Trick r’ Treat: Horror Anthology a Halloween Tradition

Horror anthology movie, Trick r’ Treat has an interesting history. Today, horror fans regard it as a ‘must-see’ classic. In line with this view, Shout! Factory put out a Collector’s Edition Blu-ray last year. And the movie’s writer and director, Michael Dougherty impressed enough to land Godzilla King of the Monsters earlier this year. But Trick r’ Treat never saw a wide theatrical release. In fact, promising trailers were followed by a whole lot of nothing. Though Warner Bros Pictures screened the Halloween chiller at a handful of film festivals, Trick r’ Treat eventually feel off horror fans’ radars. Then the studio finally released Dougherty’s movie directly to home video. Following its release, horror fans quickly discovered

Trick r’ Treat Plays with the Horror Anthology Format

Over the years, horror anthology movies have cycled in and out of popularity. British studio and Hammer Films rival, Amicus Productions, produced several classic horror anthologies over the 1960’s and 1970’s, including Dr Terror’s House of Horror’s and The House That Dripped Blood. Flash-forward to the 1980’s, George A Romero and Stephen King teamed up to re-invigorate the anthology with the Creepshow movies. More recently, the V/H/S series and Ghost Stories have reminded horror fans how much fun the anthology format can be when done right. All of these movies roughly follow the same format. Generally, three or four stand-alone stories are connected through a wrap-around story that opens and closes the movie.

It’s also a movie about Halloween’s various legends and rules. Thus, Dougherty uses these ‘rules’ and his movie’s mascot, and central antagonist’, the burlap-sack wearing ‘Sam’ as a common thread.

In contrast to this general formula, Dougherty eschews a traditional wrap-around segment. Instead, Dougherty weaves his stories seamlessly together using a couple of techniques. First, Trick r’ Treat is more than just a movie set on Halloween. It’s also a movie about Halloween’s various legends and rules. Thus, Dougherty uses these ‘rules’ and his movie’s mascot, and central antagonist’, the burlap-sack wearing ‘Sam’ as a common thread. Second, Dougherty interconnects his characters and stories, even if it’s just in small ways. Trick r’ Treat’s characters inhabit the same town and interact, even if just briefly, with everyone connected by Halloween lore. As a result, the anthology movie avoids one of the format’s glaring problems – inconsistency among stories. All of Trick r’ Treat’s stories are connected by Halloween and Sam, with no one segment dragging things down.

Dougherty Effectively Mixes Traditional and Bloody Scares

Trick r’ Treat has its cake and eats it, too. On the one hand, Dougherty’s anthology movie feels unabashedly old-fashioned. It’s stories of school bus massacre victims rising to take vengeance or anti-holiday curmudgeons getting their just desserts wouldn’t feel out of place in an Amicus Productions’ movie. Even the movie’s ‘Red Riding Hood’ story initially feels like something that might have been made in the 1980’s. An old-school focus on suspense and jump scares accompanies these familiar narrative beats. Like classic horror anthology movies, Trick r’ Treat feels like a fairy tale warning us about the sacred nature of Halloween’s traditions.

Whether it’s the school principal poisoning trick-or-treating students or ‘Little Red Riding Hood’ turning the tables on her ‘Big Bad Wolf’, Trick r’ Treat is never a dour or dark viewing experience.

Yet Dougherty combines these old-fashioned approaches to scares with contemporary blood and gore wholly in keeping with the decade in which it was released. And the tone is set quickly with the movie’s opening, grisly discovery. From that point onward, Dougherty treats us to severed heads in place of jack-o’lanterns, grotesque injuries, and werewolf-feeding frenzy. Among the movie’s highlights, Sam’s use of bitten-into lollipop as a stabbing tool is absurdist fun. All of this Halloween carnage is served with heaping amounts of dark humour. Clearly, Dougherty has a sense of humour. Whether it’s the school principal poisoning trick-or-treating students or ‘Little Red Riding Hood’ turning the tables on her ‘Big Bad Wolf’, Trick r’ Treat is never a dour or dark viewing experience.

Stellar Cast a Sweet Addition to Horror Anthology

In addition to its excellent production values and snappy story-telling, Trick r’ Treat featured an impressive cast for movie that was shelved. Veteran character actors Dylan Baker and Brian Cox are clearly having fun in their respective roles. In particular, Baker revels in playing against his ‘nice guy’ image. And Cox gets to riff a little on the ‘no nonsense’ persona that has embodied many of his roles. Fresh off her success in the X-Men movies, Anna Paquin would get her feet wet in the horror genre before moving on to the HBO’s True Blood and a fun Scream 4 cameo.

But it’s Trick r’ Treat’s ‘Sam’ who steals the movie. While he hasn’t quite reached the same heights as other horror villains, the character has become increasingly weaved into Halloween popular culture. The character has a unique appearance that lends itself to seasonal decorating. If Dougherty’s horror anthology has a weakness, it’s the brief moment where too much of Sam is revealed. Budgetary limitations – or just design issues – undermine the mask unveiling. Arguably, the character works much better with the burlap sack and as little explanation as possible.

Trick r’ Treat a Halloween Classic

Despite Warner Bros Pictures dumping it straight to video, Trick r’ Treat is a Halloween classic. And horror fans know it. Dougherty’s horror anthology lovingly mixes traditional horror, contemporary gore, and a little Halloween legend. Simply put, Trick r’ Treat is everything you want out of a horror movie. It’s equal parts clever, scary, suspenseful, bloody, and fun. After a decade, Trick r’ Treat belongs with horror classics like Halloween, Night of the Living Dead, and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre as required October viewing. Now can we just get that sequel we were promised.

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I am a Criminology professor in Canada but I've always had a passion for horror films. Over the years I've slowly begun incorporating my interest in the horror genre into my research. After years of saying I wanted to write more about horror I have finally decided to create my own blog where I can share some of my passion and insights into the films I love.

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