Friday, October 23, 2009

Review: "Trick 'r Treat" (Finally)

This delightful little chap in the poster is Sam, aka Peeping Tommy. Sam is the most important of the many threads running through Michael Dougherty's long-delayed and much anticipated Trick 'r Treat. I say most important because ultimately Sam is both figuratively and literally the Spirit of Halloween, teaching horrible lessons to the non-believers, as much as any spirit that tormented Scrooge. Happily, none of the four interwoven stories in Trick 'r Treat end on a happy note (this is a horror movie, after all).

Never released theatrically in the U.S., the 2007 festival fave was finally released on DVD two weeks ago, and I am ashamed to be just now getting to review it. And I am also happy to admit that it was worth the wait. Dougherty's script is clever; ironic; surprising; hilarious and original, all while being quite gory; gruesome; creepy. and completly fun. The cast of familiar faces - Dylan Baker (Spider-Man; Fido); Anna Paquin ("True Blood"); Tamoh Penniket ("Dollhouse"); Bryan Cox (the original Hannibal Lecter) - are uniformly excellent (even the youngest of cast members). Baker is particularly good as a particularly bad elementary school principal; as are Paquin as a sweet young thing on the prowl and Cox as a nasty old man who painfully learns why it's best to be generous with the sugar on Halloween. All four tales take place on the same Halloween night in a small Ohio town obsessed with the traditions of the holiday.

The creepiest of the four stories involves a group of kids collecting jack-o-lanterns (purportedly as part of a "UNICEF scavenger hunt") and an urban legend about a school bus full of "special children" which led to an unfortunate incident. The young actors in this segment are just terrific and creepiness of the "special kids" in their exceptionally weird Halloween costumes is off the charts. And of course, there's 10 year-old Quinn Lord as Sam/Tommy. An essentially silent role, Sam is Michael Myers, Jason Voorhees, Jack Skellington, and the 'Zuni fetish Warrior' from "Trilogy of Terror" all rolled into one creepy little hydrocephalic creature. And while much of the work is done by stunt people and CGI, Lord's physicality in what couldn't have been a very comfortable or easy-to-wear costume is surprisingly effective and spooky. The SFX are kept to a minimum, but the ones employed are quite good (and include a particularly interesting version of the werewolf transformation). The jokes are truly funny and the surprises are mostly really surprising. The movie looks gorgeous, thanks to Cinematographer Glen MacPherson, Production Designer Mark Freeborn and Costume Designer Trish Keating. Every penny of the film's budget is one the screen and Dougherty's love of 70's Horror Comics is evident. Trick 'r Treat deserved a wide-release, big-screen run and it's a damned shame it didn't get one.

Fun, smart, original and great-looking, Trick 'r Treat is truly a Horror fan's treat. Let's hope Dougherty gets to make a sequel, because i can't wait to see what he has in store for us, next.
**** (Four out of Four Stars).

And of course, the evening was topped off by seeing Sam Raimi's brilliant Drag Me to Hell for the first time since I saw it on teh big screen and I enjoyed every single moment of it again, and this time really got to take note of Raimi's use of seamless transition from scene-to-scene. The movie never drags, never bores. The shocks are still shocking, the gross-outs are still disgusting and the shocks are still shocking (which may be thanks to the passing of five months since my first viewing) and the movie is every bit as fun and effective as it was the first time I saw it. If you haven't seen it (and once I again I shame for not having done so), do yourself a favor and see both of these movies before (or better yet, on) next Saturday!

And on a completely bizarre and unrelated note, a childhood hero of mine has passed and I'd just like to say "Thanks for the laughs, Soupy. There's more laughter in Heaven, tonight."

More terrors, anon.

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