Thursday, October 15, 2009

Trick R' Treat (2009)

Title: Trick or Treat (2009)

Director: Michael Dougherty


The Anthology horror film has been around for a while. Amongst them you can include Tales from the Crypt (1972) Vault of Horror (1973) The Illustrated Man (1969) and more recently Creepshow (1982) Tales from the Darkside: The Movie(1990) and Twilight Zone: The Movie(1983). I love these movies because they offer us short fast paced stories that aim to shock and get to the point quick, sometimes, that’s all we need. A quick horror jolt to the system! Same kind of thrill I get from watching old episodes of HBO’s Tales from the Crypt. Its that instant thrill and gratification of reading a short story that gets to the point quick.

The latest film to join the ranks of the horror anthology film is Trick R' Treat. A film that had a rocky production phase, where Warner Bros. suddenly pulled the film from its 2007 schedule, they pushed it back to 2008 and was finally released straight to DVD on October 2009 two years after it was produced. Why? Well, there’s various reasons swimming around. One, that they didn’t want the film to go up against Saw IV (yup, this movie has been made for that long!) which was also to be released in October 2007. Some also think that Michael Dougherty (the films director) was responsible in part for writing Superman Returns, and since that Superman flick was such a  flop, the studio retaliated by pulling Trick 'R Treat from its theatrical release. As of form of saying "thats what you get for writing such a crappy Superman flick!". To top things off, the film was produced by Legendary Pictures, Brian Syngers production company. If I remember correctly, expectation was high for that Superman flick, and more then one fanboy was disappointed by it, including myself. I enjoyed it, but lets face it, it could have been better. More then 300 million were spent in what was a very unimpressive flick. For that amount of money I was expecting Superman to go up against almighty God himself!

I guess that’s how Hollywood plays the game. You make them loose a couple of million dollars and they put you on the black list. So anyhows, is Trick R’ Treat any good? Should Warner Bros. have let Trick R’ Treat have its theatrical run? Well, word on the net is that this is the best Halloween movie ever, that its great, that it deserves a place among the best Halloween themed movies out there. I myself saw the previews for this movie and thought it looked cool as hell, and wondered why the heck it had not been released yet. Well, low and behold, Warner Bros. finally decided to let this one out into the world. How was it?

The film has four stories that all happen on Halloween night. It’s a bit different to some anthology movies where usually we get a “wrap around” story that joins all the stories together. Here, the film plays out more like Pulp Fiction or Amores Perros where what holds the different stories together is one common theme, in this case, its that everything happens on Halloween night. Sometimes, you’ll see one character that died on one story, on the other one, same as in Pulp Fiction, where you would see Vincent Vega when he had already died in some other part of the movie. Same deal here.

My problem with the movie was that it was uneven in tone. At times it plays like a child like fairy tale. One of the stories “The Halloween School Bus Massacre Revisited” is about these four kids who want to play a prank on a nerdy girl, so they take her to this place where these kids died and try and scare her. Its that type of tale that’s spooky but not too scary, which kind of leads you to believe that this is the kind of story that wont go too far. It’ll try and be spooky, but not too out there. But then they have a story about a girl who's apparently trying to have sex for the first time. Its called “Surprise Party” turns out the story ends up having girls getting naked and dancing in the fire and suddenly the story goes into R rated territory. So I’m like, is this film directed to kids, or adults? Or what? But ultimately, this uneven tone didn't really matter to me because the whole film is just spooky, atmospheric, gory, bloody, Halloween fun. 

Fred Dekker's Monster Squad suffered a similar problem years ago when it was first released in 1987. Actually, this ambiguity in tone is what killed Monster Squad in theaters. People didn’t know if the film was aimed as a fun harmless horror movie for kids, or if it’s a hardcore horror film for adults. As a result, the film tanked at the box office. Same thing happened with this movie in my opinion, it had an uneven tone. Sometimes it plays like a Halloween movie for kids…suddenly its hot chicks with their tits coming out of their dresses apparently searching for guys to have sex with.

