The anthology film has always found a comfortable home in the horror genre. From cult classics like Creepshow and Cats Eye to more recent forays like ABCs of Death and Nightmare Cinema, the format has proved fertile ground for the scary short story to thrive. While these efforts have almost never set the box office ablaze, they have handily catered to hungry horror hounds over the years and often grown cult followings. One such example being the Vancouver-shot fright fest, Trick r’ Treat.
Inspired by a similarly themed 1996 animated short, Season’s Greetings by helmer Michael Dougherty, the feature interweaves five stories and sets of characters over one Halloween night in the fictional town of Warren Valley, Ohio. The opening teaser sees young couple Henry and Emma (Tahmoh Penikett and Leslie Bibb) fighting over the former’s obsessive Halloween decorations in their front yard. When the latter decides to take down the display prematurely, her transgression of All Hallows Eve “rules” may attract deadly consequences. Further down the street, stiff-collared school Principal Steven Wilkins (Dylan Baker) provides a more than a few gruesome reasons to check your Halloween candy.
Warren Valley’s unusually festive downtown sees sisters Danielle (Lauren Lee Smith) and shy younger sibling Laurie (Anna Paquin) picking out last-minute costumes for an exclusive all-night party. The latter doesn’t have a date yet, but the poor bastard she does end up bringing may have second thoughts once the full moon comes out. Further out-of-town, we witness four trick-or-treaters coerce introverted Halloween fanatic Rhonda (Samm Todd) into joining them at an old rock quarry where they plan to pay their “respects” to a busload of mentally-challenged kids killed in a bus crash decades ago. But when their intentions prove less than honourable, the trick may in fact be on them.
Wandering throughout these segments is mysterious trick-or-treater Sam, protagonist of the original short and subject of the film’s final and arguably strongest segment. This chapter sees miserable misanthrope Mr. Kreeg (Brian Cox) piss off the wrong trick-or-treater as his trusty shotgun proves useless against the scariest pint-sized serial killer since Chucky. If only he had some candy left…
Denied a proper theatrical release after its completion in 2007, Trick r’ Treat spawned a rabid cult following as it played genre festivals like ScreamFest and Fantasia over the next two years before finally being dumped on DVD in time for Halloween in 2009. I vividly recall it’s trailer being played on a loop when I worked at Blockbuster (remember those?) and had it recommended to me by multiple people over the years. It’s only now, nearly a decade later that I’ve finally got around to it. Does it live up to the praise?
Well…..almost. Perhaps it’s the impossible-to-live-up-to hype that’s built up over a decade, but I’m just not seeing 5-star material here. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a lot of fun and very well-produced, just nothing that makes me go “Wow, that’s a classic bro!”. That being said, there’s plenty of Halloween-flavoured fun to be had here. The mix of American and Canadian cast all have their game faces on and the swiftly-paced stories move from one thrill to the next among the strikingly-shot in hues of orange and black. It’s a solid effort, just not an exceptional one
Even if it falls short of landmark horror film, Trick’ Treat is still a fine addition to the horror anthology genre. When the Halloween season hits be sure to check it out on whatever size screen you can. Just be sure to check your candy first…
Trick r’ Treat can be rented from fine independent video stores like Black Dog in Vancouver and The Lobby in Edmonton.