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rochefort [Film Festival 09.26.09] movie review horror

Year: 2009
Directors: Michael Dougherty
Writers: Michael Dougherty
IMDB: link
Trailer: link
Review by: rochefort
Rating: 7 out of 10

Chances are you've probably already heard of Trick 'r Treat, Michael Dougherty's horror anthology film that has played at a handful of festivals over the last couple of years to glowing reviews. I went in knowing that, for reasons that have yet to be fully and officially disclosed, Warner Brothers elected not to release the film theatrically, that most people will get their first opportunity to finally see it when it debuts on dvd and blu-ray in a couple of weeks. My second night at Fantastic Fest, I got the chance to see if the notoriety and rapidly-growing cult following was justified.

"Trick 'r Treat" collects four stories that star the likes of Anna Paquin, Brian Cox, and Dylan Baker, each of the stories taking place in the same town on the same Halloween night. Baker plays a Ward Cleaver-type who has an affinity for Halloween, but not necessarily the young trick or treaters who knock on his door throughout the evening. Paquin plays a young virgin whose older sister is convinced she needs to give it up by the end of the night. Cox is the neighborhood curmudgeon who gets a visit from the world's spookiest and most determined trick or treater. And the remaining story concerns a group of kids who pay a visit to the site of the town's most tragic Halloween accident.

The stories don't play one right after the other, but are rather interconnected and intercut, the timeline shifting up and back again as we see the stories play out from multiple perspectives. This device is pretty effective; we've seen if before in all kinds of ensemble movies, and there's nothing particularly revolutionary about the way it's employed here, but it does manage to spread the twists out in a way that is more satisfying. And most importantly, the fractured narrative approach really grounds the underlying conceit in which director Dougherty seems most interested: This is not a movie about one masked killer or monster, but instead about the holiday itself, and for that reason alone is a refreshing alternative to the flood of horror properties of late that seem to be produced solely with a cynical eye towards capitalizing on the next best-selling Halloween costume.

The four stories also manage to feature a nice array of typical horror movie narrative approaches. There's the gothic haunted graveyard (in this case a haunted rock quarry), the slasher story, the home-invasion-killer's-in-the-house story, and even a monster story, all of them taking place in a town the devil himself would be proud to call home. The downsides are minor: A key reveal of a monster's face gets too much screen time and dispels the scares a tad, Baker's character goes through a few too many familiar blackly comic motions as he tries to hide bodies without giving himself away to his neighbors and Paquin's story spends a little too much time with interchangeable, albeit smokin' hot, sorority girl-types, the actors playing each barely registering, and Paquin doesn't fare much better herself. But, like I said, these are minor and forgivable.

What's far more interesting is that the entire film plays like a careful study of all the defining characteristics, both good and bad, of the typical 80's horror film, all of them tweaked, improved, and filtered through a sensibility that harkens back to classic horror magazines like Eerie and Creepy. And in this day and age of CW ex-models being stalked by decades-old quasi icons to a glossy but rapidly diminishing effect, "Trick 'r Treat" is downright subversive in its refusal to play by the same old safe rules.

The horror anthology is an admittedly tough sell. It sorta makes sense that the average studio executive would be hesitant to back a movie that tells not just one story, but four (five if you include the prologue), knowing full well that all it takes to sink the whole enterprise is a single weak entry. "Trick 'r Treat" may not be the horror "Rashomon", but it doesn't have to be and our gain is Warner Brothers' loss. I can easily recommend this one and I'm already planning my screening party for this October 31st.

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raelynn (12 years ago) Reply

when is or was this movie out ?


agentorange (12 years ago) Reply

It comes out on DVD October 6.


quietearth (12 years ago) Reply

This film was terribly boring.. I give it a 3/10 and do not understand why people liked it.


jack (11 years ago) Reply

possibly the worst film ever made! would rather shit in my hands and clap than watch this again!

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