Thursday, October 31, 2013

Sean Kelly

Revisiting Trick ‘r Treat


Michael Dougherty’s Halloween-set anthology film Trick ‘r Treat has been yearly October viewing for me ever since the film was finally released in 2009, after previously being delayed for two years.  I was one of the lucky few that got to see the film theatrically, since it played as part of the 2009 Toronto After Dark Film Festival, a few months before the film was released on DVD.  Trick ‘r Treat is back in the news this week, since a long awaited sequel to the film was announced at a special screening earlier this week.

So, as a special Halloween post, I thought that I would go back and discuss Trick ‘r Treat and why I love this film so much.  Be warned, since there will be SPOILERS in this discussion.

I suppose I will start with Trick ‘r Treat’s somewhat unique method of telling its anthology storyline.  Unlike most anthology films, there is no real framing story, with the exception of a bookend tale, featuring a couple coming home after a disappointing Halloween night.  Instead, all these different Halloween stories are interwoven over the course of a single Halloween night, with individual events being seen as they happen.  The most fragmented story of the film involves Laurie (Anna Paquin) and her search for a Halloween date.  In some ways, Laurie’s scenes act as a segueway between the longer stories of the film.

Trick ‘r Treat isn’t really meant to be a pure horror film and is instead more of a macabre dark comedy.  This is really evident in the film’s first full length story, which features Steven Wilkins (Dylan Baker), a school principal, who is really a serial killer.  Much of the story involves Wilkins trying to bury a body, but it constantly interrupted by his son.  We are lead to believe that Wilkins is about to kill his own son, though it turns into the much more macabre reveal that he is merely helping his son carve a Jack O’Lantern – out of a decapitated head.

The second full length story of Trick ‘r Treat involves a group of kids, who a play a trick on a girl named Rhonda (Samm Todd).  Rewatching the film today, it is likely that Rhonda has Asperger’s or some other Autistic Spectrum Disorder, which is why she is often spouting trivia about the history of Halloween.  This story has arguably one of the darker endings of the film, since Rhonda abandons to kids to be killed by zombies, as a sort of revenge for their terrible trick a few minutes prior.  Laurie’s storyline comes to a conclusion immediately after Rhonda’s story, where it’s revealed that she and her friends are werewolves and she easily turns the tables on the “Man in Black,” who was stalking her.  The Man in Black is also revealed to be principal Wilkins, in one of the many crossovers between the film’s stories.

The link that ties Trick ‘r Treat together is the character of Sam (Quinn Lord), who is a mysterious trick or treater, who shows up at some point in every story.  Despite his childish appearance, it is revealed, when his burlap mask is ripped off, that Sam is really a pumpkin faced demon, who is truly quite monstrous.  Sam is all about making sure that the traditions of Halloween are respected, often punishing those who don’t, as seen in the opening scene when he kills Emma (Leslie Bibb) and turns her into a human Halloween decoration.  Sam doesn’t really come front and centre until the film’s final story, which has him tormenting the cantankerous Mr. Kreeg (Brian Cox).  This story is definitely the best of the bunch, which is probably why it was saved for last, despite chronologically happening earlier in the night.  There are definitely some shades of Evil Dead in this sequence, especially when Kreeg shoots Sam’s hand off and it’s still moving on its own. 

What made Trick ‘r Treat stand out for me is that it was an original horror film, in an age when sequels and remakes are ever more common.  There aren’t really all that many horror films that are truly about Halloween and this film has joined John Carpenter’s Halloween when it comes to required viewing during the season.  I look forward to seeing how Trick ‘r Treat 2 develops the world Michael Dougherty has created and I can’t wait to see what Sam has up his sleeve this time around.

Happy Halloween!

Sean Kelly

About Sean Kelly -

Sean Patrick Kelly is a self-described über-geek, who has been an avid film lover for all his life. He graduated from York University in 2010 with an honours B.A. in Cinema and Media Studies and he likes to believe he knows what he’s talking about when he writes about film (despite occasionally going on pointless rants).