Despite being around for ages, and actually quite celebrated, we’ve taken our time getting around to Trick ‘r Treat. This horror anthology movie is based around one Halloween night and features five stories. That puts it in straight competition with the excellent Tales of Halloween and means that this well-regarded portmanteau has its work cut out for it.
*ENTIRE MOVIE SPOILED WHILE YOU WAIT*
The story follows your usual anthology conventions. However, much like A Christmas Horror Story, this film plays around with the format a little, cutting in and out of stories and wrapping them all together. We’ll split them out but the running order works quite well with the film not only jumping between stories but also going back and forth in time. It feels well constructed enough to support the gimmick anyway.
Trick ‘r Treat’s pre-opening credits segment features a young couple, Emma and Henry, who are outside, returning from the town’s Halloween celebrations. The lady in the relationship has decided that she’s had enough fun and begins tidying up the front garden (which is stacked with decorations) despite it still being Halloween evening.
Henry isn’t too impressed saying that the decorations should stay up and that there are rules about this kind of thing. Emma’s having none of that though and ends up doing it while Henry goes to have a lie down.
During her tidy up, punishment for breaking the rules comes when some unseen creature (it’s under a bed sheet that is moonlighting as a fake ghost) mauls her, rips off her limbs and kills her.
Henry wakes up the next day to find her hanging up, quite dead, with a large lollipop shoved in her face.
This little opener sets the scene just fine. It doesn’t show you too much. It doesn’t overstay its welcome. There isn’t much to discuss, it really is just this but it’s a decent, if lightweight, little portmanteau segment.
This segment starts off with a fat little ginger kid walking along the street smashing pumpkins. When he arrives at the house of Steven Wilkins, a local school principal, he sees a jar full of sweets and ignores the notice to just take one and instead takes the whole lot.
However, Mr. Wilkins spots him but rather than tell him off, he sits him down and explains why Halloween needs to be respected. The kid is confused but has bigger problems. Steven has poisoned the candy bars and when the kid vomits himself to death, he is dragged to the back garden to be buried in what appears to be a sort of mass grave.
It seems the principal isn’t a stranger to killing kids and after a brief argument with his horrible redneck neighbour, Mr. Kreeg, he finishes burying the kid, stopping on his way back to the house to notice Mr. Kreeg calling out for help at his window.
During this scene we him also interrupted by some young trick or treaters, who he gives candy to, including one in an orange boiler suit wearing a sack mask with buttons for eyes. Sort of like a junior Slipknot member. The trick or treater leaves but don’t forget about him, his name is Sam and he links the stories.
The story finishes off with Wilkins and his annoying son, Billy, in the basement about to carve the ‘pumpkin’ but it’s not a pumpkin. It’s the kid’s fat head. Eeek!
This story is pretty good. It has a good line in villains from Charlie, the obnoxious Halloween-hating kid, Steven himself and the horrible NRA-member redneck neighbour. The twist in the tale at the end signs it off with an interesting angle too. The performances are hammy but fun and it really is standard anthology fare. It’d sit happily in most other portmanteau films though. Decent.
The School Bus Massacre Revisited.
Back on the street, we see a gang of kids (the same ones who trick or treated in the last scene, minus the Slipknot kid) meet up with Rhonda, a shy girl that they refer to as Rhonda Retard because teenagers in horror films are irredeemable pricks.
Anyway, they’ve been collecting jack-o-laterns and head off to a quarry where the bitchy Macy tells them about the 1977 school bus massacre. The local legend states that all of the mentally-disadvantaged kids were sent off by their embarrassed parents to a school outside of town and that one day the parents paid the bus driver to stage a horrible accident which would see the kids wasted and the parents suddenly given a whole lot of free time.
We see the bus driver chain up the kids and drive them to a rock quarry but when one of them escapes and decides to play with the controls, the whole bus takes a nosedive into the water. We see the driver escape but the young ‘uns are mostly chained up and all perish.
