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Tuesday, October 17, 2017

31 DAYS OF HORROR 2017-Day 17: TRICK 'R TREAT (2007)

Obey the rules of Halloween, or you will meet Sam...

The horror anthology film goes back at least as far as DEAD OF NIGHT (1945) and continues to this day, with largely uneven results, but one of the better and more fun of the recent crop is writer/director Michael Dougherty's TRICK 'R TREAT. 

Taking place on Halloween night in an Ohio suburb, the film follows the night's intersecting paths of several characters, connected only by the holiday and the recurring presence of wee Sam, a silent, pint-sized demonic entity whose origins and purpose are never stated, but it's made very clear that he is definitely the enforcer of the night's rules and lore, and may be the physical personification of the spirit of Halloween. Sam walks unnoticed among the legions of trick-or-treaters, observing their shenanigans and availing himself to offered candy, but may the gods help you if you disrespect this sacred night...

The tone is set with a short vignette in which a young couple returns home after walking the streets in costume. The husband is clearly into Halloween and has set up their front yard with all manner of spooky seasonal decorations, but his wife openly expresses her disdain for the holiday, much to her husband's sadness, and she demands that he take down the decorations immediately since her mother's coming over the next day, and she knows he'll spend the next day sleeping late and playing videogames. Instead, she lets her husband go inside to relax (in actuality he goes to jerk off to porn) and begins taking down the decorations herself. But her disrespect for Halloween has been noted by Sam, and let's just say that she won't have to endure another October 31st... 

"Give me something good to eat..."

The first of the intertwined tales of terror introduces us to Charlie (Brett Kelly), an obnoxious Jack-o'-lantern-smashing fat kid who also breaks the honor system and takes waaaay more than one piece of candy from a clearly-marked self-service bowl on a porch where no one is at home. Charlie is busted when the homeowner, local school principal Steven Wilkins (Dylan Baker) returns, but the pricipal sits Charlie down on the porch and says he was just like him when he was a kid, offering Charlie a candy bar. After scarfing down the chocolate, the kid falls victim to the principal's poisoned treat, vomiting up seemingly gallons of half-digested candy before he keels over. Wilkins hauls the lad's body inside and what ensues is a comedy of bodily disposal that gets interrupted by the principal's young son and the crotchety old man who lives next door. (More on him later.) 

Charlie and the chocolate toxicity.

And when all seems to be over, Wilkins goes into his house and brings his sweet little boy down to the basement, all the while concealing a butcher knife behind his back...

Next, we meet a quartet of very attractive young women who every year choose a different city in which to celebrate Halloween. The youngest of the group (Anna Paquin) is reluctant to join the others clad as she is in a Little Red Riding Hood outfit that she feels makes her look ridiculous, but her older, Cinderella-garbed sister gives her grief about her need to loosen up and the fact that she's still a virgin at age twenty-two. The girls cruise the town, inviting young men to meet them at a drunken bonfire party in the woods, but the youngest does her best to dodge the revelry and instead stays in town to blend in with other revelers. She gets more than she bargained for when she encountered a masked man with pointy fangs that may not be part of his costume...

While cruising for some Halloween cock, there's always that one killjoy.

But is the innocent Little Red Riding Hood as helpless as she seems? The answer is a resounding "NO."

Elsewhere in town, a number of mean kids orchestrate a cruel prank on "Rhonda the retard" (Samm Todd), a girl who's described as an "idiot savant." (Though from her behaviors and way of speaking, I'd peg her as autistic.) The kids her to an abandoned rock quarry that 30 years early was purportedly the site of "The School Bus Massacre," in which a bus carrying eight "disturbed" kids in Halloween costumes were chained to their seats as their driver, who had been paid by their embarrassed and fed-up parents, sought to drive the bus into the lake so that the kids would drown. The eight children drown and the driver escapes to no one knows where, but the mean kids tell the Halloween-lore-savvy Rhonda that they are all going down to the edge of the quarry's lake to set down eight Jack-o'-lanterns as an offering to the souls of the drowned children. What follows is a textbook example of when a prank goes horribly, supernaturally wrong.

Rhonda receives the fright of her young life.

Lastly, we meet the aforementioned crotchety old neighbor of Principal Wilkins, the nasty Mr. Kreeg (Brian Cox, who was also the screen's original Hannibal Lecter), who hates trick-or-treaters, scares them away from his property, and absconds with the candy they drop while fleeing in abject terror.  The guy's a mean asshole who disrespects Halloween, so he's about due for a visit from wee Sam.

Mr. Kreeg (Brian Cox) meets Sam, and what a meeting it is...

While not an instant classic nor particularly scary for grownups, TRICK 'R TREAT is a good way to introduce younger viewers to the Halloween anthology sub-genre. It's not overly gory (though there are some moments that look quite painful) and there's no nudity aside from a very brief flash of naked breasts, so I say expose your 10-and-older kids to it in order to get them into the spirit of the season. Trust me, that'll keep you on Sam's good side.

Poster from the theatrical release.

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