But okay, it’s uneven in tone. What else can I say about it? I liked that the film really exploits the fact that it’s a Halloween movie and fills every square inch of the screen with Halloween ornaments, Pumpkins, dried leafs, the wind blowing, trick or treaters, candy, you know the whole Halloween shebang. You kind of feel like your living in The Nightmare Before Christmas’s Halloween Town. So kudos to the filmmakers for really capturing the spirit of the holiday, it seems that Michael Dougherty, the films director, really loves Halloween.

As in any good anthology film, they save the best for last. On the last tale we get to meet Sam, that little guy on the poster. The origins of 'Sam' are interesting, back when Michael Dougherty was just a student filmmaker, he directed a short animated film called “Seasons Greetings”. You can watch it cause it’s the only extra that this dvd includes; and it’s the coolest little animated feature. It just oozes atmosphere. And it presents us with this little character that feels like it came right out of Tim Burton's imagination. Or something you'd see in that movie 9. So anyhow, he has a burlap bag over his head, has the height of a little kid. And kills people. Why. Who is he? Who the hell knows! But apparently, he doesn’t want you saying bad things about Halloween, or not liking Halloween cause then you are going to get it. Who is this little creature? That remains a mystery, but he will kill you if you don’t like Halloween!

Brian Cox plays a old hermit who is the Halloween equivalent of Mr. Scrooge. Ah Humbug! Halloween is meaningless! And so he gets a lesson from the little creature known as Sam. I thought that idea was cool, to have Halloween version of Mr. Scrooge and its by far the most original thing this movie has going for it, I hope Sam gets explored a little more if they ever make a sequel. This film is drenched in Halloween coolness, I’m sure it’s what’s going to help it live through the years as the perfect film to watch on Halloween night. 

Rating: 4 out of 5


Mr. Fiendish said...

I reviewed this for my blog a few weeks ago and i have to disagree, I thought it was a really great horror film. I liked it better than Creepshow.

Still, good review

Franco Macabro said...

You sure you thought it was better then freaking Creepshow man?

Romero. King. Together. Working on the same film.

5 well directed and told stories.

An excellent cast which includes: Ed Harris, Tom Atkins, Adrianne Barbeau, Leslie Nielsen, John Amplas...fuck even Tom Savini appears!

I just cant agree with you man in saying that Trick R'Treat was better then Creepshow. And Im not just saying that cause Creepshow is such a classic and it has Romero and King working on it. Its just (in my opinion) a better film.

Somethings let me down about Trick R'Treat, that werewolf sequence for example. Theres no excuse for Werewolves looking that lame nowadays. I mean, it was obvious they were these cheap ass puppets. They could have done that better somehow.

I mean, after American Werewolf in London, The Howling...damn, even after the freaking Underworld movies, werewolves shouldnt be looking that mechanical in todays movies, unless this was a low budget flick, and it wasnt. I mean they had 12 million bucks. That should have bought us better werewolves.

But I didnt hate the flick, I enjoyed it, it just wasnt all that perfect for me. They got the halloween feel down flat, but they needed to make the stories better.

That whole story with the group of girls was so overdone. How many horror films and tv shows have we seen where the group of girls turns out like that? I can name a couple of episodes of Tales from the Crypt where they ended in the same exact fashion. A couple of movies as well.

The only truly cool aspect of the story for me was Brian Cox's story with the Halloween version of Scrooge, that was cool!

And the crazy school principal. Liked that as well.

Trick r'Treat was not a bad movie, but not great either, but thats my take on it man, I respect yours.

Mr. Fiendish said...

A lot of the faults you had didn't bother me a lot, I rather have a sock puppet werewolf than a cgi one. And I also had no problem with the tones of the film, I mean it didn't bother me in Monster Squad why should it bother me here? It's all very macabre in general, with a very dark sense of humor on what's basically a morality play, it's the same thing with the Tales From The Crypt or Vault Of Horror comic books, which I love and found a lot in common with this film. I genuinely had a great, scary and spooky time with this one and it'll probably be my favorite of the year, but hey we still have two and a half months left. but you know that already.

