Trick 'r Treat

Reviewed by: Ryan Rotten
10 out of 10
Movie Details:
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Quinn Lord as Sam
Brian Cox as Mr. Kreeg
Dylan Baker as Steven
Leslie Bibb as Emma
Rochelle Aytes as Maria
Anna Paquin as Laurie
Moneca Delain as Janet
Tahmoh Penikett as Henry
Lauren Lee Smith as Danielle

Directed by Michael Dougherty


John Carpenter gave you a very good reason to fear Halloween night. He placed an undistinguished face on a knife-wielding stalker who prowled archetypal small town USA neighborhoods and destroyed their idyllic safety. With its pulsing score, crisp leaves-strewn streets, horror movie marathons, carved jack-o-lanterns and lingering unease, Halloween is a masterpiece of the slasher genre set against the backdrop of a spirited holiday. Consequently, Carpenter's classic has become a permanent annual fixture on every must-see Halloween horror list. But its reigning crown is about to be revoked, or at least shared, when Michael Dougherty's Trick 'r Treat reaches the public because it is, unequivocally, the quintessential Halloween film.

Feeding off of the same vivid color palette visited by Mario Bava, Dario Argento and Tim Burton, Trick 'r Treat owes a tremendous debt to EC Comics' Tales from the Crypt and the supernatural retribution readers of that popular title were fed within its pages. It's Creepshow by way of Doug Liman's Go - a formula that doesn't find its footing right away, but once Trick 'r Treat does it becomes a mischievous and immersing vessel that channels the haunted spirit of autumn. Mirthful, wicked, sometimes poignant and always sinister, Dougherty's tale (or tales) are engaged in the traditions of Halloween and the consequences (more often than not, death) of not adhering to them. This is fertile playing grounds for Dougherty who finds ways to rope in a serial killer, a vampire, werewolves, zombies and Sam, one of the cutest, devious and most memorable horror icons to grace the genre.

Trick 'r Treat's foundation is built on playing with your expectations. The narrative is a bouncy disjointed journey focusing on four parallel-running stories set in a small town on Halloween night. One tale introduces us to Dylan Baker's irritable principal who issues candy every child should fear. True Blood's Anna Paquin and Lauren Lee Smith play sisters at the center of another story about four gals feeling frisky in their costumes and prowling the streets for men. Elsewhere, a group of youngsters venture out to a rock quarry to lay out pumpkins in honor of those who died in a tragic school bus accident. And Brian Cox - who reportedly wanted to fashion his look in the film after John Carpenter - caps the anthology with an almost sympathetic turn (I said almost) as Mr. Kreeg, an old man who has abandoned the Halloween holiday but is forced back into practicing its rituals.

Dougherty weaves and overlaps these stories with precision - it's no easy task and the first fifteen minutes take some getting used to. Still, it's easy to eventually slip into Trick 'r Treat's poetic rhythm of horror and humor that work in equal parts in the film's favor. For every elicited chuckle (a dude in a Hot Dog costume steals a shot) Dougherty counters it with something truly disturbing such as a scene in which a boy begins to vomit a bloody, chocolate-y mess or we witness three pumpkin-carrying teens disappear into a thick night fog. Yes, believe it or not, Trick 'r Treat floats its share of genuine, classic frights analogous to the works of Val Lewton where situation, cinematography and location work as one - no part is greater than the whole. Although the film is a pumpkin of many faces, it delivers as a single uniform beast.

All the players involved also bring this living storefront Halloween display to life. Baker's a total villainous sleaze who uses the holiday to externalize. Paquin and company lend the film its needed sex appeal which has an applause-worthy pay-off and just the presence of Cox (reuniting with Dougherty after X2: X-Men United) elevates the film to whole new level. And thankfully, he steps up to the plate and his head-to-head confrontation with Sam - a sack-headed, orange pajamas-wearing imp - wields its share of surprises until the very end.

