Trick 'r Treat (2009) imdbFantasia Directed by Michael Dougherty Written by Michael Dougherty
Trick 'r Treat is a new take on the horror anthology genre. It tips its hat to EC Comics' Tales From The Crypt with its comic-book montage opening credit sequence and with its caption boxes "Later" "Earlier" and "Meanwhile", but there is a sense in which the film seems inspired more by films that were inspired by EC like Creepshow than by the original comics themselves.
You might think that in being an homage to an homage that there would be the danger of being like a blurred photocopy of a photocopy, but instead the distance from the original material allows Trick 'r Treat to take risks and become something completely original.
The danger with anthologies whether in film, books or comic books is that one story will be so strong that it overshadows the rest of the collection (and conversely one so weak that it ruins the whole collection). Writer and director Michael Dougherty neatly avoids this dilemma by interweaving all the separate stories together. The film cuts back and forth in space and time from one story to another with characters from one story bumping into characters from another.
The most common element in all of the stories is a small scarecrow figure called Sam, but all of the stories have some connection with other stories. The connections are so strong that in reviews, people talk about four stories, but I count at least six: the couple returning home from the Hallowe'en parade, the school principal (Dylan Baker) with a ghoulish secret, the virgin (Anna Paquin) looking for a Hallowe'en date, the kids playing a prank on an autistic girl, the story of the school bus crash told by the pranksters and the grouchy old man (Brian Cox) dealing with a home invasion.
Because all of the characters intertwine with one story or another, the film ends up quite accidentally dealing with one of the favourite themes of Tales From The Crypt: the hierarchy of monsters. The Cryptkeeper (and his fans) were always fascinated by wondering whether monsters had a food chain and if so, who was the apex predator. Or to put it another way, at what point do monsters become victims of other monsters?
The success of the Saw franchise seems to have doomed this film to a direct to DVD release which is a real shame. It is a spooky, creepy and inventive reminder of why we love the Hallowe'en season and the many superstitions that we have evolved to keep us safe from the monsters that go bump in the night.