Here is a film that's had a long strange trip from conception and execution to arriving in your hands in the form of this Blu-ray (or DVD). It was on and off the Warner Brothers release schedule a number of times between October of 2007 and early 2009 before this home video release.
For the horror fan this has been a troubling time. Consider the steady stream of PG-13 and Saw-inspired fare from The Unborn to The Collector that we have gotten and the frustration becomes abundantly clear. Yes, we have had the occasional winner like Drag Me to Hell and The Last House on the Left, but those are the exceptions and not the rule. Add to that the fact that wherever Trick 'r Treat has played it has gotten rave reviews. Certainly looks like Warner had a hit on their hands. So what happened? I do not know and now that I have a copy, I do not care.
The movie is fun. Flat out entertaining. Yes, it is a horror movie, but it is also something much more. Writer/director Michael Dougherty takes us on a trip into Halloween by way of an '80s approach where the goal is to entertain and thrill. There is not an ounce of torture to be found here. Think of it as the anti-Saw. This movie is not so much a horror film as it is a Halloween film. That being true, it is probably the best Halloween-centric film I have ever seen, at least that I can remember. No, I don't really consider Halloween or its sequels to be Halloween films, despite all taking place on the holiday — they're still more slasher horror than holiday horror.
Trick 'r Treat tells four interlocking tales that span one fateful Halloween night. Dylan Baker displays his plans for tricking Halloween revelers. Anna Paquin and her friends are looking for dates to take to a party in woods. A group of younger trick or treaters collecting an offering to take to the site of a tragic accident. Finally, Brian Cox is visited by someone intent on teaching him the importance of the holiday's tradition.
Sounds like a lot of story. The film masterfully moves between each of the tales, allowing them to flow together as one. Not only that, we jump around in time as the stories move along their tracks. It is amazing how much this works to the film's advantage. If you pay attention you will find characters overlapping in other stories, passing through in the background or having brief interactions with the main characters of the focus story. Then there is Sam, the one character who witnesses all of our stories — the little fellow in the sack mask who you should be wary of should you cross his path.
This film is so much fun. It really captures the feeling of Halloween. It is set in a nameless town where everyone in the town goes all out for the holiday. Everyone is in costume, jack-o-lanterns are everywhere, and there is one giant party going on. However, throughout all of the partying, you have these stories of death. It fits perfectly.
Trick 'r Treat marks Michael Dougherty's directorial debut. His prior credits include work on X2 and Superman Returns. This feels like his most personal film yet. It is not that I believe this to be autobiographical, so much as it has the distinct flavor of a singular voice. It is original and it is fun. He sets up the universe and plays by the rules. Everything successfully weaves together in what is sure to become a holiday classic.
The performances are all quite good. Dylan Baker is always fun to watch, and this turn is no different. He walks the line between believability and over the top camp without going over. Brian Cox is suitably cranky as the grumpy old man in need of a lesson. Anna Paquin is absolutely adorable as Little Red Riding Hood in search of a date. This is just the tip of the iceberg as the ensemble cast really melds together.
Audio/Video. The film is presented in its original aspect ratio of 2.35:1 and looks gorgeous. There is a lot of color filling nearly every sequence and they are all perfectly rendered. Just watch as our characters walk past pumpkins with candles flickering inside, or as we follow people through streets crowded with folks in colorful costumes. It is simply gorgeous, warm and vibrant. The look is another reason this can be seen as the anti-Saw; there are no gritty, drained images to be found here.
The audio is also very good. The track is 5.1 Dolby TrueHD and it is nice and loud, with perfect dialogue clarity and really packs a punch for the jump scares and musical stings. The rears nicely bring you in with the rustling of leaves and wind. Very nice track.
Extras. This Warner Premiere release has some nice extras along with it.
- Commentary. The track features Michael Dougherty and a few others involved with the production. It is a great track where they talk about the visual gags and the history of the production, casting process, effects, and plenty more. This is a fantastic track that you really should listen to.
- "Season's Greetings." This is the original animated short that introduced the Sam character. Delightful. There is also a commentary track for the short.
- Additional Scenes. Extended and alternate takes of what appears in the film, also with optional commentary.
- How Did Many of Our Scary Season Traditions Start? This is pretty cool. It is not so much about the film directly, but you can see elements that help the movie work so well.
- School Bus FX Comparison. This is neat, it looks at the bus crash and the different FX pieces used to make it look the way it does in the film.
Bottom line. This is a great film with fun charactors, entertaining stories, and an infectious energy that welcomes you back over and over again. The movie also teaches you to respect the holiday, lest Sam pay you a visit. If you like horror movies, Halloween, or fun, this is the movie for you.