Oh man, do I love Halloween. Not only do I get to dress up in a ridiculous costume (hopefully this year, I can pull off Hawkeye—no, not Alan Alda or Daniel Day-Lewis, but Clint Barton), but I can also use the time of year as an excuse to watch as many horror flicks as I can in my free time. Honestly, I try to do that all year round anyway, but throughout the month of October, it’s officially sanctioned, nay, encouraged! So, for my next few posts, I’ll be updating about whatever spook-a-blasts make their way into my DVD player. I’ll look for the comic book connections wherever I can find them, I promise.
TRICK R TREAT
This movie, written and directed by X2/Superman Returns screenwriter Michael Dougherty and produced by Bryan Singer, was originally supposed to be released theatrically a few years back (I first saw the trailer when I was living in my last apartment, which would most likely make it 2007 or so). Warner Brothers pulled it from their schedule at the last minute, saying it would be released the following year, then…nothing. It kept getting pushed back further and further, all the while building up fan buzz from special screenings and convention appearances by the director and stars. It finally came to DVD riding a crazy crest of hype two weeks ago. I suppose I can justify this one, since it’s made by a couple of guys with high profile comic book movies under their belts, and it pays tribute to stuff like EC Comics with its structure and comic-style opening credits (much of the action takes place on Warren Street, presumably named for the publisher of Creepy, Eerie, and Vampirella). Also, DC/Wildstorm produced a graphic novel adaptation, so there you go.
The sort-of anthology style film follows four intertwined tales of terror that take place in the same neighbourhood on All Hallows’ Eve. Dylan Baker plays a murderous school principal, Anna Paquin appears in a redo of "Little Red Riding Hood", an urban legend about a school bus full of drowned troublemakers figures into a nasty prank, and a mean old man who hates the holiday is tormented by a diminutive, sack-headed spirit of Halloween (I think that’s what he’s supposed to be, anyway).
I really do feel like the filmmakers had their hearts in the right place with this one; clearly, they love the Halloween season and all the morbid traditions that surround it. Sadly, this movie, which somehow manages to feel way too long even though it only lasts 82 minutes, missed the mark for me. None of the four stories feel very developed in any satisfactory way, and their quality is uneven as all hell. The opening segment with Dylan Baker ends far too quickly on an unsatisfying twist, but then his character returns in the Anna Paquin segment in a way that doesn’t fit his earlier modus operandi at all and feels at odds with the Red Riding Hood legend. The segment about the school bus has promise, but is a bit half-baked, and the comeuppance the pranksters receive seems pretty harsh. Bryan Cox nearly saves the final installment with his raspy, wheezy, performance as mean old Mr. Kreeg, but we’re barely introduced to him before he’s being terrorized by the mischievous imp, so why should we care what happens to him? There’s also a framing sequence involving a grown-up couple who go trick-or-treating, which is confusing enough already, but then gets even more confusing when one of them meets an awful fate (at the hands of sack-headed “Sam”) for no apparent reason. The type of horror stories the film is attempting to evoke have a certain Old Testament flair to them, where bad people are punished in suitably gruesome, ironic fashion, but the evils that befall Trick R Treat’s cast seem way too arbitrary to work as an homage.
Trick R Treat is a very well made picture, with a better-than-average cast, eye-catching cinematography, and lots of spooky atmosphere. However, Dougherty and company spent too much time focusing on the style when they should have paid better attention to the substance. Not one character leaves an impression, and not one plot twist or scare is memorable. It’s like they made a movie that you could play on a big screen at a high school Halloween dance, where you don’t have to worry about following the plot but will be treated to some appropriately seasonal imagery if you turn towards it once in a while. Trick R Treat’s glossy production may go down like so much Halloween candy, but its lack of a nourishing screenplay gave me a tummy-ache.
PS: If you’ve really got a hankering for this sort of thing, do yourself a favour and check out 1982’s Creepshow, written by Stephen King and directed by George A. Romero. It pulls off the EC comics horror anthology homage much more successfully, with lots of tongue-in-cheek humour, awesome makeup effects by Tom Savini and a great cast that includes Adrienne Barbeau, Ted Danson, Ed Harris, Leslie Nielsen, Hal Holbrook, and even King himself! Bonus points if you can scare up a copy of the graphic novel adaptation, illustrated by genre legend Berni Wrightson.