Written by: Anthony J. Rapino
Since its release, Michael Dougherty’s Trick ‘r Treat has become a seasonal favorite, and for good reason. The writer/director took a unique approach to the (arguably) anthology film, layered it with helping upon helping of Halloween delights, and topped it with a beautifully told story. There’s really nothing I don’t like about this film. From set design, to the score, to costume design, Trick ‘r Treat excels.
The Rules of Halloween
The opening segment of Trick ‘r Treat–though easily overlooked once you get into the meat of the film–performs varied noble tasks. It sets the mood, defines the rules by which Sam is governed, establishes the setting (which is arguably a character in its own right), and teases a few of the storylines and characters to come.
The projector-style presentation of the rules of Halloween never fails to cause an evil grin to form on my face as I hunker deeper into my chair with a big bowl of candy corn or some other seasonal treat. Pair this with the television news report about the town’s parade, and I’m ready for the show.
But don’t forget to help me with the eyes.
Arguably, I love the entire Principal Wilkens segment, and really, any moment Dylan Baker is on screen. He is an incredible actor and lends a particularly creepy hand to his character. A favorite moment in this segment is when Charlie croaks and spews an insane amount of chocolate and blood everywhere. However, the true stand out in the segment is the interaction between Billy and his father as Steven attempts to bury his victims. Billy screaming “Charlie Brown is an asshole!” never gets old, and the big reveal of the “Jack-o-lantern” Billy needs help with is wonderful.
The Halloween Bus Massacre
This scene is a workhorse! It does so much in so little time, and it does is so damn well! Let’s start with the obvious: It’s beautifully shot. Dougherty seems keenly aware that the rest of the movie takes place at night, and so takes particular care in creating a fantastic autumn glow for the daytime flashback.
Meshing perfectly with the atmosphere is the costume design for the children. The masks the children wear are disturbing in their slightly off-kilter presentation. I actually tend to find those costumes more frightening when the children are alive on the school bus than when they are dead later in the movie.
While the story itself feels perhaps a bit unbelievable (all of those children’s parents really agreed to have them killed?), it feels appropriate for this sleepy little town during this particular season.
Perhaps my favorite part about this scene is the flat out brilliant foreshadowing. Who is this bus driver? I sincerely doubt many people picked up on it during a first viewing, but pay close attention in subsequent views, and you find Dougherty subtly reveals the driver’s identity in two ways. First, we get not one but two close-up shots of the driver’s ring; the very same ring we see on Kreeg’s hand. Second, as the driver emerges from the water (after the bus plummets), he is heard gasping for breath. This of course doesn’t seem out of place as he just came up from underwater (precisely why this is so brilliant), but if you listen carefully you’ll notice that this wheezing is the very same that the older Kreeg is plagued with. Perhaps a bit of karmic retribution in and of itself.
Sweet Dreams are Made of These
Dougherty deals yet another twist when we discover Laurie (Anna Paquin) and company are werewolves. While not my all-time favorite transformation, I did think it was handled with care (not all cgi at least) and offered an interesting view of the transformation: the shedding of skin like clothes, performed as a “strip.”
There’s also something simply wonderful about Steven Wilkens’ end. When he utters, “Who are you people,” I can’t help but laugh. Every. Damn. Time.
You’ve got to be fucking kidding me.
The entire Kreeg segment. How can I choose just one scene from it? We finally get some real screen time with Sam, who until now has been merely an onlooker or perhaps overseer (minus the opening of course).
The fight between Kreeg and Sam is both exhilarating and hilarious. When Sam’s hand comes back to life and drags the mask back to him, Kreeg’s reaction is perfection. It’s the reaction that you want characters to have in most horror movies when ridiculous shit goes down: “You’ve got to be fucking kidding me.”
Beyond the obvious moments that I’m sure we all love (the creation of the iconic lollipop, Sam creeping across the ceiling, the dozens of jack-o-lanterns appearing on the porch), there’s also a sense of poetic justice, or perhaps cosmic irony, in that Kreeg is spared by Sam only to be taken by the long-dead children of the Halloween Bus Massacre.
It’s Halloween on a disc
What it comes down to is this: it simply isn’t Halloween for me anymore without at least one viewing of Trick ‘r Treat. There have been and always will be certain movies and television specials that sum up a season, like It’s the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown. Though he may be an asshole, his show is Halloween just as Trick ‘r Treat now is as well.
What’s your favorite scene from Trick ‘r Treat?
About the Author: Anthony J. Rapino is the author of numerous critically acclaimed stories. You can follow his Amazon author page right here.