Much like the unexpected journey the impeccable Little Red Riding Hood-clad Anna Paquin eventually takes on a dark lonely road, untouted but manically monitored Trick r’ Treat surprises horror aficionados with a large dose of originality, a serpentine endeavor hard to accomplish because of the jaded, desensitized mob that calls the horror movie genre home. Trick r’ Treat is a horror anthology film comprised of four interwoven storylines: Surprise Party, The Halloween School Bus Massacre Revisited, Meet Sam, and The Principal.
Before we delve into those storylines, a brief note: Everything in Trick r’ Treat is Halloween oriented, including its old and new killers (What the hell was that pumpkin thing Sam, played by Quinn Lord? That mystery reminds me of a similar one from the original Black Christmas), even the choice of certain killer’s weapons are Halloween themed.
What started out deceptively as the most ordinary of the horror storylines, Surprise Party, complete with standard horror female eye candy in the form of Laurie (Anna Paquin), the “runt of the litter”, her sister Danielle (Lauren Lee Smith), and their two friends, Janet (Moneca Delain) and Maria (Rochelle Aytes), all costumed in Disney regalia on a quest to help Paquin lose her 22-year old virginity, turned out to be one of the best, if not the best, storylines in Trick r’ Treat. The line of dialogue: “What big eyes you have” is only a taste of the bleak fairy tale queues and image conjurers found in Trick r’ Treat, something that the neo-macabre mind of Tim Burton could have dreamed up and created an analogous story arch around. What happens at the end of Surprise Party is hinted at only once so subtly Sherlock Holmes would miss it. Though no grand epiphany, it is very surprising and fulfilling.
The Trick r’ Treat’s storyline, The Halloween School Bus Massacre Revisited, tackles the “mystique” horror genre: a character talking about an incident/crime that happened in the past and how a legend was born that day about a bus, dead “special” children, and Jack-o-Lanterns. Of course Trick r’ Treat has the standard occurrence for this type of tale but the film adds a slight twist before that happens in a well orchestrated disappear sequence as an elevator descends down to the side of a construction site lake. What is refreshing about The Halloween School Bus Massacre Revisited storyline is that it actually involves real teenagers, not twenty-somethings acting an approximation of post-pubescent adolescence. This adds-in all those intangibles that would have been missing if older proxies had been used.
Rhonda (Samm Todd), a supposed Idiot Savant for obvious reasons, is the most interesting character in The Halloween School Bus Massacre Revisited storyline and uses her ability to give Chip (Alberto Ghisi), and the audience, a brief history lesson on Halloween. She is the underdog because of her mental condition and what she is put through. When the final revelation inevitably occurs, Rhonda’s decision is of no surprise, we have seen it before but the satisfaction factor the viewer derives this time may not have been as high.
The next Trick r’ Treat storyline of note, Meet Sam, has your basic strange noises outside of the protagonist’s house, an asinine investigation of said noises (hasn’t he seen Scream), stalk, and confrontation sequences but the protagonist, Mr. Kreeg (Brian Cox), who is tied, like other characters, to other characters in Trick r’ Treat is directly responsible for the town legend in The Halloween School Bus Massacre Revisited. Two occurrences of note happen in Meet Sam: Mr. Kreeg runs for the front door instead of idiotically deeper into his house when he finds himself up S’s Creek. Second, what the viewer expects to happen at the end of the storyline does not happen, a welcome change of pace.
The Principal storyline of Trick r’ Treat could have been easily written off as average until the final frame came into view, implying many father, Principal Steven Wilkins (Dylan Baker)/son, Billy Wilkins (Connor Christopher Levins), implications. The ending was surprising, even though it only involved the craving of a Jack-o-Lantern: “You have to help me with the eyes.” Great final scene, great piece of dialogue.
Michael Dougherty’s Trick r’ Treat is an American horror film that presents standard horror setups yet surprises along the way with a turn here and a twist there. American horror may be in a season of unoriginality and remakes but Trick r’ Treat gives American horror fans something they have been in desperate need of, hope.