Trick 'r Treat is backed by beautiful art direction by Tony Wohlgemuth and photography from Glen MacPherson. The FX are also a true delight - I can't single out any examples for fear of ruining some of the key revelations.

This is an absolute killer of a directorial debut on Dougherty's behalf. He's made horror fun again without completely succumbing to campy kitsch. It can be mean and scary (Amen!) yet it doesn't embrace the doom 'n gloom mantra sung by many genre entries today. There's warmth to the film that you want to approach with caution (like an Amblin production of the '80s with very sharp teeth). And that's something I haven't seen in a while.

Dougherty tosses in an homage or two to his personal genre favorites, but they almost seem unnecessary. We know he's a horror fan. Trick 'r Treat screams that fact. He has created an original all his own and it's one of the best horror films I've seen in years.

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Posted by: Doug on October 16, 2008 at 18:25:35

Ok, I've been curious about this for quite some time... now I'm dying to see it. Have you ever worked in marketing Ryan, cause you sold me on this about two lines into the review.

Posted by: Halloweenie on October 16, 2008 at 20:43:29

Can this movie please come out to theaters or on DVD. Just reading this review completely sunk me into that Halloween air and really makes me want to see this movie. Ugh!

Posted by: Cam on October 16, 2008 at 20:53:45

man, this seriously sounds like the best scary movie. ever. i haven't even seen the damn thing yet and still, i can't imagine going another halloween without it.

you were right, ryan. there has yet to be a movie that completely encapsulates the spirit, feeling, and traditions of halloween. sounds like you found it.

Posted by: Matt on October 16, 2008 at 22:07:24

ever since i first saw the trailer a year ago it reminded of that warm halloween feeling so to speak, with the leaves in the street, the dark sky, full moon, kids running around. i wish i could somehow see a screening of this...there arent halloween films like this anymore (at least as this appears), i love horror movies but miss the ones that revolve around hallows eve =P

Posted by: RevSean on October 17, 2008 at 10:35:15

The whole film feels like a vintage Halloween greeting card dipped in cyanide.

Posted by: Scribe on October 17, 2008 at 11:35:38

Wow, full marks? You sure most of it wasn't just because of the anticipation of finally watching the movie? At any rate, I am curious, and will have to check this out. Just glad its getting to see the light of day.

Posted by: R.J. Sayer on October 18, 2008 at 13:11:40

yep. hit the nail on the head. everything you said was right on the money. i was at the Screamfest screening, and after the Q&A, i just wanted the projectionist to thread it up and run it again.

EASILY the best horror film in years. and if/when the thing finally gets released, it will be THE Halloween movie. see ya, Michael. you've had a good and strong term, but Sam is the new mascot of All Hallow's Eve.

and no, guys, it wasn't just the anticipation talking. this movie is THAT good.

Posted by: brandon_fear on October 18, 2008 at 22:23:14

I'm so itching to see this soooo badly...I had some friends see this at a screening a while back and they told me it's freakin' amazing and they're not huge horror hounds like me.

Please Legendary Pics and WB....release this already!!!

Posted by: lasthavoc on October 19, 2008 at 15:34:59

can someone please tell me WHEN this movie is releasing, and is it select theaters or everywhere??? i know this movie's release has been up in the air for a while, but i've had a hard on to see a GOOD horror movie this Halloween and after this review, Trick r' Treat is the one i wanna see. anyone that says michael myers has just been dethroned pretty much just sold me. please god let this come out before Halloween!!!

Posted by: chassidy on October 21, 2008 at 11:53:48

This sounds good! When is this movie going to be released? Tell me.

Posted by: angelica on October 22, 2008 at 22:46:39

this movie sound freaken great. i love scary movies and most of the time i do not really get scared anymore so when does this movie come out it sound really good.

