Trick ‘r Treat (2008)

trick r treat

“Always check your candy.”

The Scoop: 2008 R, directed by Michael Dougherty and starring Anna Paquin, Brian Cox and Dylan Baker

Tagline: If you don’t follow the rules tonight, you won’t live to see tomorrow.

Summary Capsule: It’s a horror anthology that takes trick or treating rules very seriously.  But it still knows how to have a rocking good time.


Justin’s rating: The just fate of people who give out those cruddy Smarties.  Listen up, world, NOBODY LIKES SMARTIES.

Justin’s review: It wasn’t that long ago that I declared that I was simply done with modern horror movies.  I’d grown tired of the brutal meanness of “torture porn” films like Saw and Hostel, bored with the countless “remakes” of horror franchise classics, and done yawning at the streak of Japanese-inspired ghost tales.  The one thing that used to keep me coming back to horror was its clever twists and freedom to tell wildly different stories.  That’s just seemed to die in the past ten or fifteen years, and I haven’t bothered to care since.

Except that I kept hearing, over and over, what a tremendously awesome scary movie Trick ‘r Treat was, a horror flick that Warner Bros. refused to release for a couple years before thoughtlessly casting it straight to DVD.  In a cruel fit of irony, it turns out that this is a far better Halloween tale than most anything that’s come out in the past few years.

Far better Halloween tales, I should have said, for Trick ‘r Treat has five creepy yarns that take place on the same October 31st in a small Ohio town.  Like any really good ghost story told around a campfire, these have the right combination of macabre, black humor, unexpected reversals of fortune, and dark justice to make it something that will stick with you until the sun comes back up.

The virtue of so many stories crammed into an 82-minute runtime means that Trick ‘r Treat has absolutely no wasted fat to it — it’s a non-stop bombardment of spooky ooky thrills, delivering a little of something for everybody.  It’s one of those movies that will make you sit up and admire how much work went into weaving together five stories that constantly overlap and intertwine, often in ways that open your eyes to previous events and make you reevaluate what you think you saw.  The connecting thread is the iconic figure of the film, a burlap sack-pumpkin boy named Sam, who seems to be present anytime something goes wrong.

Everything about Trick ‘r Treat smells beautifully of polish and talent, which is — as you might imagine — highly unusual for the horror genre.  Sometimes you get good actors in a bad movie, sometimes great gore with no plot, sometimes terrific scares with complete predictability.  Not so here; it’s cheeky and deliberately cheesy (what with its copious amounts of blood splatter), but you can’t deny that it doesn’t look fabulous and give 110% to each of its storylines.

Great horror anthologies take us back to what many of us loved about Halloween — the atmosphere of fun mixed with terror, the flirtation with the inky night while being protected by glowing street lamps.  Trick ‘r Treat needs to be welcomed into any horror fan’s home — tricks and treats are plenty to be had, and you’re only depriving yourself of sugary goodness to reject it.

It’s Hell’s very own school bus! All aboard for Nightmares 101!


  • If you have a VHS tape entitled “Nature Special” (VHS in 2009?), it’s porn
  • Who dismantles all of their Halloween decorations on Halloween?  While kids are still trick or treating?
  • Ohio really, really knows how to have a great Halloween party.  My town is so lame compared to this.
  • The “rules” of Halloween, as loosely stated in this film, are: 1. Always check your candy, 2. Never blow out a jack-o’-lantern before midnight, 3. Wear a costume, 4. Hand out sweets to trick-or-treaters, 5. Never go out alone.
  • The film is based on Michael Dougherty’s 1996 animated short film Season’s Greetings, which debuted the character of Sam.
  • Little people were used to fill in for kids trick or treating, since this film was shot mainly at night and real kids could not work these hours.
  • Little Red Riding Hood irony!

Groovy Quotes

Steven: Wait. There’s another tradition. Always check your candy.

Rhonda: Samhain, also known as All Hallows’ Eve, also known as Halloween. Pre-dating Christianity, the Celtic holiday was celebrated on the one night between autumn and winter when the barrier between the living and the dead was thinnest, and often involved rituals that included human sacrifice.
[awkward silence]
Rhonda: I like your eye patch.

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  1. Hey, I happen to like Smarties. They’re like ghetto SweeTarts, and that makes me happy.

    As for Trick ‘r Treat, I’ve been trying to find time to watch it because I’ve heard it’s so good. I have a soft spot for short film anthologies, and True Blood just made me love Anna Paquin. Unfortunately, it will probably be December before I’m able to pop it in.

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