or the audience) losing out on anything. It is enough to throw the film's near perfect rhythm off a little, but not enough to be a real problem.

On the acting side of the film, there is nothing truly memorable, but nothing to complain about either. Trick 'r Treat is not the type of film in need of actors deeply steeped in the Method or other semi-religious acting theories, yet it could well be ruined by actors adding too much camp. Since nobody does that here, I'm satisfied.

The same goes for the technical part. Nothing about the film (except for the photography that could be filed under autumn porn, and that's a compliment) is fancy, but everything is unassumingly accomplished and done with conviction.

Which fits perfectly into my view of the picture, because its beauty for me really lies in its simplicity. The plan was obviously to just make a very good Halloween horror film anthology without too much ironic distance to the material, yet with quite a bit of black humor, just like one would wish more horror anthology movies actually were. And by the Big Pumpkinhead, that's what the film delivers.



Anarchivist said...

"Autumn porn." Excellent!

houseinrlyeh said...

Oh yes! Take this and the Japanese Shinobi (2005) and you won't ever need to leave your room again.