After I had to take an unexpected break this week’s entry in my 13 Weeks of Halloween series will be a double feature of modern Halloween classics. I revisit what is perhaps the best Halloween flick of all time not starring Michael Myers: 2009’s Trick ‘r Treat. If you haven’t seen this modern horror masterpiece, then what better time to open your peepers to a little Halloween-hell-raising. After all, what would Halloween be without spreading a little door-to-door mischief?
Seven years ago writer/director Michael Dougherty’s released his auteur-istic Halloween vision called Trick ‘r Treat upon an unsuspecting horror community. In half a decade the film, as well as it’s mascot Sam (more on this little All Hallows’ Eve demon in a minute), has gained an immense cult following. While it is a full-fledged horror film, Trick ‘r Treat’s appeal to non-genre fans is something worth noting. With major stars like Anna Paquin (who plays Laurie, a late bloomer) and Brian Cox (playing Mr. Kreeg, the Halloween-hating curmudgeon with a troubled past) the film has weight; the quality acting providing a little more substance than your standard Halloween/horror flick.
Michael Dougherty’s prior writing credits included X-Men 2 and Superman Returns but the inspiration for his directorial debut would come a decade before Trick ‘r Treat would come to realization. “Season’s Greetings” (1996) an animated short Dougherty made while still in film school, featured Sam, the little burlap-masked demon in an orange onesie. Like in the full length film, Sam spends his favorite holiday creeping gleefully through the streets and as we find out in the film, he’s just waiting for someone to break the rules of Halloween.
The Halloween rules include: handout candy to trick-or-treaters, always wear a costume, never blow out a jack o’lantern and most importantly always check your candy. Those who don’t play by the rules (and there are many who don’t) face dire consequences at the hands of Sam (fantastically portrayed by Quinn Lord who was only 7 years old at the time) and the many creatures of the night that he calls friends. The director wanted Sam to become an icon for Halloween, akin to Santa Clause and the Easter Bunny and I think he more than succeeded. To me it wouldn’t be fall without watching Sam work his magic at least a few times.
Like the masterful Creepshow of the 80s and All Hallows’ Eve a few years later, Trick ‘r Treat is an effective entry in the “Anthology horror” sub-genre, Dougherty seamlessly blended 4 seemingly unconnected stories into one twisting, turning narrative that ultimately is so tightly intertwined that you will need to see it a few times to catch all the subtle overlaps. I still catch small details I have missed over the years, masterfully hidden in plain sight, and I think that is all part of the fun of Trick ‘r Treat. The film always feels like a dark autumn adventure into the world of Halloween and what’s not to love about that? Dougherty plans for Sam to return to action in a sequel and the horror community is on the edge of their seats waiting to see what his adventures will bring and more importantly what rules will be broken.