Come Trick R' Treat in Warren Valley
October is the month for binging horror movies, costume shopping, going to some really great parties, carving pumpkins, and playing some great pranks on our friends. But how much of it has had to do with tradition, really? For one demonic trick-or-treater, Halloween is serious business and those who do not comply may not realize it is their last.
Michael Dougherty’s Trick R’ Treat (2007) has taught me not to assume the literal or the metaphorical, not even the spirited phrase, “trick or treat.”
The story moves between five synchronous storylines unfolding in Warren Valley, Ohio on Halloween Night. An unsuspecting couple neglects the protection of jack o’lanterns while a middle school principal with a jam-packed holiday agenda helps his son with a carving activity. A prank on the quiet girl from school goes horribly wrong, a young woman’s sister pressures her to find a man at the town festivities to have her “first time” with, and a crotchety old man who must escape the violent hands of a tiny trick-or-treater in his own home.
As someone who likes to multitask while I watch TV, I must say that this film needed my full attention from start to end. There was a point where I was concerned that I might have been missing something or that all points of context were just the beginning of five roads that would never have a climax. Sequels may be the one thing about horror movies that agonize me, but what saves this tangled web of Halloween murder sprees is that it involves an ending where watching a sequel is optional.
I enjoyed the aspect of having Sam the child, who wanders around Warren Valley in a sack and holding a lollipop shiv, as a constant character that directs us from point to point. He seems to represent an omnipresent force that makes sure all the rules are followed on the one night where the human and spirit world are more than neighbors. Although we never learn much of the story behind Sam and his ghostly skills, he still delivers on dark and hilarious moments. There’s something about a small child putting people in a choke hold and weaponizing candy against them that really gets me in the laughing mood.
If anything didn’t work for this movie is perhaps each story’s opening titles. Graphic designer Chris Buffet does a wonderful job of keeping with the autumnal tones and fictional narrative by framing each of the movie’s vignettes as a side story in a comic book, using cartoonish titles for timekeeping and credits. There are not many films outside of kids’ networks who would use such tactics to frame a horror film, however, those titles simply didn’t work in Trick R’ Treat’s case.
Likewise, this film animates a number of myths and monsters: zombies, ghosts, werewolves, school bullies, and the ever-present psycho killer. The one thing it did not need, believe it or not, is the typical vampire. A sequence involving a masked vampire was pushing the number of storylines going on around their presence, albeit there is a moment of girl power when it comes to Anna Paquin’s plans for said vampire.
Trick R’ Treat will turn the tables on its audience more times than they will be able to count. Although it has its elemental flaws, it is safe to say everyone will think twice before putting out their jack o’lanterns before the stroke of midnight on Halloween.
Trick R’ Treat (2007) Official Trailer