×

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:
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.

Popular on Variety

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

Direct-to-Video

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

  • Jakob Mejlhede Andersen

    NENT Studios U.K. CEO Jakob Mejlhede Andersen Steps Down

    Jakob Mejlhede Andersen, the CEO of NENT Studios U.K., is stepping down from the business, which operates the Nordic region’s leading streamer Viaplay. Mejlhede was appointed CEO of NENT Studios U.K. in October 2019 and was previously executive VP and CCO for NENT Group’s Viaplay. He also held the role of executive VP and group [...]

  • A still from The Earth Is

    'The Earth is Blue as an Orange': Film Review

    “Everybody smile and say ‘cinema,'” young Myroslava Trofymchuk instructs several Ukrainian soldiers, as they obligingly pose and perform for her camera, their brawny tank reduced to a prop in the rubbly, wintry background. It’s the only time we see the masculine agents of conflict in “The Earth is Blue as an Orange,” a documentary with [...]

  • Editorial use only. No book cover

    Cannes to Celebrate Wong Kar-wai's 'In The Mood For Love'

    The Cannes Film Festival is to screen a restored version of Wong Kar-wai’s “In The Mood For Love,”  20 years after it first premiered on the Croisette. The festival will play a restored, 4K version of the timeless Hong Kong-set romance that starred Tony Leung Chiu-wai and Maggie Cheung as a journalist and a secretary [...]

  • Elvis Presley 1968 Comeback Special

    'Elvis: That's the Way It Is' Documentary Set for Re-Release (EXCLUSIVE)

    Trafalgar Releasing has set a re-release for the concert documentary “Elvis: That’s the Way It Is” for April 22 in 14 countries, Variety has learned exclusively. The event will mark the 50th anniversary of the film’s original release by MGM. Most of the remastered footage was shot at the International Hotel in Las Vegas with [...]

  • Blackhall Studios to Build Major Production

    Blackhall Studios to Build Major Production Facility in U.K.

    Blackhall Studios, the Atlanta-based production hub that has hosted several high-profile shoots in recent years, has signed an agreement with the University of Reading to develop its first U.K. facility. Due for completion in early 2022, the new studio will offer physical production stages alongside digital media facilities tailored for special effects, augmented reality and [...]

  • Alberto Martin, Alegre Cordelia, Alvaro Gago,

    'Bees,' ‘Happiness,' 'Quinquis' Selected by Madrid’s ECAM Incubator (EXCLUSIVE)

    BARCELONA – “20,000 Species of Bees,” “Something Like Happiness” and “Los quinquis” are among five feature projects that will be put through development at the ECAM Madrid Film School’s pioneering Incubator program. The Incubator forms part of The Screen, a program at the ECAM Madrid Film School, which is aimed at fostering links between on-the-rise Spain-based [...]

  • Onward Animated Film 2020

    ‘Onward’ Tops Studios’ TV Ad Spending

    In this week’s edition of the Variety Movie Commercial Tracker, powered by the always-on TV ad measurement and attribution company iSpot.tv, Disney Pixar claims the top spot in spending with “Onward.” Ads placed for the animated film had an estimated media value of $4.99 million through Sunday for 784 national ad airings on 35 networks. [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content