Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (October 12, 2009)
Just in time for Halloween, we get a direct-to-video scarefest entitled Trick ‘r Treat. Rather than tell one narrative, the film provides four separate, interconnected tales. It launches with a quick pre-credit killing of a woman who cleans up her Halloween decorations before it jumps into the more extended tales.
From there, it jumps to earlier in the evening of October 31. Set in Warren Valley, Ohio, we meet a group of hot young women who come to town in search of a party. Three of them seem to be pretty slutty, but Laurie (Anna Paquin) remains a virgin. We see her attempts to alter this status – and the surprising revelations that come along the way.
Local principal Steven Wilkins (Dylan Baker) takes his Halloween traditions seriously – so seriously, in fact, that he poisons and kills a ne’er-do-well student (Brett Kelly) who fails to respect them. That seems to be his favorite tradition, as this isn’t his first slaying, and he follows up with more.
For another tale, we meet Wilkins’ neighbor, a crotchety old man named Kreeg (Brian Cox). He likes to scare trick-or-treaters and steal their candy. This comes back to haunt him.
Finally, a group of teens embarks on a mission to collect as many Jack-o-lanterns as possible. Why? To play a prank on an autistic girl named Rhonda (Samm Todd) – a prank that doesn’t end well for its perpetrators.
The anthology construction of Trick certainly isn’t original – heck, the DVD’s case even alludes to it following in the tradition of Creepshow and Tales from the Crypt - but that doesn’t mean it can’t still work well. Unlike Creepshow, however, Trick attempts to actively interconnect the various stories – and it throws in a little foreshadowing for the opening vignette as well.
Sometimes this technique works pretty well, especially when a few of the stories tie together in a surprising manner. However, the structure has flaws as well, primarily in the film’s first half. We lose track of some characters for far too long, so the flick doesn’t always balance them particularly well. For instance, Laurie goes absent for quite a long period, and the film fails to integrate the various tales in a consistently smooth manner.
I do admire the movie’s attempt to try something a bit more ambitious, though. It easily could’ve stayed with a simple episodic method, so the fact it shoots for a more integrated telling is pretty cool. Despite the occasional failings of the narrative, I give the film points for its creativity.
Most of the four vignettes work pretty well, too. To my disappointment, Steven’s fares the worst. It starts out nicely and I like the premise, but it doesn’t really go anywhere. The film does use the Steven character in a fun way later in the story, but his own sequence doesn’t really satisfy.
The other three are more compelling, and they come with some surprises. I’ll admit the Laurie plot goes somewhere I really didn’t expect, and it’s a delight to see what happens. The tale with the teen pranksters seems more predictable, but it’s still quite satisfying. Indeed, that’s probably the best of the four tales, as it provides the strongest scares and impact.
As for the Kreeg story, I like the way that it connects to the rest of the film. It turns out the narrative has a link to Kreeg above and beyond his proximity to Steve; that side of things offers a clever and unexpected twist that satisfies. The Kreeg vignette isn’t great as the film’s climax, but it works for the most part.
Indeed, in terms of scares, the Laurie sequence probably wouldn’t been the best way for the movie to go out on a high note. However, I understand that this wouldn’t work within the movie’s structure. Trick features a continuing mysterious background character named Sam (Quinn Lord); he pops up at the scene of all the film’s brutality. The film has to finish with Kreeg to make the Sam side of things fit together. That makes the finale a little disappointing in terms of impact, but I understand its thematic necessity.
Overall, I think Trick provides a good horror anthology. It wears its influences on its sleeve and doesn’t always coalesce as well as I’d like, but it throws out the requisite number of scares and proves to be moderately clever along the way.