Trick ‘r Treat

Film appears to be the work of die-hard fans who studied '70s horror pics with the same enthusiasm with film fans deconstruct "Citizen Kane."

With: Dylan Baker, Rochelle Aytes, Leslie Bibb, Anna Paquin, Brian Cox, Samm Todd.

A bloodier, cheekier version of those omnibus shockers that once were stock in trade for Britain’s Amicus Prods., “Trick ‘r Treat” appears to be the work of die-hard fans who studied ’70s pics like “Tales From the Crypt” and “The Vault of Horror” with the same enthusiasm with which film-school academics deconstruct “Citizen Kane.” Warners bypassed theatrical release to go the straight-to-vid route, perhaps fearing critical reaction to, among other things, an episode in which the slaying of a tubby youngster is played for laughs. Still, this slick and twisted effort should enjoy lengthy shelf life as a Halloween perennial.

The first feature directed by scripter Michael Dougherty (“Superman Returns”), “Trick ‘r Treat” neatly apportions scary and campy elements while cleverly interlacing four storylines on Halloween night in an Ohio hamlet. The tales of terror involve a high school principal (Dylan Baker) who moonlights as a season-themed serial killer; a nasty practical joke played on a mentally challenged girl (Samm Todd) with a flair for jack-o’-lanterns; a virginal Red Riding Hood (Anna Paquin) who has nothing whatsoever to fear from big bad wolves; and a cranky old eccentric (Brian Cox) who’s brutally tricked when he fails to give out treats.

Cox gets the most screen time and uses it to great advantage as his increasingly frantic character reacts to a murderous sprite in a burlap-sack mask and a dismembered hand that won’t stay still. (His profane response to the latter triggers the pic’s biggest laugh.)

On the other hand, Baker’s borderline-comical portrayal of a homicidal maniac who specializes in young victims may be too much for some viewers — especially those who remember the actor’s seriously unsettling performance as a pedophile in Todd Solondz’s “Happiness.”

Paquin and promising newcomer Todd are effective in tricky roles. More than that cannot be said, however, without ruining the treat of two surprise twists.

It’s only fitting that, since the ’70s pics that inspired him were themselves inspired by ’50s EC Comics, Dougherty uses comicbook graphics for intros and transitions. Wisely, however, he doesn’t overplay the gimmick.

Tech values are fine.

Trick 'r Treat


Production: A Warner Home Video release of a Warner Premiere presentation in association with Legendary Pictures of a Bad Hat Harry production. Produced by Bryan Singer. Executive producers, Thomas Tull, Jon Jashni, William Fay, Alex Garcia, Ashok Amritraj, Dan Harris, Michael Dougherty. Co-producer, Peter Lhotka. Directed, written by Michael Dougherty.

Crew: Camera (Technicolor), Glen MacPherson; editor, Robert Ivison; music, Douglas Pipes; production designer, Michael Freeborn; art director, Tony Wohlgemuth; set decorator, Rose Marie McSherry; costume designer, Trish Keating; sound (Dolby Digital/DTS/SDDS), James Kusan; visual effects, Rainmaker Animation and Visual Effects; visual effects supervisor, Charlene Eberle; special effects coordinators, Bob Comer, Dan Keeler; stunt coordinator, Ernest Jackson; associate producer, Shayne Wilson; assistant director, Pete Whyte; casting, Roger Mussenden, Matthew Lessall, Stuart Aikins, Sean Cossey. Reviewed on DVD, Houston, Nov. 10, 2009. MPAA Rating: R. Running time: 82 MIN.

With: With: Dylan Baker, Rochelle Aytes, Leslie Bibb, Anna Paquin, Brian Cox, Samm Todd.

More Film

  • Elsie Fisher and Bo Burnham2019 Writers

    Writers Guild Announces 2020 Awards Show Date

    The 72nd Annual Writers Guild Awards will take place in coinciding ceremonies in Los Angeles at the Beverly Hilton and the Edison Ballroom in New York on Feb. 1, the Writers Guild of America announced. The WGA will begin voting in November and will reveal this year’s TV nominees Dec. 5 and film Jan. 6. [...]

  • Tarantino Movies Ranked Illustration

    All of Quentin Tarantino's Movies Ranked

    In the history of cinema, has any director done more to elevate the idea of movies as cool than Quentin Tarantino? Certainly, the idea that films could be made by fans dates back at least to the French New Wave, when a group of die-hard critics stepped behind the camera. A few years later, Spielberg, [...]

  • A Stranger on the Beach

    Anonymous Content Wins Film Rights to Michele Campbell's 'A Stranger on the Beach' (EXCLUSIVE)

    Anonymous Content has won the adaptive rights to the forthcoming Michele Campbell novel “A Stranger on the Beach.” In a competitive situation, Anonymous outbid multiple players for the thriller, which it will adapt for the big screen with in-house producers Alex Goldstone and Rosalie Swedlin. “Stranger” has been likened to sensual thrillers like “Fatal Attraction” [...]

  • Ridley Scott Matt Damon Ben Affleck

    Ridley Scott, Matt Damon, Ben Affleck and Nicole Holofcener Team on 'The Last Duel'

    Ridley Scott looks to have his next directing job, as he has signed on to direct “The Last Duel” with Matt Damon and Ben Affleck attached to star. Damon and Affleck co-wrote the script with Oscar-nominated Nicole Holofcener. Scott, Damon and Affleck all producing along with Scott’s producing partner Kevin Walsh. Drew Vinton is also [...]

  • Jonathan Taylor Thomas Ed Asner Elliott

    Jonathan Taylor Thomas, Ed Asner, Elliott Gould Seek SAG-AFTRA Board Seats

    Ed Asner, Elliott Gould and Jonathan Taylor Thomas are seeking SAG-AFTRA national board seats as members of presidential candidate Matthew Modine’s progressive Membership First slate. Asner is the former president of the Screen Actors Guild, serving two terms from 1981 to 1985, and winning five Emmys for his role as Lou Grant and two others [...]

  • Natalie Portman Thor Comic Con

    Comic-Con: Marvel 'Shock and Awe' Strategy Dominates Twitter Buzz

    Disney’s Marvel Studios handily won the hype trophy from this year’s Comic-Con International San Diego. Marvel Studios — which returned to the 2019 Comic-Con stage with a chock-full Phase 4 slate of announcements — dominated the discussion on Twitter out of the convention, capturing the biggest volume of buzz for nine of the top 10 [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content