Trick ‘r Treat (2009)

Trick ‘r Treat has been a film that had been stewing in the minds of horror fans for over a year before it got released. It was shown at a few horror festivals, and the people who saw it there ended up loving it. After watching it, these people wrote blog entries and online reviews regarding the film. It managed to attain near-cult status before it was even released. When Trick ‘r Treat finally came out, it was still met with critical praise, and ended up being a “must-see” film during the Halloween season. I’m here to tell you that it isn’t, and isn’t by a long shot.

On paper, Trick ‘r Treat is something that sounds like a very good idea. It takes 4 main stories, all of which are connected in some way, and tells them out-of-order before finally connecting them at the end. All the stories involve a child named Sam, who is always present whenever things start to go wrong. Plans are changed, and people die. It’s quick-paced, lasting just under 90 minutes, so it shouldn’t manage to get boring. The main lesson that you can take away from it is that you do not disrespect any tradition on Halloween, or you will be killed one way or another.

What results is much different. The stories end up only being vaguely being connected, with one story, in particular, being incredibly silly and not fitting in with the rest of the plot. Everything seems to be done just for advancing the plot, and events often seem like they are there just to see what absurdity director Michael Dougherty could get away with. It’s a shame, because if the story had made a lick of sense, the film might have actually been pretty good.

I can get my head around the fact that something is terrorizing people on Halloween. I mean, what better night to do it? What I don’t get is some of the other things that happen. We learn early on that one of the characters is a killer, as he murders and buries one of the children that arrives at his doorstep. The motivation of not only this one character, but all the other ones is non-existent. There is no explanation given for any of the characters except for the character of Sam, and even the reason that he does what he does is not explained very well. It requires a lot of fruitless thinking, and could have easily been explained in a far more up-front manner.

There are some good things to look for with this film, and it would be nice to be able to focus on them for a while. There is some impressive humor to be had, and if dark humor appeals to you, at least the first 30 or so minutes will appeal to you; it certainly did to me. The acting is on the whole solid, so at least while characters act with little reason, at least their actors show that they care about the production, and play their parts well. There is also a nice aesthetic that the film goes for.

Trick ‘r Treat loves Halloween, that much is clear, it’s just that it doesn’t do anything that warrants love back.

The transition scenes, as well as the credits, are shown in the form of a comic book or graphic novel. This is well done, and looks nice. The sad part is that these scenes are the highlights of the film. They are drawn nicely and, at least for the opening credits, give you a feeling that the film you are getting into is going to be very good. It’s too bad that these are so deceptive, as I was really getting excited for what was seemingly incoming.

Trick ‘r Treat actually does get off to a very good start. It’s funny, suspenseful and surprisingly entertaining. The graphic novel-style credits show you that this is a film whose primary concern is celebrating Halloween. If that was all it was, it might have been good. Unfortunately, after the first 30 or so minutes, the film’s suspense and humor end up being drained, and Trick ‘r Treat becomes more focused on tying up all its loose ends, instead of scaring or humoring its audience.

While it does get off to a good start, something that Trick ‘r Treat never becomes is scary or frightening. There are a couple of jump scares and fake jump scares to be had, but these don’t scare—they startle. This is especially true, because they appear at times where we don’t care about any of the characters. We haven’t gotten any development (although we never really do), so any potentially frightening situations that characters find themselves in don’t scare, because we just don’t care for the characters. Without a reason to care, and without something genuinely terrifying, there aren’t any scares to be had.

Trick ‘r Treat was a film that was hyped up far before its release. It got a bunch of good reviews before its release and continued to receive them afterward. I’m not quite sure why this is, because there wasn’t anything special about it. The story is confusing and ultimately meaningless, with nothing much holding it together. Some of the events don’t even have a reason to be there. It isn’t scary, and while it’s well-acted, there is no character development or any reasons for the characters to act the way they do. It’s not a film that requires one watch, let alone a yearly one like some people plan to do. Trick ‘r Treat loves Halloween, that much is clear, it’s just that it doesn’t do anything that warrants love back.

Conclusion: Trick ‘r Treat offers little in the way of characters or scares.

Recommendation: Trick ‘r Treat is beloved by many, but not by me.

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