Posted by: horrorfan on October 27, 2008 at 16:26:00

I was EXTREMELY lucky to see 'Trick 'R Treat' at the AICN screening last Thursday 10/23 at Mann's Chinese theater in Hollywood.

For everybody who wants to see this flick finally released, Moriarty of AICN said the best thing to do is write him at [email protected] and tell Warner Bros. you wanna see it. Audience demand is the only way this new horror masterpiece will ever find it's way into our homes.

Director/screenwriter Michael Dougherty did a Q & A after the screening (he's awesome, by the way), and said that he honestly has no idea why Warners hasn't released it yet. They've given him no reason for the delay nor timetable for a possible release. Imagine the poor guy's frustration after making such a kick-ass and patently marketable flick.

Ryan's above review of 'Trick 'R Treat' is completely accurate. At first, the interweaving of the characters is confusing, but you get used to it quick. Most importantly, the film DELIVERS. Any horror or Halloween fan will love this flick. Old school anthology horror updated for the 21st century.

So c'mon horror fans, write Moriarty and tell him we wanna see some f***n' TRICK R' TREAT!!! It deserves to be released and seen by horror film afecionados around the globe!

Posted by: sirchuggz on November 1, 2008 at 11:08:00

Just emailed moriarty about the release. Id give my left nut too see a decent horror flick.

Posted by: mabel on November 2, 2008 at 01:32:45

Why is this movie not for sale -----> Trick-r-treat

Posted by: Jason1978 on November 2, 2008 at 08:35:08

In a era of all these crappy and unneded remakes it truly is sad that this movie (aka an original idea for a horror movie) continues to be delayed.

Instead of this we get like 50 Saw movies and countless remakes. What gives?

Posted by: RJGrande on December 1, 2008 at 20:04:05

I cant wait to see it either but i was completely crushed when i looked into why i cant find it anywhere....

This was posted online on which i have found to be a very reliable website....

Release dates for Trick 'r Treat (2008)

USA 10 October 2008 (Screamfest LA International Horror Film Festival)

USA 13 October 2008 (Fangoria Convention)

USA October 2009 (DVD premiere) DAMN!!! ANOTHER YEAR!!!

Posted by: Ryan on March 11, 2009 at 17:35:52

Any word on a release yet ?

Posted by: Tinko Tanks on June 7, 2009 at 14:10:10

You people must be shooting heroin. This was the most disjointed, amateurish pile of dog sheet I've ever seen! Warners won't release it because it BLOWS! What, the pretty colors made you like it? What about the awful acting, the completely unbelievable story, the lame direction?

Posted by: I am Tetsuo on September 30, 2009 at 18:40:22

I liked this film but I didn't love it. It had all the things that should have made me love it but the non-linear narrative didn't work (I'm a geek, I know).
Having the stories entwined with each other is more creative than 4 separate, individual shorts (such as Creep Show) but the director does not do a good job of keeping the stories separate, yet at the same time part of one large story.

Imagine a talented juvenile art student, attempting to make a film with a pulp-fiction style narrative (poorly), using really cool horror images & characters they drew in their scrap book.

That's Trick 'r Treat

Posted by: kaicooper on October 27, 2009 at 03:13:52

oh thank god..this movie was ****ing awesome
such a gri8 stories and black comedy..10/10

Posted by: kellymeyers on October 28, 2009 at 23:03:41

Thank you, thank you Mr. Dougherty! Best horror film I've seen in a while - the twists were great.. exceeded my expectations by far, but just wish I could have seen it in a theatre. Oh well, DVD will do.

Posted by: jeremy on October 31, 2009 at 18:12:10


Posted by: Craig on November 29, 2010 at 21:46:10

I have to agree with the positive reviews. This is not only mandatory Halloween viewing, but it is also the only modern anthology movie that I would consider to be a worthy successor to 1980's "Creepshow".

It's a shame that Warner Brothers sat on this for so long because they didn't want to take a risk on releasing something that wasn't a bankable sequel.

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