As for Creepshow, I've always considered it to be a very mediocre film. No arguments on the great cast, and Romero does a good job with the lighting and cinematography, but my main problem is the terrible screenplay. I enjoyed Something To Tide You Over and I adore They're Creeping Up On You, but other than that, bah. The Death Of Jody Verrill is particularly painful to watch, and The Crate could have used an edit in the runtime. Father's Day has a great payoff at the end, but the way there is too long.

George Romero is a very hit-and-miss director for me, dude. Don't get me wrong, I love the guy and have loved him since I was a kid, he's one of my biggest influences; I love his four main Dead films, I love the Crazies and I worship the ground Martin walks on, but other than that, meh. Monkey Shines, The Dark Half, Bruiser, Diary Of The Dead, I hated all these films, and I'm not really looking forward to Survival Of The Dead. I'm actually more interested in the Crazies remake, if you can believe that!

But I better be quiet, or the horror brigade will come and shoot me in the head.

Mr. Fiendish said...

oh I forgot to say, King's record on films isn't exactly great either. Maximum Overdrive is a little enjoyable on the cheese factor, but if you've seen his stuff as screenwriter with collaboration with Mick Garris (The Shining TV movie, Sleepwalkers, Quicksilver Highway) and enjoyed them in any way, then you're a braver man than I.

Franco Macabro said...

I agree that Stephen King's film adaptations arent always great. I hate all the ones you mentioned. I specially hated Desperation, again working with Mick Garris. I read that book and its companion (The Regulators) and loved them both! Seeing such an uninspired adaptation done, I was really ready to rip Mick Garris a new asshole.

I honestly dont get why he keeps on working with that guy.

The success of a Stephen King adaptation depends entirely on the director. For example:

Carrie - De Palma
The Shinning - Stanley Kubrick
Salems Lot (1979) - Tobe Hooper
Creepshow - George Romero
The Dead Zone - David Cronenberg
Cujo - Lewis Teague
Christine - John Carpenter
Stand By Me - Rob Reiner
Pet Sematary - Mary Lambert
Misery - Rob Reiner
It - Tommy Lee Wallace

And many others...

But for every ten good ones, we get five crappy ones, so I get it when you say that Kings record aint exactly perfect. But I guess going through the bad ones is worth it...cause when the good ones come along, they really blow you away!

As for Romero, sorry man but I love Creepshow! I do agree that the King story about him turning into a green plant thing was the worst of the stories, plus watching King act was painful on its own. But everything else is horror comic book movie magic for me. The sequel..not so much.

I actually enjoyed Monkey Shines and The Dark Half!!

Franco Macabro said...

As for Trick R' Treat, I didnt entirely hate it, its strengths out weigh its faults. Its a decent halloween movie, one that Im sure Ill rewatch soon.

I Like Horror Movies said...

As for this one, have to skip the review for now, on an information fast until I finally get to see it for myself!

HorrO said...

When I saw this, it was at the Spooky Empire event I went to and it was late at night. I was very tired so I want to see it again to really tell if it was good or not. My thoughts after watching it that night were that it was not that bad of a movie. Like you said, a good movie to see on Halloween. I liked the little pumpkin guy because he was creepy and would just pop up here and there. There was nothing spectacular about the different stories, but I thought they were good enough. I also liked how the stories were indirectly tied together. It had you think a little as opposed to having 4 totally different stories that have nothing to do with each other. Like I said I want to see it again and see if still like it.

Franco Macabro said...

Horro, I feel the same. I think I should give it another watch, just to make sure. It happens to me too sometimes Ill see a film, end up not liking it for some reason, then I watch it again and I think what the hell was I thinking.

But I dont know, Ill watch it soon enough I guess. Ill see if my views on it change.


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