Wednesday, October 07, 2009

trick 'r treat [2007]

finally on dvd this flick has long been the source of rumor and conjecture. does it live up to the hype? depends on whose watching. for the average film-goer the answer to that query is a most definitely maybe. no new ground is broken and the halloween imagery, jack o'lanterns and black cats et al., won't do much for those who think halloween is too much of a muchness. for the full-on horror geek, however, you know, like someone like me, who is hardcore into halloween then the wait, even tho it was far too long, was worth it.

the movie is a delight to the senses. writer/director michael dougherty and his crew of set designers pack every frame with pumpkins, candy, and things that will wanna knock you in the noggin at night. dougherty taps into the very nostalgia that older connoisseurs of halloween will delight in. the movie even opens with a mock psa in black&white about trick-or-treating safety.

if nostalgia was all dougherty trafficked in his film would become stale very quickly. thankfully he does not as the movie is an anthology of four compelling stories all happening on halloween night in a little town in ohio that takes its spooky celebrations seriously. the stories occur at the same time of night and rather than box each narrative as a single piece the filmmaker dovetails each story together with sight markers and tiny set pieces that connect each narrative in the larger framework. for example, there is a nasty little trick-or-treater that acts as a sort of chorus because he or she is present in every story but also plays a significant role as the antagonist of one very cranky old man who hates halloween. this little bastard, who has a very round, giant head covered in burlap with buttons for eyes, attacks the old man in his house. next door is another narrative that features a high school principal who is also a secret serial killer. the cranky old fart is becoming a nuisance to the principal as the younger man is in his backyard burying his victims. next we see the old man yelling for help in his window and before the camera turns to go into the house with the serial killer we see for just a moment the little fucker of a trick-or-treater knock the old cantankerous man out of the frame.

later we see this same scene played out but from the old man's perspective. these small details tie the plot together. the other stories range from kids playing a practical joke but the joke turns on them, and a young, virginal woman who is looking for either mister right or mister-right-now. dougherty packs a few subplots into the movie and again each frame is a veritable prop house of halloween toys. very drool-worthy. in fact, such imagery and the solid storytelling is for horror geeks what looking at a naked girl for the first time is for horny teenage boys.

hardcore. some of the actors you'll recognize. brian cox, the first, and in my humble opinion, the best dr hannibal lecter in michael mann's manhunter [1986] , is the bitchy and boozy old halloween hater. there's a reason he hates halloween which completes the story of the practical joke gone wrong and gives the reason why he's being attacked by the persona of halloween itself. there's also anna paquin as the virginal young woman. each of these stories have a twist, almost like a morality tale and in this regard come to resemble the old pre-code 1950s e.c. horror comics, and creepshow [1983] which is a paean to those old comics and classic horror movies by stephen king and george a romero. indeed, dougherty uses similar stylized comic-book graphics for his intro and conclusion like romero used in his film.

my only gripe with dougherty is a certain choice of song. dougherty populates his movie with many kinds of creatures, such as vampires and zombies and serial killers and werewolves. for the werewolves segment when the lycanthropes mutate from human to monster dougherty utilizes the marilyn manson cover of the eurythmics' song 'sweet dreams'. the song doesn't work for me. i'm not partial to the song and manson is a rather cliched trope to scare the shit out of adults. shock rockers are rarely scary. if dougherty was truly interested in scaring the bejesus out of his audience then he would have forsaken manson and gone with a clip of 60-something mick jagger doing his rooster strut clad only in a loin cloth. that'll chill your bones. otherwise, the music choices are top-notch and reading the end credits i discovered that dougherty also used bits and pieces of music from other films including a movie i've been watching a lot of recently as nicholas is a big fan of it, scooby-doo on zombie island [1998]. that's it. i'm hooked. happy halloween.



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