After I'd seen reference to Trick 'r Treat a few times, I decided to look into it, and somehow I got the idea that this was a kid-appropriate film. I didn't think it was actually for kids, but when I finally saw today that it was rated R, I was confused. Watched it anyway.
The opening titles of Trick 'r Treat are styled as comic books. I get the feeling that they're supposed to evoke the feeling of the E.C. publications of the 1950s, but the art is too modern. It's a nice touch, though, and does a good job of setting the stage.
This is an anthology film which tells five different stories, and I can't summarize much of the plot without spoiling it. The first and shortest involves a woman who becomes spooked and nervous when she has to take down her elaborate outdoor Halloween decorations without her husband's help. Is there somebody out there watching her? Is it the kid across the street, or someone in her own yard? I can't make this sound exciting without going into more detail, and I can't go into more detail without spoiling the story.
The second segment involves a school principal who engages in some very antisocial behavior. The third follows some tweens who investigate the site of the local urban legend (The Halloween Schoolbus Massacre!), and the fourth is about a group of sexually promiscuous college girls who are interested in a different kind of good time. Finally, in the fifth story, the neighborhood grumpy old man gets an unexpected visit from Sam, who appears to be a little kid in orange footie pajamas wearing a burlap sack as a mask. Sam shows up here and there throughout the movie and all over the movie poster and DVD insert, but I had to check IMDB to get his name.
This is decidedly not children's fare, which is fine. I have no problem with that, but I'd been in the mood for something else, so I tried to hate Trick 'r Treat. I really did. But it's really surprisingly good, given that it's a modern horror movie made with modern horror audiences in mind. I'm not a big fan of modern horror movies, which tell stories explicitly designed for cinema. They're all about spectacle. Can you imagine summarizing Saw around a campfire?
Trick 'r Treat harkens back to a different type of scary story; one driven by plot rather than special effects. This is the stuff of urban legends, and the sort of material that doesn't need a big budget to be executed well. Of course, the big budget helps, and this is a good looking movie. The stories really do keep one guessing. Even after I realized that each vignette was going to end by turning the situation on its ear, I found the film going off at weird, obtuse angles. Not in a crappy, counter-intuitive way, either.
Also worth mentioning: the chronology of the film is interesting. All of the stories overlap to a certain degree, and sometimes we see an event that happened earlier in the movie from a different character's point of view.
The film was written and directed by Michael Doherty, who penned both X-Men 2 and Superman Returns. This is an impressive pedigree, and he'll be one to keep an eye on. The film also features performances by Brian Cox, Dylan Baker, and Anna Pacquin. Not exactly A-listers, but established actors rarely take horror films seriously. Their presence suggests that they recognized this as a worthwhile project.
All in all, even after the letdown of expecting something else, Trick 'r Treat turned out to be a very good time. I think the reason that I'm so drawn to classic horror and sci-fi movies is that the good ones earn a cult following, and the bad ones get completely forgotten. I think that Trick 'r Treat will be one of the ones that survives.
Here's the trailer.