Macy decides that everyone will honour the dead kids by placing a lit jack-o-latern by the water. Three of the kids (Macy, seemingly nice boy Schrader and gang makeweight Sara) head down first leaving Rhonda and Chip (short fat kid) to follow when the lift comes back. However, as they are heading down, they hear screams leaving Chip too frightened to go on. Rhonda goes to investigate, only to find blackened chained, blackened figures chasing her. She gets back to Chip to find him apparently getting mauled by them.
Freaked the fuck out, Rhonda is terrified but when the gang starts laughing she realises they’ve dressed as the figures and the whole thing has been a prank on Rhonda. While Macy is particularly cunty about it, Schrader is concerned that they’ve gone too far but there’s not time to dwell on it because UH OH, the real dead kids of ’77 turn up and they are pissed.
Rhonda gets her senses back in time to get back to the lift and locks the gate, condemning the other kids to a grizzly death. As they are being eaten by angry dead young ‘uns, she walks off noticing young Mr. Slipknot as she does.
Another good segment. Sure, it’s cliched and you know the kids are pranking Rhonda but the pay off is pretty satisfying and the build up in this story is good. The scares are quite effective too. It definitely has a good Creepshow vibe and that’s never a bad thing.
One of our standard rules of portmanteau movies is that there has to be like one actor or actress who has gone on to any real success. Now admittedly, Brian Cox is well known enough (the actor, not the space ponce) and Tahmoh Penikett will be well known as the worst character in Battlestar Galactica but the star here is a young Anna Paquin who already had an Oscar for The Piano but has since gone on to do quite well in the X-Men films and as vampire groupie Sookie Stackhouse in True Blood.
She stars in this segment which sees four girls heading out for a night on the town. Initially, three of them first emerge from a clothes shop’s changing area in typically girly outfits, but Laurie (Paquin) is less confident and eventually has to be coaxed out before the girls laugh at her Red Riding Hood costume.
The three girls (one of whom is her sister) are obsessed with meeting boys but Laurie is disinterested and wanders off on her own. At the same time we see a woman getting murdered by a vampire at the huge Halloween festival (are Americans always this serious about Halloween celebrations!?).
Laurie eventually finds herself walking down a wooded path and becomes aware she is being followed. She calls out, telling them she’s not impressed and walks straight into the vampire.
The other girls are partying in a clearing in the woods when all of a sudden a body drops through the trees and hits the floor. It is dressed in Laurie’s costume but when her sister reveals the face it turns out to be the vampire who, when unmasked, turns out to be Principal Wilkins. Neat!
It also turns out that the girls are actually all werewolves and that Laurie’s virginity isn’t so much about having sex but rather killing her first victim. She kills the Principal (as the other girls devour their dates) while Sam (remember him from earlier?) watches from the side.
This story is all about the twists and they work. The way it links back to The Principal is great to be fair.
Remember how Kreeg was calling out to the Principal for help in an earlier story? Well, that’s because this Halloween-hating redneck was being attacked at the time by our budget-range Slipknot member, Sam. This segment starts with Kreeg generally hating on Halloween before a knock on the door causes him to get up.
There’s no-one there but his front garden is now FULL of jack o’ laterns and he’s pissed. He’s even more pissed when he gets inside and finds ‘trick r treat, give me something good to eat’ scrawled multiple times over his bedroom ceiling.
He doesn’t have time to stay mad though as before long he is attacked by Sam who turns out to be some sort of child-sized demon. After falling down the stairs, thanks to a liberal scattering of candy and razorblades, and getting stabbed in the leg, Kreeg (and the audience) find out that Sam is immortal. Uh-oh.
As Sam finally corners the wounded Kreeg, it looks like he is going to stab him but instead uses his weapon to stab a piece of candy that Kreeg had opened. Satisfied, Sam leaves. We then see him watching the couple from the opening story and we come to realise that Sam, unsurprisingly, was the original killer.
All in all, Trick ‘r Treat delivers. The five stories all have merit and the whole film is greater than the sum of its parts thanks to the clever way all the stories link. There are no real weak parts and each story has a few highlights. Add to that a fairly decent cast, good special effects and a memorable villain in Sam and you’ve got what may be one of our favourite modern portmanteaus.