A lot of movies take place on particular holidays but a true ‘Holiday Movie’ really steeps itself in every aspect of the day it’s representing. In general I find that Christmas movies are the best example of this as they are so often packed to the gills with festive imagery and (gag) “heartwarming” sentiment. Well, for those of you looking for a film that honors a darker holiday with the same level of detail and enthusiasm you’d be hard pressed to find one that does it better than Trick ‘r Treat.
The movie consists of four interwoven stories that all occur in the same suburban town on Halloween night: A murderous school principal (Dylan Baker) struggles to hide his victim’s body; A young woman (Anna Paquin) tries to find the perfect guy for her “first time”; A group of kids explore the site of a child massacre and a grouchy old man (Brian Cox) contends with a very unusual trick ‘r treater.
There are certainly different ways to present an anthology film but if you are going to have interconnected stories this is the way to do it. The stories flow into each other seamlessly as opposed to feeling awkwardly forced together like in some anthologies. The characters also cross over into each others’ stories in significant ways rather than just with token appearances.
This fluidity can be largely attributed to the fact that Michael Dougherty wrote and directed the entire film instead of giving each segment to a different director. While I do like the collaborative nature of anthologies made by multiple artists, it can also backfire when the styles are too at odds with each other. In this case, Dougherty’s slick, cohesive production is proof positive that he was up to handling the task solo.
But cohesion aside, without a solid story, a film has no chance of holding your interest. Luckily, Trick ‘r Treat easily delivers in that aspect as well with a storyline that is fun, engaging and surprisingly dark. The film certainly doesn’t shy away from violence or disturbing subject matter and will keep you on your toes with an unpredictable plot where no one is guaranteed to make it out alive. In addition, the film delivers on some solid moments of black comedy (especially from the principal, that wacky child murderer) that add levity without bringing you out of the world of the film.
The entire production also feels incredibly professional with solid acting across the board and a sleek, polished look. In essence, a film that has the production value of a Hollywood movie with an unconventional indie storyline, which is the combination you’re always hoping for but rarely get. When you toss in the fact that the film is packed with wall to wall Halloween imagery, you get a movie that not only properly honors the occasion but deserves to be put on the annual viewing list with other holiday classics.