Reviewed by MattFini
Starring Dylan Baker, Brian Cox, Anna Paquin, Quinn Lord, Rochelle Aytes
Directed by Michael Dougherty
Distributed by Warner Premiere
I often wonder whether or not I’m just too old to enjoy the genre like I used to. Often times, I hear how much ‘fun’ or ‘brilliant’ a newer movie is only to watch and come away with sizeable disappointment. So when the hype machine started building for Michael Dougherty’s Trick ‘r Treat (nearly two years ago, now), I decided to remain skeptical while clinging to a sliver of cautious optimism. I’d rather expect precious little and come away with genuine delight rather than throw my hands up in frustration and wonder what the hell it is my peers are smoking (again).
Somehow, Trick ‘r Treat manages to live up to the staggering hype surrounding its release – which gets my peers of the hook (they’ll be so relieved). It’s as fun and enjoyable as you might’ve heard and, now that I’ve seen it, I’m plenty pissed at Warner Brothers for deciding that the best place to experience it is in the confines of our own home. Not only does it restore my wavering faith in a genre that’s become too “dark and gritty” for its own good (thanks, Rob Zombie), but it’s also a reminder that you don’t have to reinvent the wheel to make a great film.
That’s one of the things I admired most here: the stories, while fun, don’t necessarily go out of their way to introduce a “new spin” on things. We’re living in an age where every other filmmaker feels like the only way to make their mark is to shake things up with a “different spin”, which often wreaks of desperation and gimmick. So while Trick ‘r Treat offers the kind of twists and surprises often associated with anthology films, they feel right at home within this material. And what material! Literally brimming with all the good stuff you’d hope to find in a film with this title, every frame is infused with the atmosphere and feeling that gives the Halloween holiday its life’s blood.
Writer/Director Michael Dougherty clearly loves the holiday and has taken great pains in conveying it in the most ghoulish of ways: poisoned Halloween candy, pesky vandals, ironic costume shopping, twisted town legends and, of course, brutal murder. It’s all here in several interlocking stories – each one more fun than the last. Without spoiling too much, a high school principle (Dylan Baker in a hilarious performance) sets his sights on the extracurricular education of a young candy thief, a pack of girls get dressed for a Halloween party while forcing their youngest friend (Anna Paquin) to get her sexy on, a group of kids steal a pile of pumpkins in the hopes of appeasing an old town legend and a Halloween Grinch (Brian Cox) gets educated in the ways of the holiday.
It’s all good stuff and Dougherty’s film hearkens back to an age when the horror genre was light and fun. With strong production values, stellar casting and breakneck pacing, it’s a crime that we didn’t get a chance to catch this in theaters during the Fall season but it’s available on Blu-ray and DVD now for your viewing pleasure. Fill your living room with some like-minded horror friends, break out the candy corn and pumpkin beer and settle in for the film that lives up to the hype. This is the one we’ve been waiting for.
If you’ve got the means, you’re going to have to scoop this guy up on Blu-ray. Not only is the technical presentation far superior to the standard definition counterpart (not reviewed), but the majority of supplementary material is exclusively available on Blu-ray.
The commentary track with Dougherty and crew is a hot and cold affair, with some interesting tidbits pertaining to the production despite long lapses of silence. The documentary is a worthwhile watch, covering aspects of both the holiday and the film’s productions. It’s a little scattershot, but loaded with groovy tidbits. A collection of deleted scenes run nearly twenty minutes, containing excised pieces of character bits and other fun little extensions. These aren’t critical to the film (and you can listen to Dougherty’s explanation for removing them via an optional commentary track) but I would’ve liked a few of them in the final cut. Either way, they’re fun to see. A short film, called Season’s Greetings, runs 4 minutes and serves as a bit of a precursor to Trick ‘r Treat. Lastly, an FX comparison for the school bus sequence runs one minute.
The Blu-ray looks and sounds fantastic and, for those of you with large displays, it’s probably the closest some of us will ever come to seeing the film on the big screen. The transfer is sharp and textured, with lots of detail available in the image. Black levels are strong and deep – a good thing considering this is a dark film. The Dolby Digital 5.1 True HD track keeps things lively, too. Surround channels keep the film’s ambiance alive with the spooky sound design on constant display. Dialogue levels are strong and well defined, largely confined to the front speakers while the sound effects are heavily textured and satisfying to the ear.
If you’re going to put this one in your library, the Blu-ray is the way to go. This is likely to be in constant rotation in my home every October and I know I’m not alone there. Warner Bros. might’ve given this the shaft in terms of a theatrical release, but they’ve made up for it with a better-than-average collection of exclusive extras and a fantastic high definition presentation. Pop it in and turn it up. You’re going to have a good time.
5 out of 5
4 out of 5
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