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Halloween is the one night in which the barrier between the living and the dead is the thinnest.

Samhain is known as the Celtic holiday that marks the last day of harvest, also called All Hallow’s Eve, and even more commonly known as Halloween. The belief was that on this day, the dead could visit with the living. In Michael Dougherty’s film, Trick ‘r Treat, he explores the various facets in which Halloween tends to be depicted, such as visits from the dead, trickery, and murder. The film focuses on more than one story and challenges the viewer to piece it all together.

 

Dougherty’s original story is derived from an animated short he wrote back in 1996, titled Season’s Greetings. The short features Sam, a boy in orange pajamas and a sack over his head, walking around in the dark being stalked by a stranger. Sam is the mere representation of Halloween itself: childlike yet containing dark undertones and even slightly representing a pumpkin.

 

Individual stories of various characters subtly intertwine with others, yet never directly interacting. During a particular story of a character, you will most likely see another character briefly walking past in the background. This gives the viewer the ability to connect each character themselves.

 

Trick ‘r Treat begins with a young married couple, Emma and Henry, walking up to their house in costume. Emma appears to be exhausted over the events of the evening and is eager to tear down the Halloween decorations in the front yard. Not only does the film begin with this scene, but it ends with it as well. The overlapping timelines of different characters is the main theme and pushes the audience to keep their eyes open for anything possible.

 

Next, we are introduced to a group of young female adults trying on costumes in a costume shop. Laurie, played by Anna Paquin, is hesitant to wear the costume she was given to try on, feeling self conscious and looking slightly nervous. The group of women continue to talk about the party that they are on their way to, encouraging Laurie to find a date to bring. After purchasing their costumes, the women all find their own dates and escort them to the party, leaving Laurie alone in the town to find her own.

 

The next important character we are introduced to is Principle Wilkins, played by Dylan Baker. Principle Wilkins lives a secret life behind closed doors as a serial killer and is shown comfortably poisoning a student on his own front porch and dragging him into his house. There, he is assisted by his own young son who is ready to carve the face of the student as it if were his own jack o’lantern. This scene appears important because it conveys the idea of this lifestyle as normal for Wilkins and his son, giving the impression that they’ve been through this before.

 

After we meet Wilkins, we are introduced to some of his students that come to the front door trick-or-treating. Along with collecting candy, they attempt to gather as many jack o’lanterns as possible, claiming that they are for a scavenger hunt for UNICEF (ironic to visiting Mr. Wilkins). Macy is the leader of the group and leads her friends to the location where urban tales claim that a bus full of special needs students were killed, revealing that the jack o’lanterns were actually an offering to the dead.

 

Another character we meet is Mr. Kreeg, played by Brian Cox, and his dog who live next door to Principle Wilkins. Kreeg comes off as a grumpy old man that Wilkins seems to just dismiss. It isn’t until near the end of the film that the audience gets to spend more time with Kreeg and understand the importance of his role.

 

 

And then there’s Sam, who’s name is taken directly from the word Samhain. As the most prominent character of the film, he is placed throughout various pockets of the film waiting for the audience to recognize him. Sam is quiet, but is essentially the glue to all of the story lines. He appears in the background, often as an onlooker, hardly having any interactions with most of the other characters. It isn’t until toward the end of the film that his role is evident, however, and proves to be crucial. As the main character of the entire film, Sam brings all of the separate stories full circle.

 

Originally, Dougherty wanted the film to consist of separate stories with no direct connections. However, production executives weren’t sold on the idea so Dougherty decided to reshape the story of Trick ‘r Treat in order to ensure it came to life before another filmmaker snagged it. This was one of the best decisions he could have made with the production of this film. The way each story intertwines with the next is smooth and does a solid job of connecting to each other. The connections were evident, yet sparse enough to not beat the audience over the head with it. This technique has the potential to become greatly confusing to the viewer, but Dougherty gave us just the right amount of it.

 

The essence of each character was depicted nearly perfectly by the cast. The blend of all of the actors creates a nice balance that is unique compared to most horror films, in which you typically get one or the other. Brian Cox was the perfect actor for his character and worked hard to bring Kreeg to life. It was vision on not only how Kreeg acted, but how he looked, highly inspired by John Carpenter himself.

 

The score, composed by Douglas Pipes, was a successful addition to the film. The tones of the music helped set the mood for suspense and thrill throughout each scene. Unique to the film itself, the music was key to creating the proper build up for the audience. Even the simple sounds of a prolonged note accompanied the scene well to keep the viewer engaged.

 

Dark and rich colors helped with the suspense and drama of each scene. Lighting also played a crucial part, attributing to the dark ambiance of Trick ‘r Treat. Most of the light replicated that of moonlight and the glow from jack o’lanterns, yet seemed slightly pushed in order to create the right amount of drama.

 

Trick ‘r Treat is potentially all of your favorite horror films, blended in your Magic Bullet, and poured into a tall chilled glass ready for you to enjoy. The interwoven stories are the perfect mix of most typical horror films, joining forces together to create the ultimate Halloween viewing experience.

 

 

Directed By: Michael Dougherty

Produced By: Bryan Singer

Written By: Michael Dougherty

Staring: Anna Paquin, Brian Cox, Dylan Baker, Quinn Lord

Distribution Company: Warner Bros.

Release Date: December 9, 2007

Run Time: 82 minutes

Rating: R

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