I'm a teacher and writer living in Warren, PA. I love obsessing over books, movies, music, and television, and occasionally writing about it. My first short story "Writer's Block" was published in The Big Book of Bizarro from Burning Bulb Publishing.
Sunday, October 18, 2009
Trick 'r Treat
"They don't make 'em like they used to."
Few films fit this oft-noted cliche quite as well as the surprisingly entertaining and well-made direct-to-DVD horror anthology "Trick 'r Treat." While the reason this movie was held back from theaters remains somewhat of a mystery (it has several notable stars, high production values, and a writer-director with pedigree), what is not mysterious is why it is so good.
Eschewing the recent trend that horror films have sadly been following, sometimes referred to as "torture-porn", what I like to call "the 'Saw' paradigm", "Treat" stirs together a recipe from some of the best ingredients of classic fright films and television shows from the genre's best decades.
Those ingredients include:
a hearty helping of "Creepshow"
a dash of "Tales from the Crypt"
a smidge of "The Twilight Zone"
a pinch of "Monsters"
a sprinkle of "Tales from the Darkside"
What works so well here is the way Michael Dougherty weaves his four tales of terror together. Instead of starting and stopping each tale, pausing in between to visit an overarching story a la some of the aforementioned films, Dougherty sets all his balls rolling at once, playing with the traditional linear narrative to allow the stories to overlap. This rewards the more attentive viewer who is given clues throughout as to how the characters' lives will eventually intersect.
As an added bonus, "Trick 'r Treat" is sure to tie each story into the traditions of the Halloween season with a set of rules that, when broken by the characters, result in dire consequences: from keeping jack-o-lanterns lit to wearing costumes to handing out good candy, the film's mascot, "Sam," is ever-present to be sure they are honored.
It's not an exaggeration to classify "Trick 'r Treat" as an addition to the list of required All Hallow's Eve viewing. Along with "Halloween," "A Nightmare Before Christmas," and "Sleepy Hollow," this movie not only brings chills, gore, laughs, and Halloween-inspired visuals, but also a reverence for the holiday that not even the former films can claim.