Trick ‘r Treat (2007)
Horror has a long and hallowed tradition of anthology films. Some, like Corman’s Tales of Terror, are tied together by a common writer and repeated appearances of actors as different characters; others, like the recent V/H/S, by a common gimmick or concept. Then there’s Trick ‘r Treat, which utilizes the anthology film subgenre to tell a series of tales from Halloween night and, like a schlock-horror version of Pulp Fiction, interweaves characters to effortless, and surprising, effects.
The action takes place one Halloween night in a small Ohio town that really seems to like the holiday. The usual Halloween shenanigans are afoot, from kids knocking pumpkins off of fence-posts, to grown-ups using costumes as a means of anonymously getting off with strangers. The four main tales comprise a school principal who moonlights as a serial killer, a group of kids paying homage to an old urban legend, a young woman dressed as Red Riding Hood on the search for her Big Bad Wolf, and a curmudgeonly old man who hates Halloween and won’t give out candy. Each story comprises contains a “Halloween infraction,” from poisoned candy to cruel practical jokes, and the presence of “Sam,” a little trick-r-treater wearing orange pajamas and a burlap sack mask who appears at important moments in each vignette. The characters connect and interweave with one another, as one story finishes what another started.
Without giving too much away, Trick ‘r Treat is one of the most entertaining contemporary horror films I’ve seen in a long time. It has its own, warped moral universe that brings each portion of the story to an intense, often funny, and always satisfying conclusion. With an excellent cast full of character actors, including Anna Paquin and Brian Cox, the film brings off its horror without too much recourse to shock tactics or bloody dismemberment. It trades on what makes Halloween so beloved: beneath the jack-o-lanterns and cute costumes is a holiday tradition founded on respect for the dead and the supernatural. Cross the line of tradition, break the rules for your own perversity, and little Sam will be there to punish your wrongdoing. A good lesson, for any Halloween night.