Warner Bros. // 2009 // 82 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // October 19th, 2009
Smell my feet!
I've heard a modest amount of hype surrounding this horror anthology...and it's well-deserved. Trick 'r Treat is the real deal.
It's Halloween and several characters -- a disturbed school principal (Dylan Baker, Spider-man 3) and his paranoid neighbor (Brian Cox, X2: X-Men United), a group of city girls up visiting and looking for some action, and a few kids getting way too close to a urban legend -- will have their fearsome stories intersect. Blood will spill, soggy diminutive ghosts will attack, and hapless fat kids will vomit up some truly disgusting fluid for like ten minutes straight.
While it's definitely an anthology of stand-along fright tales, the cleverness of Trick 'r Treat comes in the seamless way writer/director Michael Dougherty blends it all together to make the film look like a cohesive narrative. Earlier scenes that went unexplained receive clarification later on, and characters you may have thought you figured out reveal their true intentions. It's an effective way to tell four stories, far more organic than just doling them out in separate chapters.
The film retains a pulp feel, thanks in part to the comic panels which bolster the lighthearted atmosphere of the goings-on. Maybe "light-hearted" isn't the right adjective. There's certainly some dark @#$% that goes down here, stuff that can be classified as straight-up horror (the denouement to the father-son pumpkin-carving segment is pretty messed up). "Macabre" is probably a more appropriate term. Despite some of the harsher material, there is a sense of humor evident throughout. Trick 'r Treat doesn't take itself too seriously, and the film is better for it.
For the gorehounds out there looking for a gooey way to spend an evening (besides doing God-knows-what with kitchen utensils and a Polaroid camera), you will be well-satiated with the amount of guts and gristle Doughterty throws down. From the opening kills and the puking -- extraordinarily disgusting -- to the fantastic girls night out payoff, Trick 'r Treat keeps the fluid flowing with reckless abandon. Supplementing the fine effects used to transmit the violence is even finer make-up work, highlighted by those ghost kids, and (best of all) the film's "mascot" -- a weird, malevolent Jack O'Lantern kid made entirely out of pumpkin.
So is Trick 'r Treat the perfect Halloween film? Nah, Halloween is, of course. But as far as movies that glorify the wackness of the holiday, you won't find a more loving tribute. Definitely recommended.
The DVD contains a very nice-looking 2.40:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer, supplemented by an effective 5.1 Dolby surround mix. Extras are, unfortunately, slim. The "Season's Greetings" animated short that inspired the feature film along with commentary from Dougherty is it. No making-of or feature commentary? A disappointing trick.
There's a lot of gory fun and more than a few surprises to be found here. Worth watching, but the DVD is lacking punch in the bonus features.
Not Guilty. Treat!
Review content copyright © 2009 David Johnson; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Warner Bros.
* 2.40:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (French)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Spanish)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 82 Minutes
Release Year: 2009
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* Short Film