October Horrorshow: Trick ‘r Treat, or, Charlie Brown’s an Asshole!

Despite its association with horror, few horror movies are Halloween themed. This might be a good thing, or it might be a missed opportunity. I don’t know. What I do know is that in seven years of doing the Horrorshow, comprising over 150 reviews, only the six movies from the Halloween franchise that I’ve reviewed so far have taken place during the annual celebration of all things morbid. So, today’s film is a nice change of pace, and an acknowledgment of a time of year that so many of us enjoy.

Trick ‘r Treat, from writer/director Michael Dougherty, is chock full of killers. So much so that at first I was a bit flustered, unsure of the direction Dougherty was going. But, I eventually figured out that Trick ‘r Treat is an anthology film, with five separate plot lines converging and diverging throughout, akin to something like Pulp Fiction.

The little violent vignettes that make up the film don’t have all that much of a plot worth mentioning, but there is an overall theme of dark humor. At times the film is a gross and gory mess, but it’s all done in light-hearted fashion.

It’s also a bit of an homage to the genre of horror itself. Not one of the stories tries to do anything new, instead relying on audience members’ knowledge of horror tropes. The entire flick is one long wink and nod.

There’s the clean cut khaki-wearing middle class white guy with a dark secret (Dylan Baker), the virginal ingénue who tags along with a pack of slutty friends (Anna Paquin), and even a group of kids who tell the creepy story of a local urban legend during their trick or treating. Each of these storylines, and a wrapper featuring a tiny killer in a burlap mask, are satisfying in their own way, but do feel a little stripped down. None of the film feels rushed, as if these stories needed to be crammed in to keep the runtime reasonable, but there’s no time spent on character development. It’s a sacrifice, but not one that’s all that noticeable. Only the segment with Anna Paquin fell a little flat, the denouement for her and her friends seemingly chosen by Dougherty at random. Every other story had a reasonable setup, while the change of direction in this one could cause whiplash.

Because this film is an anthology with only loosely connected threads, it’s a bit hard to explain. But, its core elements can be broken down as so: the humor is good and the gore is explicit. Trick ‘r Treat is a holiday film for our weirdest holiday, and in that it’s no different than something like A Christmas Story. Sit back, relax, and enjoy all the blood.