Trick ‘r Treat

Michael Dougherty probably never imagined his directorial debut would become a cult hit before it was even released. Then again, he probably didn’t expect so much trouble in actually getting it released, either. Originally planned to hit theaters in October 2007, “Trick ‘r Treat” spent the next two years sitting on the shelf collecting dust, all while the anticipation among horror fans continued to grow. The movie has finally been released on DVD in time for this year’s Halloween celebration, and though it’s not nearly as good as the hype suggests, it is one of the most original and entertaining horror films in years – and this coming from a relative non-fan of the genre.

An anthology film in the same vein as “Creepshow” and “Tales From the Crypt,” “Trick ‘r Treat” spins four tales about mischief and mayhem in a small Ohio town on Halloween night. Dylan Baker stars as a high school principal who moonlights as a serial killer; Anna Paquin plays a young virgin on the prowl for her perfect man; Brian Cox faces off against a murderous little demon that doesn’t approve of his disregard for Halloween traditions; and a group of teenage pranksters get a taste of their own medicine.

Combining creepy imagery with some really dark humor, all four stories work well individually (especially the ones starring Baker and Cox), but it’s the way in which they’re skillfully interwoven that makes it such a blast to watch. Maintaining a sense of chronology to the film by placing characters from some stories in the background of others, Dougherty does a fabulous job with keeping the audience interested throughout the film’s brisk 82-minute runtime – even if some stories are better than others. It’s just a shame the movie didn’t get the attention it deserved, because while horror fans are stuck watching the same shitty sequels and remakes year in and year out, “Trick ‘r Treat” is exactly the breath of fresh air that the genre desperately needed. It really makes you wonder how Warner Bros. dropped the ball on this one, because while “Trick ‘r Treat” isn’t quite an instant classic, it’s a film you won’t mind revisiting every Halloween.

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Comic-Con treats and tricks

I’ll be writing a little bit more about the unwisely dropped direct-to-DVD festival hit, “Trick ‘r Treat,” after I return from the con. That particularly includes what I gleaned from a trio of round robin interview things with writer-director Michael Dougherty and co-stars Lauren Lee Smith (“CSI”) and Brian Cox, definitely one of the toppermost of the poppermost, acting wise. Including Mr. Cox, all very personable folks, which never hurts in show bidness.

My reaction to the film was muted by my own tiredness, but I do think there is something there. Dougherty, a co-writer on the last couple of Bryan Singer superhero projects, has an outstanding eye for creepy beauty and he certainly brings human values and humor to his horror. However, the muddy acoustics of the hall drowned out much of the dialogue for me, and the impossibility of obtaining coffee at the convention center  in the evening dulled out much of my brain. (Why, oh why, Mrs. Fields, have you abandoned me this year?) The audience reaction was, as far as I could tell, divided between wild enthusiasm and muted nitpicking. More to come.

And now, a few other more high-profile movie related con related matters live from my horrifyingly small shoe box hotel room. Also, I wonder how long I can hold out without ever setting foot in the dreaded Hall H.

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